I have been racing for the past four years now and am sad to say that over the course of those years, I was always one of the guys wearing the bib. So as I was planning out my 2014 race schedule, I decided that I needed to find time to return the favor and step up as a volunteer instead. I have run the Buffalo Run twice before (50M and 25K) and I am in love with running on the island, but decided that this year I would volunteer instead. I chose (mostly based on my schedule) to volunteer on Friday for the start of the 100-milers. I have to say, it was a remarkable experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. While this may not be news to those of you that have volunteered at a race before, I thought I would share some of my key takeaways and hopefully provide encouragement to those that haven’t yet volunteered to go out and do so.
1. A race is A LOT of work. I think most of us get this conceptually, whether we have volunteered or not. At the same time, until this volunteer experience, I don’t think I truly grasped the scope and magnitude of the amount of work that goes into the planning, prep, setup, race day, and tear down activities. WOW! I was always grateful to those selfless volunteers before, but now I feel much more indebted to the great people that invest so much of their time and energy so we runners can enjoy these events.
2. All of the planning in the world cannot predict everything that will end up happening. This applies to individual runners as well as the event itself. No matter how many times you have done this and think you have perfected it, something else always pops up. As a runner, I will always remember this and make an effort to be more adaptable and understanding to the challenges the volunteers have in keeping these things transparent to us.
3. I LOVE our community. I have to be honest, seeing the runners start and come through the aid stations REALLY made me want to throw on my gear and join them. Seeing the various emotions and attitudes of the runners out there made me appreciate the trail running community even more. It is a network that I am so proud to say that I belong to.
4. At the end of the day, each of us will get something a little different out of our experience as a volunteer, but it will almost always be rewarding and character developing.
So remember, these events are made possible by the people that selflessly give their time to make them happen. So the next time you race, be sure to thank all of those volunteers and if you run across the race director, a quick handshake would go a long way.
100 mile runners at the start line