One Bro Runs, the Other Serves

(See my complete Chicago Marathon Gallery)

I’ve seen the Chicago Marathon out the windows of Moody Church for years, but this was my first time participating. No, not as a runner, but as an official volunteer! Why? Because my brother was running it as his first marathon and some friends from church were volunteering. I thought it would be cool to not just watch him run, but get to serve him and the other runners as well. It was a long but fulfilling day. I was up at 3:30 a.m. to begin my adventure! Check in downtown was at 5:30 a.m.

Me, Deb, Judd and Jason – friends from church.

Our job was to fill cups of water and then serve the runners at the first water station. Notice it is still dark out! We were set up by 7:00 a.m.

Here we are ready to serve! If that looks like a lot of water, it IS! over 1400 cups! Soon the runners would be arriving, and we were prepared! The race began at 8 a.m. Soon runners would be arriving!

WAVE! You are on TV!

First the bikes and wheel chairs went by. (more photos in gallery)

Then the elite running men.

Followed by the elite running women, who seemed to have more photographers for some reason.

And then the masses!

But finally MY BROTHER CAME BY! I was eager to get to hand him the water, but didn’t know when I’d see him. And I had to serve other runners too. I had my mini-video camera going and was hoping to get him coming, taking the water and passing, but he appeared just as I was grabbing another cup so I almost missed him, but I did get to give him water and catch this short video:


After he passed, I retired the camera just passed out water for over an hour – it is mind-numbing how many people ran by… over 40,000 runners one after another. I wondered if we’d have enough water, but as it turned out, we had MORE than enough!

In the 2007 marathon water ran out and it got serious for the runners. Volunteers were buying water in the stores to pass out… so this year (with Olympic aspirations no doubt) Chicago made sure there was plenty of water. Turns out, we only gave out the top level of cups as did all the other tables for two city blocks. What did they do with the extra water?

Watch this video to see:

Deb and Judd show how strong they are!

Now came the huge job of cleaning up more cups than runners in the race!

Official Trash Compactor of the Chicago Marathon!

Once we were all cleaned up (and that was a huge job) I was free to just be the official Jordan Bastian Photograher. So I hurried down a few blocks to get ahead of where all the runners I had served would be arriving around the 14th mile point. Now I was able to take more pictures. (see full gallery)

They came waving flags…

juggling… (there were two jugglers)

this guy had a cup on his head and my sister saw it still there 20 miles later!

George Washington must be in good shape!

But, of course, I was waiting to see my brother again. Let me just tell you, it is MENTALLY EXHAUSTING to be focusing on hundreds of people every minute looking for one person. I knew after the water station he was wearing a blue shirt… but so did a bunch of other guys! But finally, after about a 45 minute wait, I spotted him!

There he is, number 13572, and he hasn’t spotted me yet…

Then he sees me!

I was able to snap some shots as he zoomed by…

and then he was gone, back into the crowd. I studied the race map and figured out I could get to the finish line before him if I raced to Grant Park. It was a hike, but I got there well ahead of him and scoped out a place to spot him again.

I’d never SEEN so many bananas!

There was over a mile for the runners to walk after the finish line to cool off, filled with food and other stations related to the race. But as I got near the finish line I saw:

Thousands of medals just waiting to hang around the neck of the runners.

And then it hit me! I could actually present my brother with his medal!

By the way, having the official volunteer hat, jacket and volunteer badge got me access inside tall fences where the runners and volunteers were. Everyone else was packed outside trying to peer in. I enjoyed volunteering at the water station, but I had no idea how much it would help the rest of the day to have the “official” gear on! It streamlined my walk and I could go anywhere for pictures… and even to greet my brother and give him his medal.

But first, I had to spot him in this vast crowd. You can’t imagine how hard it is to look for someone in this throng! My text message updates sad he was estimated to arrive in the 3:55 crowd, but I knew it might be longer as he slowed toward the end. It was getting REALLY hot out, but then, maybe he’d get a burst at the end and come in early? So I ended up watching the crowd intently from 3:40 (in case he was early) to 4:30 when he arrived. I was starting to wonder if I’d missed him, which could have happened, but I didn’t want to give up, and I hadn’t gotten a text message yet that he was done. So I stood on a table and studied the 20,000+ faces that came before him… but FINALLY I saw him! I quickly jumped down, gave my camera to a complete stranger already recording a video and asked them to record me presenting Jordan with his medal, and here it is:

I know YouTube quality isn’t that great, you can download it here. (QT 15mb)

Here is the Champ reunited with his wife, Kelly. He chose Flat Top Grill as his celebration restaurant and Kelly’s family and our sister Melissa’s family and I enjoyed a post-marathon meal. I think we were as exhausted as him, well, ok, almost.

WARNING: Sentimental content ahead.

I can’t end this post without saying how proud I am of my little brother. While he’s grown to be much stronger than me, he’ll always be my little brother. I was bursting with pride today to see how much my little bald buddy has grown. I was thirteen when two days after my birthday I got what is still the greatest birthday present I ever got: a brother. While much of his childhood Jordan can’t remember (just as we all lose much of it) it feels like I can remember all of it. Jordan was my best friend and only being a dad now comes close to how much I enjoyed our relationship during his childhood.

While his childhood is over, I love him as much now as then and am so proud of how he has grown up. When he was a little boy, he would often point to me and say to people, “He’s my Big Brother” as though Big Brother was a title of honor. Today, I couldn’t be prouder to instead point at him and say to people, “He’s my Little Brother.”

Yup, that’s my little brother… Marathon Man!

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  1. Great photos and story.

  2. Cool stuff and it looks like it was a great family day for the brothers!

  3. Great post. I love all the pictures. I’m going to have to steal a few for my blog. I’m so glad you got to put the medal on him. That is so awesome.

    You’ll have to come volunteer in a few years when I run it. :-) Love you.

  4. What a delightful way to experience the Chicago Marathon all the way from Southern California!! Jordan did great and so did you, Karl as you served water and photographed the event.

  5. Yup, you warned us…
    This brought tears to my eyes – really. What a wonderful way to honor your brother with the photos and the story not only of his race but also of your relationship then and now.

  6. enjoyed the story .i love my little 53 year old bro also.

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