by Kevin Barrett
At 25 years old, Joe Comeau is ready to celebrate a major volunteering milestone.
Next month, Joe will take part in his 10th edition of the Marathon By the Sea, part of a loyal and dedicated core of supporters who help to make the race rock.
He assists with everything from course set up to taking a lot of outstanding photos that capture the spirt of the event. As a result, he transformed into one of the biggest boosters of Saint John’s grand marathon race, which runs Aug. 12-14 with a packed weekend of activities.
“I don’t know exactly why I started to get involved but I always want to a give back to the community,” said Joe, who credits a bond with race organizer Mike Doyle for keeping his interest high each year.
“I love MBTS and the MBTS family. Mike and I have worked together for so long, we don’t even need to talk and we know what do to.”
Joe does not consider himself a runner but he carries a compassion for the community in which he lives and in turn, pitching in is easy for him. For his efforts in 2008, he was awarded the Mike Doyle volunteer award for being the string that kept the marathon together.
He’s not missed a race since.
“I love it,” he explains. “The last four or five years that I have been involved, I have been out on the course with Mike – up at 4 a.m. on race day and powering thru until the end of the race. “That’s not including the night before the event, when we are up until 1-1:30 a.m., setting up stuff out on course!”
Joe is a Stagehand/Photographer, who recently graduated from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design with a photography diploma with honours. You may have seen him in his freelance photography and photojournalism roles or on line with the FIRST Saint John Newschaser site.
His initial Marathon By the Sea event took place in 2006, when he volunteered with the St Marks Venturer Company (Scouts Canada), which was responsible for the start/finish area when it was stationed at Market Square/St Patrick Street.
Joe and his friends set up the area, took it down, assisted with food, water and cleanup duties.
In his various assignments, he’s enjoyed the emotion through the course, especially at the finish line and takes pride when he is able to contribute to the success of the event, a mainstay on the local running calendar.
“One of the best exchanges with runners was when one runner hurt her knee mid-way through the race but was determined to make it to the end,” he explained. “She knew she would be late but she wanted to finish. However, at 2 p.m., Saint John Work trucks started to pull up the course (pylons and stuff). So for the last five miles, I ran (quick-walked) with her until the end and held her water bottle.”
“She was super grateful.”
During his experience, he’s witnessed the tremendous growth of the race, now a full weekend agenda and a key part of summer for the Uptown area in August.
“It has grown from more than just a race,” he said. “It’s an entire experience. All three days, there is something to do. Entertainment, food, the Expo. It is all so great.
“The addition of the Harbour Bridge to the route is an awesome change and I hope that it gets better and better!!”