If you follow me on Instagram, you might know that I was volunteering at a local 10K race this past weekend. Since I started running 3 years ago, I have taken part in 9 races, and every single time I passed a volunteer I thanked them. Races wouldn’t be able to go ahead without the many awesome people who volunteer their time. I’ve wanted to volunteer at a race for quite some time now, but there was always one reason or another that stopped me from being able to help out. But after the Walt Disney marathon I made an effort to find a local race that I would help out at. I scheduled it into my calendar to keep the whole weekend free so I could be at the expo on Saturday, and race day (Sunday). I was super excited.
Saturday started off with me greeting runners and making sure they knew where to collect their race bib. It was a miserable rainy day, so rather than the crowds that I was expecting, it was a slow stream of people. I enjoyed saying ‘hi’ to folks and answering questions, and after an hour I was asked to cover bib registration. After a quick demonstration of what to do, I was let loose. This job was SO much fun. I would search for the runner in the system, locate their bib, tell them where to go to get their bib chip checked, and where to go for their t-shirt.
I was so pumped after Saturday’s session that I couldn’t wait for Sunday, even though it meant a very early start.
5am Sunday morning, the alarm goes off. I was advised to wear lots of layers as it would be cold standing around, so I did, and with my green volunteer t-shirt on top, I definitely resembled the Hulk. It was pretty exciting heading into the set-up; there were a lot of people milling around getting ready for the thousands of runners who would be arriving shortly. Unlike Saturday, the Sunday felt a little less structured. My tasks were ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that’ (put up the corral flags, get food/drinks for the elite athletes’ tent, and move chairs into the massage tent). An hour before the race was due to start, I got into a good position, waved my ‘Ask Me’ sign around, and waited for runners to approach me with questions. The questions were pretty much the same every time but it was fun being there to help runners. The excitement and anticipation buzz at the corrals did make me jealous that I wasn’t running.
Once all the runners and walkers were past the Start line, I was asked to go to the Finish line to encourage runners not to congregate, but to keep moving. I was amazed how quickly athletes arrived. The winners clocked incredible speeds! The winning male came in at 29:49, and the female in 33:20. These are times that a lot of runners would be happy to achieve in the 5k distance, not a 10k!!! INCREDIBLE!
Standing beside the medical tent was interesting, listening to the paramedics and first aiders evaluating the runners. Is that runner unsteady on their feet? Do they look like they’re going to faint? Is he clutching his chest? Does that runner need a Band-Aid? That runner is very pale!
All race volunteers are great, but the first aiders/paramedics really do incredible work. They were so calming and caring. And as a side note, don’t be embarrassed if you puke during or at the end of a race. It does happen; you are not the only one. When you drink water or electrolytes during a race, try and take sips rather than gulps.
The top things I learnt from my time volunteering:
-be flexible, turn up ready to do whatever it takes to help organizers or runners,
-wear comfortable shoes and weather appropriate clothing,
-take a backpack with you for water/coffee/snacks and your personal belongings,
-if you are unable to do a task (lifting something heavy), then make sure the organizer knows – they will happily give you something else to do,
-and most of all, have fun!
Have you volunteered at a race before? Are you thinking about it? I would love to hear your experiences.
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