We all sign up for the races, train (maybe :)), show-up to the event, grab our swag and race our race. Many of us will even, while gasping for air, thank those who provide the security and safety for our event. But how many of you have been on the flip side of the race and one of the many Volunteers?
Volunteers are what makes our races and events affordable, fun and add to the local flair. Volunteer attitude can make (or break) an event. Locals signing up to volunteer because they enjoy the spectacle or a local group as they receive a charitable contribution are great, but what are you doing to advance the sports you love and willingly participate in?
Giving back to our community is the best way to ensure the events you love continue to be at the quality that you expect. If you look around you will find a position that you can shine in and contribute in a positive way. Volunteering also gives you a different perspective of what it takes to host an event; both the struggles and triumphs.
Personally, I try to volunteer at least 1-2 times per year at local events I enjoy. Currently, I am the course sweep for 2 different trail runs that are in my childhood “backyard” parks. I am the last person on the course, assisting those at the party in the back pace as needed and making sure everyone safely gets off the course. This is especially important as some of our races in the mountains go for 5 miles between aid stations. I carry extra hydration, a basic first aid kit, extra fuel, cell phone and those fold able foil blankets. It’s not much but if someone is in need it will help make the experience a little less painful. For me, this is how I help ensure that these events continue safely in my home area and are accessible to all. It is also so rewarding to see people push outside their comfort areas and to see what they can do. There is a satisfaction in seeing their joy as they cross that finish line.
We also have been blessed with a Park Run and that is entirely volunteer driven. A weekly free timed 5K that has numerous positions available and, for many, is a first introduction to weekly training.
When should you volunteer? Anytime, the question is more of when are you going to volunteer? Treat it like a race, think about what you as a participant would love to see a person at that volunteer position do. Maybe its a funny sign, a kind word or just filling the cups a slightly different way.
When is the best time to volunteer? Anytime. Last year there was an event I wanted to race but it didn’t fit my training schedule so I volunteered. Ended up being the trail sweep for the first 17 miles of a 50K (I hiked it). I wanted to be part of the event. Other times I’ve helped direct traffic, handed out water, tended the fire jump at a spartan race, water safety at at local triathlon, etc. There is always something you can do and you’ll find the time passes quickly.
So as you complete your prep in anticipation for Barrelman, I would like to challenge you, during your taper, to look for a local event and sign up to volunteer. Give something back to your community. I think you will find volunteering a different kind of reward and well worth your time investment.
Your friend in tapering …. Vivian