Volunteers step up for Healthy Human Race

Mike Schmitt of Rochester waits for runners to gather around him prior to Saturday's Scheels Healthy Human Race Half-Marathon. Schmitt served as a volunteer pace setter for runners whose target time was 2 hours.

Staging a half-marathon requires a lot of volunteers to staff watering stations, mark the course, hand out registration packets, clean up and generally see to the needs of hundreds of runners — many of whom might be first-timers with a lot of questions.

Saturday's Scheels Healthy Human Race events brought out 216 volunteers, and the race couldn't have happened without them.

But some volunteers actually laced up their running shoes and joined the race. Their job? To set and maintain a steady, designated pace for people who are targeting a certain finish time.

This year's Scheels Healthy Human Race Half-Marathon had nine such volunteers, the TerraLoco Pace Team. Tiffany Piotrowicz, the new owner of TerraLoco in Rochester (she took over Aug. 1), said her store was eager to help out.

"This is a new thing for TerraLoco," she said. "We haven't together a pace team for a race before. Typically, there will be pace teams at most larger races, but the track club asked us to do it this time, so we organized it and put it all together."


The pacers could be among the crowd Saturday before the race, each holding a sign that alerted other runners to the pace they'd be setting. The times ranged from 1:40 to 2:30.

Among the pacers was Mike Schmitt, a 38-year-old from Rochester who was assigned to run the half-marathon in 2 hours. This was his first race as a pace-setter, but he wasn't worried about the extra responsibility.

"I've done this race three times, and I kind of wanted to give something back," he said. "Two hours is a little bit over my usual time, which is about 1:40 to 1:45, so I should be OK." Schmitt finished the half-marathon in 2 hours, 16 seconds.

As Schmitt ran his race, hundreds of other volunteers were quietly doing their jobs -- or doing them very loudly. Lin Gentling, volunteer director for Saturday's races, said members of the Mayo High School girls swimming and diving team were working at an aid station, and apparently the runners kept mistaking them for cheerleaders. "The girls had to keep telling them they were swimmers, not cheerleaders, and proud to be loud!" Gentling said.

And when the races were over and the runners were basking in the glow of their accomplishments, Gentling said the volunteers' work continued.

"Volunteers tear down the finish line, pick up the garbage, put Solders Field Park back to its peaceful nature, and life goes on," she said. "Next year we will do it all again because we have an outstanding community with tremendous and very giving volunteers who truly know what it means to give to others unselfishly."

Tiffany Piotrowicz.jpg
Tiffany Piotrowicz, owner of Terraloco

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