Running relies heavily on volunteers.
I know this isn’t a ground breaking statement to any of you out there who have been involved in the organization of a race or volunteered your own time on race day. I am a big believer in helping out other runners and the running community in general and I’ve made it one of goals this year to volunteer at more races.
With the convenience of a super awesome and active running group in Amherst (yay, Striders!), my first opportunity to volunteer was at the Amherst Valentine’s Day run on Saturday (Feb. 14th…duh). Running in freezing conditions at last week’s Hypo Half was a challenge – made tolerable and even pleasant by the many volunteers standing out in the cold to cheer us on and provide water, etc. While a warmer day would have been nice, the conditions were almost identical, with the wind chill making it feel almost -30 degrees Celsius. Brrrrr!!!
With over 250 people in total running 3, 5, 10 or 21.1 km (including SO many who showed up to register on race day – even in the crazy cold temps!!), the turnout was amazing. I will admit to having a bias for one runner in particular though, as my adorable and amazing wife Stacey was doing the 5 km. There were also PILES of other volunteers, including large groups of high school students from Amherst, other Striders who weren’t racing that day and many other locals.
In retrospect, wearing an old pair of running shoes with a hole in the toe box and not nearly enough layers wasn’t the best idea, as I was stationed with a group of people for direction and traffic control purposes at one of the more well-travelled places on the route. Standing fairly still for hours in these temps is quite a bit more uncomfortable than running in these same conditions. It’s funny how I put so much thought into dressing appropriately for my training, but in this case it was all “Meh, I’ll just wing it.” Consider it a lesson learned.
Other than seeing my wife (and giving her encouragement, hugs and kisses – hey, it WAS Valentine’s Day) – my favourite part of volunteering was definitely high-fiving the smallest runners and seeing how excited they were to get that enthusiasm and recognition. Holding out your hand and having a kid sprint towards you with a big grin is a pretty cool feeling. It was amazing to see so MANY small kids running – it would have been impressive in the middle of summer, but on such a cold day it was downright inspirational!
With a reduced racing schedule this year, I really want to volunteer as much as possible to continue giving back to the running community, to cheer on the runners and still be as involved as possible with different events. For everything the Striders have done for me and do for running overall around here, it’s the least I can do.
When is the last time you volunteered at a race? Are there any races near you that could use extra help? I’d love to hear about your plans or experiences with regards to volunteering at races. Leave a comment below.