Events don’t happen without volunteers ready and willing to lend a hand. That’s a fact. From the Fun Run 5k Walk/Runs that are found in every town to the mega-exclusive and pricey Ironmans, Swim-Runs, marathons, and endurance mountain-biking events. Each of these are equal in their need for willing people to show up and lend their time on race-day. Whether you’re sorting people into the starting gates, handing out t-shirts, or working a water stop, your presence and attitude make the race experience special for those participating. Volunteer opportunities will give you perspective on why people of all levels of athletic ability participate in these events. You will have the chance to see the fastest participants set blazing paces and give it their all for a chance to stand on the podium. You will also see those who are just beginning their journey to a healthier life at their first race.
How cool is that? Getting to encourage people when you see they’re struggling and then seeing the pride on their faces for finishing something they worked so hard for. So, how can one get started in volunteering at races? Look on the internet for races going on in your community. These can be found either on sites dedicated to races or on social media. From there you should be able to find contact information for the race directors and organizers. You can reach out to them to see if they have any volunteer opportunities for upcoming races. If they don’t but you still want to attend, show up as a spectator and offer a smile and encouraging words to the participants going by!
In the race reports I read each author always gives thanks to the volunteers that show up to the race. This is true from the world champions, winners, runners-up, all the way to last place. Everybody says that it is those who give their own time that make the race what it is. In many ultra-distance marathons, there are aid-stations that feature a variety of drinks and snacks to sustain those athletes with courage enough to attempt those crazy distances. Some of the stations are in such remote parts of the course that they literally have to bring the supplies in by donkey and then set up at 12,000’ altitude to start cooking pancakes for the next 36 hours. Now that’s dedication. There are also volunteers on the medical side of things. In events that feature rugged or dangerous terrain, extreme heat or cold, or any other type of hazard, there must be trained professionals that can treat severe dehydration, hyponatremia, fainting, and even pop and treat other people’s blisters. I for one would appreciate their service. There are even massage therapists in some events that work the cramps and kinks out of the tired athlete’s legs. The spirit of the competitors is strong, no doubt. But it is easily matched by the selflessness and dedication of the volunteers. With the New Year underway, maybe set a goal outside of your own training and give volunteering at races a try, you won’t regret it!