A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Tips for volunteering at a race

on October 6, 2016

Over the weekend, I volunteered for a race for the first time and it was an exhausting, but definitely rewarding experience. I thought I’d share a bit about my experience to help encourage (and prepare!) any one else considering volunteering. This article from Runner’s World has more tips as well.

1.If the race director advises you to drive out to the site the day before so you know where to go, believe them! My first assignment was with the 10K and the race director sent us a map, with the warning that it was in a remote location. He wasn’t kidding! I got lost trying to get there and when I arrived, was worried I was in the wrong spot because it was so remote and dark! I was relieved when I finally came across the aid station on the path.

My first water stop

2. If you sign up, SHOW UP! We had a team of five people assigned to staff two stations about a tenth of a mile apart from each other. As I heard the national anthem, I was the only one at my station. I frantically set up one station and as soon as another person arrived, ran to get the other one ready as the first runners came through. Frustrating to say the least! Ultimately, only 3 of us were there so we split with one person at one stop and two at the other. It’s handy to have two when you have both Gatorade and water. I had one hand with water and one with Gatorade, which meant I had to remember to give the right one and runners had to actually tell me which one they wanted. Much easier when you have two people!

3. Dress comfortably and bring sunscreen (and bug spray!). I got eaten alive by mosquitoes, but at least I was dressed comfortably and had my sunscreen. This is a super active experience and I was grateful for my running shoes!

4. Bring snacks and water. It was a long day and I felt bad drinking anything set out for the runners, so I brought my own. They did bring us snacks to the marathon station eventually, but I was grateful to have my own when I’d been on my feet for hours.

5. Look for instructions: This can be either in your email (so remember your phone!) or on the table. I found it really helpful, especially since I was the first one there, to have a list to know what I was supposed to do to set up and dismantle the station.
Thank goodness for instructions

6. Think of encouraging cheers: I found myself saying the same things over and over. Be careful about saying “You’re almost done!” depending on where you are on the course. For the 10K, I was at mile 4, so I was honest and said “Two miles to go!” rather than “Almost done.” For the marathon, we were at mile 25 so we did lots of encouraging that they were almost done and only the bridge left to tackle.
Sadistic bridgeFor me, it was particularly important to cheer for those towards the back of the pack. I reminded every one of them that they’d covered more miles than any of us that morning and were rock stars!

7. You might want to think about your chalk work ahead of time:
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Sidewalk cheersMine was pretty lame because I didn’t think about it until I could see runners in the distance. My attempted star/firework/(I have no idea what that was supposed to be) was particularly lame. At least I was an enthusiastic cheerleader (and the cutest volunteer according to one lovely runner).

8. Hold the cup flat in your hand so the runner can grab it and call out what you have. It took me a bit to get the hang of this. I made a huge mess trying to give a drink to the winner of the 10K.

It was a long day (and I’m still hoarse!) but really rewarding to be part of the experience to support so many runners. There were first time marathoners and people gunning for PRs and lots of people just out for a good time. I’ll definitely look for more volunteer opportunities (and be better prepared with signs and chalk phrases and cheering paraphenalia!).

Have you ever volunteered for a race? Would you recommend the experience?

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5 responses to “Tips for volunteering at a race

  1. I love volunteering for races, and have been on the race planning committee for one of our local races for several years. I missed doing it this year with my husband’s deployment but will definitely do it again next year.

  2. I have never volunteered in a race, but it sounds like a fun experience. Thanks for sharing your tips!

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