Northwestern students trek downtown to volunteer at Chicago Marathon


Susanna Kemp/The Daily Northwestern

Freshmen Stephanie and Megan Yaur cheer on runners in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. A group of about 50 students volunteered.

Susanna Kemp, Reporter

CHICAGO — On Sunday morning, a group of sleepy-eyed students met in a parking lot, waiting for busses that would take them to downtown Chicago. It was 4:30 a.m., and it was still dark out.

About 50 first-year students volunteered at the 25th mile of the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, manning water and Gatorade stations while cheering on participants — from the winning athlete in a wheelchair to the last runners in the afternoon.

The volunteer event was organized by Weinberg freshman Christian Tam before many students had even set foot on campus. The Chicago native volunteered at last year’s marathon with his high school and was curious if other incoming freshmen would be interested in gathering a group to volunteer this year. The Facebook group he created for interested students garnered 192 potential volunteers.

“Since so many people were coming (to Northwestern) from outside of Chicago, I felt — because Chicago’s my home — that I had to show it to the Northwestern students,” Tam said. “That was a huge motivator for me to push this out on the Facebook group.”

McCormick freshman Megan Yaur ran on her high school’s track team, and she loved to cheer on her teammates.

“I think it’s so cool that people here have the mental and physical strength to actually run a marathon, so I just want to give as much support as I can,” Yaur said.

Throughout the day, Tam checked in on the volunteers, worried that their tasks would feel too much like a job, but most of the students replied that they were having fun — more so than they expected. Many cheered on the runners for the entirety of the eight-hour marathon.

Weinberg freshman Amanda Sugiharto, who is from Indonesia, said she has never seen a marathon live and thought it would be fun to watch one and to help out at the same time.

“The energy is so positive here,” Sugiharto said toward the middle of the marathon. “At the beginning of the day, it was kind of slow, but now it’s just so full of energy, and I love seeing the people from all different countries and supporting them, especially because we’re at the last mile.”

She was excited to see fellow Indonesians among runners from numerous other countries, including Australia, Mexico and Belgium. And there was one person she was especially excited to see run by: Kevin Hart. There was another sort of celebrity, though — if only in the Northwestern community — who was rumored to have run that she missed: Josh McKenzie, associate director for New Student and Family Programs and director of the first-year experience.

Tam said many people who weren’t able to attend have already asked if he’ll be taking another group of students next year — and he plans to.

“I know it’s super hard to commit, waking up at 4:30 one morning or pulling an all nighter just to be here. I’m really glad that 50 people came. I really expected only 30 people at first, because I’m like, ‘Man, these people probably don’t want to wake up for this on a Sunday.’ I’m overall just thankful for everyone.”

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