When thousands of runners and 5K walkers take to the streets for the annual Deseret News/Granite Furniture marathon and 10K races this July 24th, they'll have Lori Gilbert and her "cast" of volunteers to thank.

Gilbert, who works for the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Department, coordinators of the annual races, is responsible for the recruitment and training of the more than 300 volunteers it takes to stage the races each year. And she needs some help.Marathoners begin at 5 a.m. up Emigration Canyon, but Gilbert's Pioneer Day will start much earlier than that. By 2 a.m., she will be enroute to the starting area and will oversee a chain of runners' aid stations along the routes of the marathon and 10K runs and the 5K fitness walk. Her efforts will culminate at the finishing area in Liberty Park.

"The success of these races depends heavily on our volunteers," said race director Scott Kerr of the county. "Without their help every step of the way, we couldn't possibly pull off these events."

Indeed, everything from transportation to and from the starting lines, drinks and first aid stations all along the race routes, registration lines and refreshments post-race in Liberty Park all fall under Gilbert's direction.

"It takes about 300-320 volunteers to make this happen," Gilbert added. "We've been fortunate because many of our volunteers come back year after year to help, but we always need new ones."

She cautions that the "work day" starts early each July 24th for her group, as early as 5 a.m. for the majority of those wishing to donate their time. The events usually end by 11 a.m.

"It's a great way to jump start your holiday," she added with a smile. "It's very rewarding to help those who are out so early running or walking to celebrate the holiday."

Gilbert meets with many volunteers at the park the morning of the event, explaining their assignments in the area. Those who run aid stations along the race course are trained in advance to help with offering water to runners.

If you are interested in helping, contact Lori Gilbert at 468-3337 or via the Internet at ([email protected])

Registration for the marathon, 10k race and 5k fitness walk is continuing at all four Granite Furniture locations in Salt Lake City, Sugar House, Layton and Orem; at Salt Lake County Park and Rec-re-a-tion and at the Deseret News offices at 30 E. 100 South in Salt Lake City. You can also register online at (www.desnews.com/run).