Whether you’re an athlete who benefits from race volunteers, or you’d put yourself in the “spectator” category, you should consider volunteering at a race – you won’t regret it!!
In the past few years, my husband, kids and I have volunteered at running races (Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope 5k, 10k, and half marathon), bike races (Paris to Ancaster), and triathlons (Multisport Canada Triathlon Series). There are so many reasons why you should too!
#1: Choose a role – there is one for everyone.
Depending on the race, you could:
- help out at race registration, handing out t-shirts, swim caps, race bibs etc.
- fill little cups with water and hand them out to athletes along the course
- make inspirational posters and hold them up for athletes to see
- direct athletes to run or bike a certain way – “left!”
- work the info booth – answer questions pre-race
- hand out water bottles and medals at the finish line
- remove “stinky timing chips” (as my daughter would say) at the finish line
- make noise and cheer for any and all athletes – you may be surprised how much the encouraging words of a random stranger can lift your spirits!
- pull out an instrument and play songs (on request if you can)
- hand out food to finishers
#2: Give back to the racing community.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have the energy during a race to thank the many many volunteers who help put on a race. Give back by becoming one of them. If you’re a racer, you’ll know how important volunteers are to a race – they stand there in all weather waiting to hand you a cup of water or a sugary beverage. They point you in the right direction so you don’t go off course. They pick up your garbage.
#3: Be a role model to a little person.
Teach the little people in your life the value of giving back. They will realize how doing just a small thing can really help someone. They may learn to be more grateful when it’s their turn to race, or when they play on a team led by a volunteer coach.
4. Learn how things work, so you can race too.
Are you considering signing up for your first race? Go spend a morning volunteering in the race environment and you will learn tons! For example, if you’re thinking of registering for your very first try-a-tri, you could volunteer near the transition zone, pointing people in the right direction, while also watching and learning from them.
5. Get free food and t-shirts, and maybe even a guaranteed race entry.
If you’re an official race volunteer, you’ll get a t-shirt to make you more identifiable, and food to calm your rumbling tummy. For some races, if you volunteer at a race one year, you’re guaranteed entry the next (not free entry!).
6. Make someone’s day.
Come up with a great sign, and athletes will remember it for a very long time. The best one I’ve seen yet said simply, “This is a motivational sign.” You may make athletes smile, laugh, or believe that yes, they CAN do it!
7. Feel good!
You will feel very much appreciated, by the race organizers, and by the athletes! When else can doing so little mean so much to so many people!?
8. Be inspired by the athletes.
You will see athletes of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. You cannot help but be inspired by their athleticism, talent, determination and perseverance.
9. Earn volunteer hours.
If you’re a high school student, earning volunteer hours may be a requirement. Why not earn them while doing something awesome?
10. Have fun!!
Last, but certainly not least, volunteering is a blast! I love it. It is so much fun to be able to help athletes when they are working so hard to do their very best. You get the opportunity to meet new people, try new things (when else is it okay for your child to write with permanent marker on a person?), and put your talents to good use.
The smiles and thanks from athletes make it so worthwhile! When you’re figuring out your race schedule for this year, slot yourself in to a volunteer role or two – I sure will!