Volunteering at the Athens Half Marathon
On March 18th at 8:30 AM, I rolled out of bed, tugged on my Athens Half Marathon volunteer jersey and hung the matching lanyard around my neck. I woke up to the sound of a mild clatter on the street, something that would normally be overshadowed by early morning traffic. My first thought was how startlingly quiet the city was as it had stilled in preparation for this event. As I met up with two of my friends and fellow volunteers, (we were the Green Team) we were amazed by our ability to wander in the street without fear of a zipping moped appearing to beep us out of the way. It was an overcast day with a later chance of rain, but all the volunteers were as happy as if it was raining down sunshine. I love the race atmosphere, though not being a runner myself. They appreciate every volunteer and it shows in their gratitude. We met Athenians our age from the northwest of the city who were also volunteering for the first time. They asked us if we liked Lady Gaga (because they loved her) and pointed us in the direction of our clean-up station. Right across from the Panathenaic Stadium, we had a great view of the approaching runners and of the stunning historical site that marks our CYA campus.
CYA offers many volunteer opportunities for the duration of the semester or as they spring up along the way, such as was how I found out about this chance. At the Half, one of the ways to volunteer was at the ‘Feed Station,’ which consisted of tables of water bottles, cool sponges, and chocolate that they unwrapped for the second cycle through. We were the Recycling squad and spent the race scurrying around picking up the disposed water bottles, sorting them and their tricky caps out into the bins, and disposing of the now soggy sponges. Athenians really like shouting “Bravo!” as the racers passed and we eagerly clapped along and did the same. By the end of the race, I felt like I’d been running too!
We stayed and cleaned up after the race, once all the runners had made it to the finish line in Syntagma Square. My friend and I wandered through the National Garden and heard the festivities along the way. As we approached Syntagma, only about a ten minute walk from our station near CYA, crowds of runners and supporting families and friends filled the still-blocked streets and booths of free goodies and prizes. Everyone was cheery, despite the sprinkle of rain that had opened above. As we sat down for a relaxing halloumi and frappe, we felt as home as ever in this city we’ve come to love.