A baseball coach from my past, Paul Ryan, preached that opponents are, “Creatures of habit,” and devised strategies for his Naperville North teams to exploit the weaknesses associated with repeated, comfortable habits. Likewise, he made change part of our regular routine so that, theoretically, opponents could not rely on us being predictable in game situations.

Lila Gaudrault, of Cape Elizabeth, ran to a second-place finish among women at Sunday’s Robert Burns 10K in Westbrook. She was ninth overall with a time of 37:08. Allyn Genest courtesy photo

Sunday, instead of running the Robert Burns 10K in Westbrook for the fourth time, I switched things up a little and volunteered for course monitor duty.

A whole different world is revealed when sporting a yellow fluorescent vest and waving an orange flag at a busy intersection. Running is easy. The gun goes off. Run fast. Follow the competitors ahead. Keep running. Follow the directions of the volunteers. Run to the finish line where, chances are, more volunteers will offer congratulations and water.

It’s been a few years, but I have served as a volunteer several times in the past and always try to remember to encourage everyone. That is the one thing that stands out to me as a runner. What may seem to be obligatory, hollow words, are really fuel to keep going. Sunday was a reminder that each race wouldn’t happen without all the volunteers monitoring the start, finish and the race route.

Race director Edward Swain assigned me and a couple others to the East Bridge and Park streets intersection.

What an odd feeling, standing and watching friends and competitors run past. Sort of like driving to a destination via a new, never-driven route. A whole new world opens up. Fresh eyes. But it’s not real comfortable, sorting out the runners and drivers.


The intersection in question, East Bridge and Park in Westbrook, is an odd three-way configuration. Two through lanes and a single stop sign. My volunteer partner, Ben, and I discussed how best to keep runners and motorists safe and separated. Let’s just say, I have a renewed appreciation for police officers who seamlessly direct and control traffic when called upon.

Ben and I did fine, but it was unsettling at times.

With the help of volunteers, Steven Dubois (foreground), of Lisbon Falls, and Guillermo Olivos, Bangor, make their way through an intersection during the Robert Burns 10K on Sunday. The race benefits the Compass program at Westbrook High School. Allyn Genest courtesy photo

Robert Burns 10K is the quintessential community road race, usually 75 to 100 participants, so there were never any moments where the runners were streaming through the intersection non-stop. My one piece of advice for Ben (and myself) prior to the race start, was this: “When in doubt, stop traffic and get the runners through. It’ll only be 20 to 30 seconds tops and then the motorists will be on their way.”

This only happened a handful of times and we tried to thank every motorist for their patience and attention. It’s a lot more comfortable to be wearing a bib number and running anonymously than to have all that attention focused on each wave of the fluorescent flag.

That long ago lesson from the baseball coach, about flipping the script once in a while, still holds true. It’s healthy and productive to switch up the routine. It keeps us engaged and alert.



Sunday was the fifth running of the Robert Burns 10K. The event celebrates the national poet of Scotland and raises funds for Westbrook High School’s Compass program.

Alexis Wilbert, of Cumberland, was women’s champion and sixth overall in 35 minutes, 3 seconds. She shattered the previous course record held by Leah Frost (36:31 in 2018). Ryan Jara, Gorham, was men’s and overall champion in a tidy 32:20.

Race sponsors are Crow Athletics, Frog and Turtle, Rosemont Market and Bakery, Local Muscle Moving Co., and Devenish Wines.

Dan King is editor/page designer for the Kennebunk Post and South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Sentry. He has spent the past three weeks recovering from his first and, likely, last indoor marathon. Next on the race schedule is the Irish Road Rover 5K in Portland.

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