Ronalee Eckberg has been volunteering for the Kauai Marathon for seven years. She donates her time at aid stations and at the continental breakfast and, for the past four years, she’s been working the information booth at the Friday expo, where she likes to add a twist of humor.
“I call myself Miss Information,” Eckberg said. “That can be taken two ways, either I’m the gal with all the info, or I’m giving you a bunch of wrong information. People never know, that’s the mystery of it.”
It all started at the last aid station seven years ago, when a friend of Eckberg’s called her up with a plea for volunteer help.
“I said, ‘Where do you need me and what time?’” Eckberg said.
At the first aid station, Eckberg has handed out water and Gatorade to runners. She’s set up the continental breakfast at the beginning of the race, and helped set up the food at the finish line.
For the past four years, Eckberg has also been volunteering at the marathon’s expo, which continues today and at the information booth. She’s out of about 500 volunteers who help make the race a winner.
“I just love meeting all of the people who work at this event, and meeting the runners and their families,” Eckberg said. “I love it because you get to hear their stories and answer their questions.”
A favorite moment, Eckberg said, happened in 2013 when a man and his wife showed up at the info booth. They had been visiting the island with no knowledge of the marathon, and wanted to participate.
“This gentleman happened to be vision impaired,” Eckberg said. “He said he’d run marathons and half marathons with his daughter as his guide, but she wasn’t on the trip with him. “
The couple wanted to know if there was a runner who would be willing to act as a guide and Eckberg found someone who volunteered for the job.
“I was also working at the last aid station in the last mile and I got the chance to see him come through,” Eckberg said. “I ran a couple of blocks with him, and it was so rewarding.”
This year, Eckberg has a friend of the family who will be joining the marathon and she said she’ll be cheering her on.
“She’s been a friend of my daughter’s for 43 years,” Eckberg said. “She’s from California, and I’m looking forward to seeing her when she gets here.”
Connections are the most important piece of the marathon for Eckberg and she said she’s constantly amazed at the stories she hears from friends — both old and new.
“Sometimes it’s their first marathon, sometimes it’s someone who is running for someone else that’s been killed or couldn’t make it. There are local runners and people from the military,” Eckberg said. “It’s fun to see everybody and connect to their stories.”