For decades, Jim Lux has gotten out of bed at 4 a.m. every year on this Sunday in May.
He, and a small crew of other volunteers, scour Olympia, making sure the course was adequately marked for the Capital City Marathon, the 36th of which begins at 7 a.m.
“I’ve always been involved in the course safety side,” Lux said. “You’re out hefting the signs and chalking the roads and getting up at the crack of dawn and running like crazy to get things ready for the race that morning.”
Really, it’s become traditional to Lux. He’s been a volunteer for the marathon for more than three decades, and its board president for about 12 years, he estimates.
During the years he’s been involved, the event has continued to grow as a community staple.
“People come out (on race day). You see their lawn chairs. They’re sipping their coffee, and the kids are playing,” Lux said. “They kind of embrace us.”
Lux, now 65, will step down from his post after Sunday’s (May 21) running of the race. He still will volunteer but in a smaller capacity, he said.
He wants to spend more time with his grandchildren and watch their baseball and softball games in the spring, which he hasn’t been able to make in the past.
“It’s just the right time,” Lux said. “We need to have some turnover. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I’ve loved every minute of it. But somebody else should get to do it, too.”
Judy Hartmann, another longtime volunteer, will assume the role after Sunday. Lux will leave her a legacy that enthusiastically fosters volunteerism.
Prior to volunteering with the marathon, Lux ran the half-marathon several times.
“That’s how I started, was just being a part of it as a participant,” he said.
He eventually hung up his running shoes when the sport started weighing on him physically, but he remained involved as a volunteer.
“He’s so dedicated, and you get to see that dedication,” race director Nona Snell said.
Lux, in some ways, follows in the footsteps of his mother, Mary Lux, who served on the Olympia City Council for many years. She was a strong advocate of bringing the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials to Olympia in 1984 and served stints with the state Legislature and Olympia School Board.
“She was very active in a lot of things that are here today,” Lux said. “She left her mark.”
Mary Lux always encouraged her son to get involved in community service, he said.
Since Jim Lux has been involved with the marathon, he’s always been a champion of keeping the organization volunteer-based.
“My feeling is, always, 100 percent, keep this volunteer,” Lux said. “You’ll get a different flavor if you change. It will not be the same.”
When the organization realized it had to become more formal, Lux said there were healthy discussions about the model, and whether or not to have paid positions.
“We made that choice (to keep it volunteer), and I think it’s had a lot of appeal to people in the community at many different levels,” Lux said.
That decision seems to have paid dividends and continues to promote participation in the community. This year, on par with most years, the race has nearly 600 volunteers.
“You’re not going to volunteer for this if you don’t love it,” Snell said. “People are very dedicated to it year after year, whether you’re someone like Jim, or people who come out (to run) water stops, who have done it for years.”
The runners keep returning as well. Lux wonders each year if people are going to come back, and the numbers have remained steady.
“We’re able to kind of withstand the competition, which is broadly defined. And I think that is a tribute to the event we put on,” Lux said. “We’ve always tried to make it community oriented, tried to encourage people of all capabilities to participate.”
Nearly 2,000 participants were registered early this week, not including those that would show up Sunday morning. Lux hopes to see the race continue to thrive as years go on.
“It’s been a memorable part of my life, either as a running participant, or as a volunteer watching other people in the community,” he said.
“I’m really pleased people still consider it to be one of the races they’ll participate in. I hope to see it go a whole lot longer.”