Lots of things can go awry when Amateur Radio volunteers are supporting public service events, from technical and weather problems to lost or injured participants. The 2017 Garden of the Gods 10-mile and 10-kilometer races in Colorado was no exception. On Sunday, June 11, the Pikes Peak Amateur Radio Emergency Service (PPARES) deployed a dozen operators to support more than 1,400 runners in scenic Garden of the Gods Park just west of Colorado Springs. John Bloodgood, KD0SFY, Region 2, District 2 Emergency Coordinator and Public Information Officer said all was going well, with cooperative weather and only a slight delay due to traffic — nothing out of the ordinary.
“The real excitement came when a couple of the reporting positions called in to report that a bear was on the course,” Bloodgood said. “Bears are not uncommon in this area, and most of the locals aren’t too fazed by them; we know they will be out foraging this time of year.” But for runners unfamiliar with the lay of the land there, the sudden appearance of a bear can be alarming, he added.
“This bear was apparently trying to get across the road and wasn’t quite sure why all these people were running through its home so early on a Sunday morning,” Bloodgood said. “It finally saw a gap between groups of runners and dashed across the road, but not before local runner Donald Sanborn managed to get a few pictures of it. In the end the problem resolved itself before any intervention was necessary.”
Bloodgood said Dan Huber, KN0MAP, actually saw the bear and was the first operator to call it in. Matthew Bowker, KD0THF, reported it based on reports from runners.
Bloodgood said the ARES volunteers tracked the first three male and female runners from both the 10-mile and the 10-kilometer races, reported on any medical issues, supported aid station logistics, helped to ensure the course was clear, tracked the last runners, and provided an operator on a bicycle for the sweep function.
Bears notwithstanding, Bloodgood said the event has been a fairly easy one to support and offers a good training ground for less-experienced operators. “Our most intense and demanding events, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (vehicle race) and Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon (half and full marathons) are coming up,” he added.
After the race, three PPARES members also supported the Colorado Springs Community Emergency Preparedness Day that afternoon at a local minor league baseball game. “This was a display event where we talked to people about making communications plans for disasters, about Amateur Radio, and what ARES does. “There was also a scavenger hunt for the kids where they had to do tasks at multiple stations to get their card signed off and receive a prize,” he recounted. “For our station we had the kids either talk on the radio or — for the shy ones — we had an anemometer they could blow into and get a wind speed measurement.”