Volunteers keep Montana Marathon running

2013-09-13T20:00:00Z 2013-09-14T00:15:20Z Volunteers keep Montana Marathon runningBy MIKE ZIMMER mzimmer@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette
September 13, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

“It’s a hill. Get over it.”

That phrase is painted on the pavement on mile nine of the Montana Marathon course between Molt and Billings.

It could also serve as the unofficial slogan for Vince Long — who painted it — and the rest of the more than 200 volunteers who overcome all sorts of hills and obstacles to make the annual marathon possible.

Long, who retired from teaching at Billings Senior in the spring of 2012, got involved with the marathon a few years ago to help out with the event’s website. One thing led to another, and this year Long is the co-director of the marathon along with Cindy Thompson.

“I started going to the committee meetings to get a feel for what they wanted on the website,” Long said. “Then I just gradually started getting more and more involved and picking up more duties. It’s such a great group of people, and it’s a great event. Getting more involved is pretty easy to do.”

On Friday, Long and other volunteers were busy distributing race packets at Time Out Sports for Sunday’s event. The former assistant cross country coach at Senior described the various duties of race volunteers and what his day will be like Sunday — when he’ll leave his house around 3:30 a.m. to help set up the start line near Molt.

Calley Thompson, who’s taken on a larger role this year as her mother-in-law, Cindy, is sidelined with a foot injury, said she’s having a blast serving as the volunteer coordinator.

“Every person on the course is a volunteer. It’s really incredible,” said Thompson. “Road guards, crossing guards, water stations, the finish line, the food tent … all of them. The neat thing is we get so many of the same volunteers and same groups back every year.

“I get calls from people wanting their place back from the year before. They’re die-hards.”

One of Long’s most interesting duties as a marathon volunteer came last summer.

The start line was moved about 500 yards off of Molt Road to Shorey Road in order to ease the congestion on Molt Road. Because of that change, the finish line was moved from on the track at Daylis Stadium to Third Street, just outside the east gate of the stadium.

That move meant the course needed to be re-certified through USA Track & Field. A marathon course must be certified by USATF to be an official Boston Marathon qualifier.

“It was a pretty remarkable process,” Long said. “I had to go back to some of my old tricks from my career as a drafter and a drafting teacher. You have to ride the course twice on a bike using a device called a Jones counter, which is calibrated to count the miles, then you take the calculations of the two rides and submit all the paperwork to USATF.

“Travis Hutchinson, a former runner who I coached at Senior, and Stephanie Kirkpatrick of Montana Timing helped me with the process. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Long said his marathon duties will be finished around 4 p.m. Sunday. That’s when he’ll go out for a trail run — extending his string of doing a workout every day for the past 14-plus years.

“The race committee and all the volunteers do an amazing job of setting up, running the event and cleaning up after the race. It’s quite a process," he said.

“My two goals are no one gets hurt and everyone gets a correct time. As long as those two things happen, life will be good on Sunday.”

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