Volunteer at running related events. I know, I'm a dork like that.
But I really do think it's a lot of fun and can offer you a pretty cool look at what actually goes on behind the scenes to make all the magic that is racing happen!
One of my first volunteering activities was at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon. This was its inaugural year and it turned out amazing (other than the weather!). A friend and I decided that we were "too cool" to simply run the 5K race but that we didn't think we would be ready to run a half marathon so early in the year. So we thought the next best thing would be to volunteer. We both got assigned to be out on the course, helping to guide the runners through a particular turn in the route and to cheer them on along the way. My friend ended up not being able to make it, but I'm glad I still went and helped out. I shared duties with another volunteer and we lost our voices yelling for the runners as they went past. We ended up with a part of the route where the runners would actually pass through twice, so despite the weather (hail, snow, rain, sleet, wind - you name it, we had it!), we were out there from the very first runner until the very last. It was so interesting to watch the runners pass through, so clumped the first time through at about 2 miles in, and then spread out sooooo far on their way back through at about mile 11. And every runner had their own take on it. Some of the leaders were so focused, it didn't look like they were enjoying themselves, while the ladies towards the back of the pack were just having a BLAST! It made me remember that, while I may not be the fastest, the reason I run races is because it's fun.
I had been following Michigan Adventure Racing on facebook for awhile, especially after running the RedBull Trail Daze race last November. (Now renamed the Dirty Duel). Mark, who runs M.A.R., had posted on facebook that they were looking for people to help out with the race. I knew I had wanted to run the 10K and Mark had been ok with my helping out before and after my race and taking a break in the middle from volunteering to run.
So I showed up several hours before my race to lend a hand. I had told Mark I would do whatever he needed and so I ended up helping check in racers at the regsitration table. It was fun to get to greet everyone and to talk to them about the upcoming race. The race directors had done a good job of making sure everything was prepared and ready and check in went really smoothly.
About 15 minutes before my 10K started, I switched my shoes and got myself loose to run. Then once I had finished my race, I went back to helping out, keeping track of laps (1 lap was a 10K, 2 for a half, 4 laps for the full marathon), and keeping track of bib numbers and times as runners came across the finish line. All the while, I got to joke around with and talk to the other runners and volunteers. You learn A LOT about running during those talks and usually end up making a friend or running buddy as well.
A friend of mine works for Ragnar Relay Series. If you haven't heard it, set aside a couple hours and check it out. Seriously. It will take time. Because once you start looking, you will be hooked. Promise.
But, back to my point! A friend works for the company and she was helping with the planning on their Chicago race. And she needed volunteers. I hadn't seen her in awhile and was signed up to run my first Ragnar in September 2013, so I thought volunteering would be a good way to get acquainted with the race ahead of time.
It was, for me, a life changing event. I loved helping out that weekend and made some friends that I still talk to even several months later. We're all spread out across the country, but we stay in touch as a result of that race. It's that big.
But more on Ragnar later. It gets it's own post. It's that big. F'real.
My most recent volunteer gig was helping with the Lakeshore Miracle Run. Again, this was one where I was signed up to volunteer, take a break to run the race, and then back to volunteering. once again, I found myself working the registration table. I've done that a lot as a coach (cheerleading, 10+years) and also a couple times for races, so I'm pretty comfortable with it. This one was an added challenge though for a couple reasons. Unfortunately, the shirt vendor had changed their szing and so all the shirts for the participants were running small. I mean, really small. Like, I almost went up two whole sizes kinda small. So every time we checked someone in, we had to let them know. And unfortunately, we didn't have any to switch out sizes. Plus, since the shirts were sized in Men's and Women's, sometimes people had put down the WRONG size. (I'm sorry, sir, but you ordered a Women's shirt?) Plus, while it's great that the race has grown tremendously over the past few years (tripled in size, actually!), that became an issue, when the number of shirts ordered had been based on the number of shirts for LAST year's race. OOPS.
But luckily, I worked patient registration in an Emergency Room for three years during college. If that doesn't teach you how to handle cranky, unhappy, impatient people... Well then I don't know what will. :) Things ended up working out pretty well, but I know there are several of those tee shirts that ended up being given to small children or pets instead of the person who actually RAN the race. Which is bummer, because they were pretty nice.
And now what?
I'll let y'all know how they go! And in the meantime, if you get a chance to volunteer at en event, I DEFINITELY encourage you to do it! Even if you're running! Most smaller, local races will let you do both and it makes the experience EVEN BETTER!
#runlove 'till next time!