Last I year I was working during the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon but this year I had the weekend off, so I volunteered with the local amateur radio group to assist with the course clocks. I was assigned Mile 17, which was in front of Hill Hall in the circle at Savannah State University. Last night I made sure my Yaesu VX-7R (handheld amateur radio transceiver) and its spare battery were charged up, charged up the Uniden BCD396XT (handheld scanner) and some other gear and hit the sack early. This morning I woke up, packed my gear in the car along with the clock that the Rock and Roll Marathon provided and headed for my post.
I arrived at Mile 17 around 0745 and got everything set up. Amateur radio operators were at or near many of the mile markers doing the same thing. At 0800 when the race started, Steve – K4SDJ made the announcement and we flipped the switches on our clocks to start them. My clock actually got moved a couple of times. One of the fist officials to pass by didn’t like where it was and moved it; just before the lead runners approached, another official didn’t like the setup and had it moved again! Things were set up on an incline and we ended up using my jacket to prop up on leg of the clock tripod to keep the clock level, it was a perfect example of making do with what you’ve got (isn’t that one of the tenets of amateur radio!?). The lead runner arrived at 0945; the first few runners had quite a lead built up. Maybe 30 minutes later the first female runner passed by; she had a huge lead on the second place female runner, I’m guessing at least a mile. This was the first marathon I’ve worked so I wasn’t aware of the significance of Mile 17 until runners started passing at exclaimed “Single Digits!” It didn’t take me long to figure out that as they passed me they only had 9 miles to go – only having single digit miles to go was a big psychological boost.
Around the circle at Savannah State, plenty of student groups had turned out to cheer on the runners. Savannah State’s chapter of the Collegiate 100 were at Mile 17 and kept the spirits of the runners high throughout. Those guys and girls had more energy and enthusiasm than I could ever think about generating! About a quarter of a mile down the course was one of the bandstands. The bands A Nickel Bag of Funk and Sincerely Iris were supposed to be playing and I really enjoyed listening to them throughout the morning and early afternoon. For me, the musical highlight of the day is when one of the bands broke into Morris Day and the Time’s “Jungle Love,” a perfect energy booster. If you’re not of my generation, you just might not understand! Another group turned up the cheer on the runners a bit later with cowbells, it almost made it feel like a football game.
19 amateur radio operators participated as part of the course clock crew. We used the 147.330- repeater to coordinate the clock start and pass information throughout the race. The 147.330+ is perfectly positioned for this event because it’s located on the WSAV tower across from Grayson Stadium on Victory Drive, almost centered in the route. The 146.850- repeater was scheduled for back up but it was never needed. Once again, events like this are a perfect example of why you should invest in a good headset and boom mic for your HT. The environment is noisy and the headest helps you hear the radio MUCH better. I use an MFJ one ear headset with a boom mic which leaves the other ear open to hear what’s going on around you. If anyone was monitoring the race with a scanner, the 147.330+ would have been good to include in your list of frequencies; it’s a good source for updates on where the lead and end of the race are.
There was plenty of traffic for scanning enthusiasts to listen to. Public Safety agencies were using the SEGARRN and Chatham-Effingham TRS for communications. Law enforcement officers from various agencies around the county along with the Chatham County EOC (Emergency Operations Center) and Metro dispatch were on several of the NIMS talkgroups. There was also some law enforcement traffic on SEGARRN talkgroups 3473 and 3475. Southside Fire and EMS personnel were providing EMS and medical assistance using their Medic 4 talkgroup. I heard a few lost children incidents and a only a handful of runner down or medical calls, so it sounded like things went quite well this year. I also noticed that some of the Savannah State University students were using FRS/GMRS radios to coordinate their activity (I didn’t get the chance to check which channel they were using). Here’s the talkgroups I heard active (S = SEGARRN, CE = Chatham-Effingham TRS), the NIMS and SSFD talkgroups were multicast on both systems:
- NIMS Common (S TG 2051/CE TG 32816)
- NIMS Command 1 (S TG 2053/CE TG 32848)
- NIMS Logistics 1 (S TG 2057/CE TG 32912)
- NIMS Operations 1 (S TG 2055/CE TG 32880)
- SSFD Medic 4 (S TG 263/CE TG 4208)
- Savannah State University PD (S TG 2095/CE TG 33520)
- SEGARRN TG 3473 (SCMPD Tac)
- SEGARRN TG 3475 (SCMPD Tac)
The final runners arrived at Mile 17 at 1308. I broke down my clock and packed it up and waited for the marathon officials to come by and pick everything up. When they arrived I helped them get the clock and flag in the back of the truck then headed to grab something to eat with my folks, who were working Mile 15 and had secured a bit earlier. I’m glad my weekend off coincided with the marathon this year; I really enjoyed my experience with the Rock and Roll Marathon and hope to get a chance to help out again next year. I’m appreciative of the Coastal Amateur Radio Society and the Chatham County ARES folks for giving me the opportunity to take part.