As Monument Marathon runners traverse the terrain around the valley on next month, they will be cheered on by several volunteers. From community members helping with parking and registration to course marshals helping runners stay on course, these volunteers are passionate about their roles in making the Monument Marathon successful.
Dean Kamerzel can be seen walking toward Five Rocks around 5 a.m. as he prepares to welcome participants to the event from 5-8 a.m. He greets all of the runners as they arrive at Five Rocks.
“I like to be involved in the community,” he said. “It truly is rewarding. I help with parking and serve as the meet and greeter of almost everyone. That’s why I do the early shift because I see everybody from the full, half and 5K.”
He said the uniqueness of the Monument Marathon and the fact that it is one of the only marathons in Nebraska attracts marathon runners to the event.
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“Some of these marathon people try to hit a marathon in all 50 states and ours is one of the only in Nebraska,” he said. “We have beautiful landscapes and the event is in the fall, which is my favorite time of year.”
Kamerzel will volunteer for his 11th year this fall, greeting runners from around the world.
“I started volunteering with JG Elliot, which is part of Platte Valley Companies,” he said. “Our culture is community service. Volunteering for the marathon is a rewarding opportunity and you meet people from different areas and even catch up with old friends.”
Aside for his passion for serving his community, Kamerzel is also an alumnus of Nebraska Western College, now Western Nebraska Community College.
“I’m a Nebraska Western College alumnus, so I appreciate the opportunities and then transferred to the University of Wyoming,” Kamerzel said. “Attending a junior college was a big help in my collegiate success. Those extra two years at home were good growing up years, so I have a soft spot for WNCC.”
David Nash has served as a course marshal since the first Monument Marathon and will once again be offering runners words of encouragement and directions during this year’s event.
“I love the event,” he said. “I was a student at WNCC and then taught there for 31 years.”
Funds raised from the event support WNCC student scholarships. The event raised over $55,000 last year.
“I appreciate what this event is for and I hold it near and dear to my heart,” Nash said. “Students are everything to a teacher.”
Despite retiring from the classroom a year ago, Nash decided to continue volunteering. He is also a former runner, so he said it helps him relate with the runners and inspire them to continue to the finish line.
“I’m there for them,” he said. “I’m there to offer encouragement and to see them do well.
“Sometime,s they will chat at you coming by and I get to see new faces,” he added. “I was a runner myself and coached track and cross country, so I see lots of folks I know and don’t as people travel from quite a long ways a way to run in the marathon.”
Being a course marshal along the stretch of meadows along Highway 92 is challenging, though.
“It’s the only place on the course where runners overlap,” he said. “I get to see the runners of the two long races twice — once early and late.”
As he roams the stretch of course, Nash cheers on the runners while also offering directions. He has served as the course marshal at the same spot going on 11 years.
“It’s important that we direct traffic so the half marathoners finish and the marathoners continue on their trail,” he said.
While serving as cheerleader and a navigator for runners, Nash also said he is focused on each runner’s health and safety.
“One of the biggies is to recognize whether a runner is struggling,” he said. “It’s hot or windier than heck during the event and sometimes you get to a point where it’s hard to keep going. I have to keep an eye out for that and make sure everyone gets through the race.”
As runners use their months of training to navigate the course, the community of volunteers are there to ensure every runner has the opportunity to cross the finish line.