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Skeletal friend helps marshals keep runners on Monument Marathon course

September 16, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — When Monument Marathon runners reach the final stretch to the finish line, they’ll notice something unusual along the course — a skeleton.

Doug and Pam Warner have been volunteering with the Platte Valley Companies Monument Marathon since the first run in 2012.

Since then, the Warners have also brought along a skeleton, dressed in different costumes to greet the runners along the last stretch of the course.

“We thought the cemetery would be a good spot for a skeleton,” Pam said.

Doug agreed, saying several runners stop for a picture. Returning runners are always happy to see the skeleton back on the course.

“One year, several women from the orthopedic center were running and had to stop for selfies with our skeleton,” Doug said.

Doug and Pam are course marshals by the West Lawn Cemetery in Gering, Their job is to cheer on the runners and make sure everyone takes the right turn.

All three of the event distances, 5K, half-marathon and marathon, pass by the Warner’s station on West Lawn’s north side. From there, it’s about 1½ miles to the finish line.

“It’s a steady incline from the east to the west,” Doug said. “The runners complain about that every year, especially when it’s toward the end of the course. We don’t tell them there’s also a big gulch ahead.”

Over the years, Doug and Pam have learned what they need to bring for race day.

“I think it was our first year that a runner asked if we had ice because her hands were swelling,” Pam said. “We now bring ice along just in case it’s needed.”

The Warners have always had a sense for giving back to the community, so when the Monument Marathon was first recruiting volunteers, they stepped up. It was an opportunity to show support for both the event and the runners.

It’s also an opportunity to show runners from around the world our western Nebraska hospitality.

“As they pass by, runners will often thank us for being on the course,” Pam said. “I’m thinking, ‘We’re just standing here.’ I might walk the course someday for fun; but I’m not a runner.”

Doug said he can always identify the serious runners, as they don’t say much and usually have their own music for the run. Others, out for the enjoyment of running, will stop for a short hello or to take a selfie with the skeleton.

“The marathon seems to be getting bigger every year,” Doug said. “It attracts runners from every age group. We even see parents and kids out for the shorter distances. It’s just a good, top quality community event that involves everyone. It’s a highlight for our area.”

This year’s Platte Valley Companies Monument Marathon is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29. The course takes runners from the Wildcat Hills to the back country around Scotts Bluff National Monument.

The Monument Marathon is a fundraising event for the Western Nebraska Community College Foundation. The funds are used to provide scholarships for students in need to continue their education.

jpurvi@starherald.com

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