At this time of year, high school cross country runners are usually busy logging miles to prepare for season opening races that are just around the corner. Next Sunday morning, however, members of the Carson, Incline, Rite of Passage, Reno and Douglas high school squads will be out in Washoe Valley before the crack of dawn to work out in a sideline capacity - as volunteer aid station attendants for the Silver State Marathon.
It may not be the easiest way to spend a Sunday morning in August, yet Incline coach Bill Devine describes it as enjoyable.
"At first they grumble a little, but once they get there, they start to get into it," said Devine, who will be working an aid station with the Incline team for the fifth straight year. "We're out there right as the sun is coming up, and the sight of the sunlight hitting the Eastern Sierra is just gorgeous."
The marathon gun goes off at 6 a.m., at which time runners will embark from Bowers Mansion on their 26.2-mile journey around Washoe Lake, back over Franktown Road and back to the finish at Bowers.
The Carson Senators got into the act last year when they worked two aid stations and served as trail monitors on the Washoe State Park trails. They will be back again on Sunday, according to assistant coach Mike Longero, himself a veteran marathon runner.
"I've always been the beneficiary of great aid stations so it's nice to cheer and encourage other runners," Longero said. "At the 13-mile mark out there, the runners have that look in their eye when they come through. They want to know where they are and where does the sand end, they want to know which direction to go and they want to have something encouraging."
Candace Beam was an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Carson group last year, one who could be heard at least one-half mile away, Longero recalled.
"I know how much it helps to have people cheering me on, so I love to do it," said Beam, a senior entering her fourth cross country season at Carson. "When you're cheering, they feed off your energy. I think the mental and physical stamina those runners have is truly remarkable, so if I can help just one of them along then it's worth the two hours I'm out there. "
Even though Longero enjoys running long distance - especially a course like Silver State's, which has about nine miles of dirt trails - he now looks forward to working another aid station.
"You always have mixed feelings when you're watching. This time, I'm not even thinking about running. I just want to put together the best aid station we can. (Carson head coach Jason) Macey is trying to get 15 people together, and we're talking about trying some different things like getting some music going and having spray bottles out there."
Devine is familiar with the challenge of running Silver State, having been a three-time winner of the marathon between 1991 and '93, followed by a runner-up finish behind Miguel Tibaduiza. Now, he simply wants to help other runners enjoy their experience at the seven-mile aid station.
"It's fun and it's neat the for the kids to get out and see those runners," Devine said. "They get to see the camaraderie of the runners the way they pass water back and forth to help each other out."
In turn, race director Valentine "Ski" Pisarski helps out the contributing cross country teams by donating $200 to their funds. The money is obviously welcome, but Devine emphasized that isn't the only reason to come out.
"Ski just called up and asked, 'Can you give us an aid station,' and we said, 'Sure,'" Devine recalled. "Ski likes to support the teams and we've always appreciated that because bus trips (to invitationals) aren't going to happen all by themselves. This money here will help us get to Half Moon Bay (Calif., Artichoke Invitational) in October."
Notes: More volunteers are still needed, according to Pisarski, especially parking directional guides. Anyone who is interested in helping out with the race, call 849-0419 ... Registration for the Silver State Marathon events (marathon, half-marathon, 10K run and 10K walk will remain open through Saturday. Signups will not be accepted on race day ... The event is presented by the Silver State Striders & Walking Club and sponsored by the Nevada Appeal. The number/packet pickup will be held Friday from noon until 7 p.m. at the Nevada Appeal office and Saturday from noon until 7 p.m. at the Peppermill Hotel Casino in Reno ... For more information, call 849-0419 or visit the event's website at www.silverstatemarathon.com. Online registration is also being taken at www.ActiveUSA.com.