All of my posts so far have been about running. This one is a little different – it is about NOT running, but volunteering instead.
Most (probably ALL) of the running events in which I have participated, rely heavily on volunteers to be able to run (pun intended). From the free parkruns to the large-scale events like Gold Coast Marathon, without volunteers they would not exist.
Often people who are injured, or who have just completed a big event, or are tapering, will volunteer at events where they can’t, or don’t want to, run. Volunteering is fun though, and you should definitely consider doing it, even if you are capable of running the event!
When talking about my experience with volunteering, I have to start with parkrun, as this is where I first experienced volunteering at ‘events’. parkrun is run entirely by volunteers, and volunteering is an integral part of parkrun ‘culture’. All regular parkrunners are requested to volunteer 3 times a year (some do many more times than this!)
There are a number of different volunteer roles at parkrun – some larger events have more volunteer roles but at my home parkrun (Torrens – #bestparkrunintheworld) we try to keep it ‘lean’. We have a run director (which rotates each week – I am fortunate enough to be part of this awesome team), timekeeper (I did this role once… EPIC FAIL… NEVER AGAIN!), finish tokens (making sure all the finishers take their tokens in the correct finishing order), photographer (my favourite role even though I am no professional – everyone who does this role puts their own spin on it and it’s great to see the variety of photos that come from the different photographers), tail runner (or walker – this person stays at the back so we know when everyone has finished and we can pack up) and finally barcode scanner (which I did a few times before the wonderful Merrilyn took over the role and made it her own!)
I’m not going to say the free coffee that all our vollies get is an incentive, but it’s certainly appreciated!
I’ve also volunteered at a few SARRC events over the years. This year (yesterday in fact) and last year I volunteered at Hills to Henley, a 30km (with several shorter options) run along the Torrens Linear Park from the hills to the beach. Last year I was a marshal at the 5km turnaround point – an easy job, and one that was finished early so I got to go to the finish line and see a lot of the 30km runners finish, before dashing off to play soccer that afternoon. So far that is my only experience of marshaling, and I certainly have an increased appreciation of their role since then. I always try to thank marshals as I pass them when I’m running in events. I found it a little frustrating at times, because a lot of people didn’t hear me tell them to turn around – surprise surprise, because they had their headphones in.
(Soapbox alert – I think headphones should be banned from all running events – well certainly those that involve running on roads – it’s just dangerous! I can see a place for them in ultras when people are out there, on their own, for a LOOONG time. But in a 5k – leave them at home, people!)
For yesterday’s event, I was assigned to ‘man’ a drink station about halfway along the 30k route. The morning threatened to be cold (and started out that way) so I rugged up with thermals, tiger onesie and hand warmers in the pockets. I was ably supported by Reg and Ray from one of the local Lions Clubs, as we offered drinks to all the 30k runners as they passed. I lost count of the number of times I said ‘Endura here… water there’ (Endura being the sports drink on offer). It was great to see all the runners go past, from the eventual podium finishers to the back-of-the-pack-ers. I was a teeny bit jealous of them getting to run on what seemed to be a glorious day (as it turned out there was a nasty headwind near the end, and it was significantly colder at the beach than at my station!), so after I finished my duties I laced up my runners and went out for a long run of my own!
I have also volunteered at Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon last year, which served two purposes for me personally – one so I couldn’t get talked into running it, and two to get a feel for the event to see if it was something I might like to do in future. I loved it – I was on the finish line drink station and despite the challenges of the windy, hot conditions, I decided then and there that I would run it in 2015. (Just this week, I have finally registered!)
I also volunteered at a Yumigo! trail event earlier this year – again I was on the finish line drink station. I didn’t run that day because I had a problem toenail which I was threatening to remove with pliers (fortunately I managed to resolve the problem in a far less extreme way). I also got to meet a whole lot of new people that day… some trail runners don’t tend to do a lot of road events so it was a whole new community of people to meet!
It wasn’t so much ‘volunteering’ at the Adelaide Running Festival last year, but I still think it’s worth mentioning here. I’d had a big night planned the night before, and I had to play soccer that day, so I hadn’t entered any events and I didn’t want to volunteer (in case I decided I needed to sleep in!). I did, however, want to cheer on a bunch of friends, including Jim and Brandy who were both doing their first marathons. So I decided to stand at the 36km mark in the marathon (where support is always needed), dressed in my tiger onesie (because my location just happened to be near the Zoo!) holding up a sign that said ‘RUN LIKE SOMEONE JUST CALLED YOU A JOGGER!’ and cheered for everyone who ran past (the half marathoners once and the marathoners twice), saving the biggest cheers for my friends! A lot of them didn’t even realise it was me, as I hadn’t told anyone what I was going to be wearing! I had a fantastic time and it was awesome to have random strangers come up to me later at the finish line and tell me that my support had given them a boost – mission accomplished!
My next volunteering gig is at the Adelaide Running Festival. I volunteered ages ago, knowing I wasn’t going to run it this year. Then the call went out for pacers, and I thought, what better volunteer gig could there be? So I quickly put my hand up to be the 2 hour pacer for the half marathon. I can’t wait, I’m hoping to have a big crew running with me, and to get as many of them as possible to their sub-2 hour goal. On a personal note, I’m really looking forward to finishing with a run over the Riverbank Footbridge to the Adelaide Oval plaza, but I really hope I take a lot of people there with me!