Have you ever helped someone out? Done someone a favor? Remember how good you felt?
Have you ever volunteered at a race? Ever worked a water stop, or helped out with registration?
Well, if you haven’t, it’s high time you should…
Back when I started running formal races, volunteering wasn’t even on my radar. I mean, why would I volunteer at a run? If I was going to attend a run, I would just run it. I was a “runner” not a “volunteer”.
I’m not sure where I thought race volunteers came from. Maybe they were just friends and families of runners, or maybe the “race volunteer fairy” just whipped ‘em up out of thin air. They were volunteering and I was running. Two different things totally, right? At least, that is what I used to think.
My epiphany regarding this happened at a Williams Route 66 Marathon expo. I think it was the third year for the event. I had an injury and wasn’t going to run, so I volunteered to help out with registration. I thought, well, if I can’t run, at least I can be a part of it by volunteering. Plus, you get a nifty t-shirt.
One of the other volunteers asked me, “are you running one of the events?” I said “no, are you?”
She said she was running the full marathon. I was shocked! A runner…working as a volunteer at a race she was running in!
After mulling this concept over, I thought, why not? Since that time, I have volunteered at most of the Route 66 registration/packet pickup tables (I think I missed one).
I’ve also volunteered at races doing race day registrations (while in my running stuff with a bib) and run out just in time for the start. That’s a different adrenaline rush, but a cool feeling nonetheless.
I’ve stayed around after races to help and clean up. Talk about the most thankless part of a race! Do this one time and I guarantee you’ll be more careful with those empty cups!
Sure, you can’t run and work a water stop in the same race. But there are many volunteer opportunities available before most races begin where they are begging for volunteer help. Plus, if you help out before a race, you usually get a great parking spot!
Another thing volunteering will do is give you a totally different perspective on races. I find myself much more appreciative of race volunteers and really make it a point to thank as many of them as I can. Because that’s all they get. Our thanks (and sometimes a nifty shirt).
Some get up early, some stay up late. All so we can have a fun, safe running experience. What a fantastic group of people to be a part of.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “It is one of the beautiful compensations in this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
So…pay it forward…volunteer some of your time, whether you are running or not. You’ll be glad you did!
See you on the trails…
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