If you’ve ever run in a race, I probably don’t have to tell you how awesome race volunteers are. Races wouldn’t be possible without them! No matter the job, big or small, race volunteers make running races safe and manageable. Race volunteers get up just as early as runners on race day to hand us water, keep us healthy, let us know of coming changes in course, and so much more. Because of how vital race volunteers are to a successful event, all runners should take the opportunity to pay it forward and volunteer at a race. These are the compelling reasons that I discovered from volunteering at a local race.
My Volunteer Experience
It all started when I saw a post indicating that a small, local race was in need of volunteers. I knew I wouldn’t be running in the race, so why not volunteer?
Maybe I’m a nut-job, or maybe I was just giddy but the night before the race, I had the nerves of someone who would actually be be racing the next morning, not simply volunteering. I was so worried about oversleeping that I didn’t sleep very well. And when I was sleeping, I was having crazy dreams about how the morning was going to go.
I’ll be completely honest, with all the worrying that I was doing, the act of volunteering itself was quite anticlimactic. I arrived early so that I could get my assignment and flashy orange vest. Then I walked to my spot and waited. And waited. And waited some more. My post was near the beginning of the race. I’m inclined to think that I was assigned this post because I was one of the first people to volunteer.
Being so close to the beginning of what was to be an 8-mile race, I was able to hear the gun go off right at 9 a.m. It wasn’t long before the tall, slim men leading the group of about 300 runners came gracefully hurdling into sight. My job was to risk life and limb to stop any cars that might need to cross the street where runners were. I never saw a single car. Nevertheless, I held my post smiling and cheering on the runners as they passed me.
Being Around Other Runners
Unlike running in a race, I got to see the entire lot of runners. I never get to see the lead pack when I’m racing, except online where the race directors post pictures of the top 3 winners crossing the finish line. The leaders made running look so easy. The men were like gazelles running in a pack.
I got to see a young girl who may have been seven years old cheerfully running beside her mom. She waved hello and flashed me a giant grin on her way by. Then I saw the middle-packers, my peeps, my clan, my tribe! And then came my favorite group: the 50-plus crowd. Many of these men and women were running, some were speed walking, and others were gabbing like it was any old Saturday morning stroll.
Some of the runners I saw were breathing heavy. Some of the runners were scuffing their feet with ever step. Other runners were chatty and happy. And other runners seemed miserable. No matter the group of runners or the style of running, it was invigorating to be around a group of people who happily woke up early on a Saturday morning to run 8 miles for fun.
Pay it Forward
With every thank you and wave that I received as the runners went by, my seemingly useless role as volunteer felt appreciated!
If you’ve ever participated in a race, you know that no matter the size, it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the volunteers. Small local races like the one I volunteered for rely on volunteers. These are events put on by a club that don’t necessarily have a Rock ‘n Roll Marathon size budget.
Making it possible for another runner to get out and enjoy a day of racing is totally worth it, because someone else did it for me. We can’t participate in every race. We’ll be injured, the race won’t be in the budget, or we’ll miss the cut-off for signing up. Standing around directing traffic doesn’t cost a thing and you can do it injured. And I bet, if you showed up the morning of a race saying you wanted to volunteer, you’d get an unexpected kiss from a total stranger.
The morning of the race, I met the race director who gave me a classy orange vest (that I didn’t get to keep) and a free event T-shirt! I’m a sucker for free stuff, especially cute T-shirts that I can wear around town, not just while running. I’m not sure that all races will give you something, besides good feels, for your volunteer service. However, here are a few races that offer some fun miscellaneous perks just for volunteering:
- Beat the Blerch offers a free T-shirt and all the cake you can eat.
- The Spartan Race offers its volunteers a free race entry.
- AJC Peachtree Road Race gives volunteers a free volunteer shirt.
So pay it forward and volunteer. You’ll get to be around other runners and maybe you’ll get a cool new T-shirt!
Share Your Runner Vibes…
Have you ever volunteered at a race? What was your experience like?