I’ve run a lot of races; I’ve spectated during a lot of races; but, Saturday was the first time I was an official race volunteer. I was probably not the very best volunteer ever because I definitely found myself distracted and wanting to cheer for the people running by or wanting to take pictures of things! BUT I TRIED! I promise I really tried to be a great volunteer. Lol.
During the entire process, I noticed a few things I wanted to share with you!
Medals are heavy
It might seem like a good idea to load as many medals as possible on your arm but after you keep raising that arm to put medals around people’s necks your arm starts to get tired! (Obviously, you shouldn’t mention this soreness to the people who just ran the race)
Runners don’t always think
Races run out of food. A lot. I’m sure that the race organizers knew how many people signed up and bought extra of everything but they still ran out of donuts, wet cloths, and bananas.
I heard that some runners took four donuts or many, many wet cloths. It really isn’t fair for people to do this. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve done it myself! “Ohhh I love this drink! I’ll take a couple!” But now that I’ve been on the other side I won’t make that mistake again. Runners should take one of everything so that those who finish behind them can have some goodies as well.
Also if you see someone doing something you don’t think is right–don’t be afraid to speak up! If you see someone without a bib trying to take a medal, say something. THIS IS WRONG. I saw at least ten people try this on Saturday. Luckily, we had one volunteer there solely for the purpose of dealing with this. She was an elderly woman and was amazing! I loved seeing her confront these people.
This isn’t illegal, but if you see someone helping themselves to multiple donuts, speak up! If you see someone giving themselves a full on bath with the wet cloths provided, stop them! Most people probably just aren’t thinking. Give them the benefit of the doubt, but don’t be afraid to say something!
Races need more volunteers
The people volunteering before the volunteers like me showed up did all the real work. I talked to one guy who had been there since 3 am. Those volunteers were amazing and the ones who should really get some recognition!
The regular people volunteers were umm… kinda grumpy. Maybe they were just quiet people but I almost felt like they were there because they had to in order to get their school volunteer hours in or else they regretted their decision to sign up. Smile people!! Races are fun!
This goes with the previous point about food and is truly something I wish every race would do! A small gift bag type bag with two handles prepackaged with water and all snacks passed to each runner eliminates the problem of runners taking more than their share of food. It also keeps the line moving when the finish area gets overcrowded! Honestly, there have been so many races where I haven’t taken food at all because I simply can’t hold on to it. Balancing my medal, headphones, phone and the water I’m trying to drink is hard enough. Adding a banana, apple, a bar and a bagel to that is nearly impossible!
The reality is that races simply don’t have enough volunteers. Bags with snacks can’t be given to runners if there aren’t volunteers to do something like that. So many races barely have enough volunteers to do the bare minimum–never mind the extras.
Everyone does not run the same speed
Obviously, I knew this before Saturday! I generally fall into the middle of most races I run. Half the crowd finishes before I do and the other half finishes after. I KNOW this, but until Saturday I had never seen it.
On Saturday I saw the final runner cross the finish. The volunteers got word that there were 28 people still on the course. Shortly after this, the loud music that had been playing for the past three hours turned off. The silence was deafening and I immediately started freaking out inside. There were people still running and I felt horrible for them knowing that it would be the sounds of silence applauding them across that finish line.
I did what I do so often and I spoke up. (Sometimes I should keep my mouth shut, but not this time!) I commented to the girl from Lululemon beside me that the music should still be going and she immediately agreed. She asked if I thought she should go tell them and I said, “Yes! Go quick!” She took off running and soon you could hear music again. The music remained until that final runner crossed the line.
What if that final runner had just completed their first race? What if they had spent months changing their habits and preparing for this day and were greeted with silence and an empty finish line? Would they ever sign up again? Would they decide to give up on running? What if having people at the finish cheering for them gave them the boost they needed to get through another week?
Running can change a person in so many positive ways, but running can also be negative for many people.
Crossing a finish line should always, always be positive no matter how long it took to get there.
IF YOU’RE NOT RUNNING, YOU SHOULD BE VOLUNTEERING! Runners know what other runners want on the course or at the finish making them the perfect volunteers. I already have a couple other races in mind to volunteer at this year. You should consider it too!
First on my list is the Beaches Jazz Run! Click here if you want to volunteer too!