Monday, May 9, 2016

A single volunteer (YOU) can make all the difference

I set a more positive record this weekend: I volunteered at a race for 15 hours, my longest volunteer shift EVER!  I spent the entire morning-day-evening at "info island" answering questions and directing volunteers at the Cowbell Uncorked: Off Road 100K relay.

What I love about this relay is that it is a base camp style relay, so we see the runners throughout the day as they complete each loop, one runner after another.  Around 80 teams competed in this event.  A few were two-person teams, meaning each runner ran 50k.  Most teams had 5 runners who each ran just under a half marathon over the course of the day.

The weather was great this year (last year it rained) and the predicted thunderstorm managed to stay north of us.  I was exhausted when I finally got home, but this experience taught me so much.  Seeing this side of a race made me re-think my comment about the lack of volunteers at the East St. Louis water stop during the GO! 7K.  You can have plenty of volunteers sign up, but they also have to show up on time on race day.  Volunteers are VITAL to race day success.  A single missing volunteer can mean the difference between a runner staying on the course or going off the course.  This happened at the race, and it was frustrating because my instinct was to run to that spot and start directing runners but I also had a job to do in the "info island" tent.  I just couldn't be everywhere at once.

I love volunteering at races throughout the year because it reminds me about all the work behind the scenes that runners never see.  Thank those volunteers along the course.  Give them a high five or send a friendly smile their way.  They could have chosen sleep over volunteering.  I seriously thought about it when my alarm went off at 3:00 a.m., but I grabbed my coffee and went.  The long hours were totally worth it and I encourage you to volunteer at races in your area.

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