It's not a secret that I live in Knoxville, TN- the home of the Tennessee Volunteers. I have participated in countless races locally without a thought to the amount of work it takes to put on the race and even now, I doubt I fully comprehend the actual undertaking of the job. However, today (Saturday) I had an opportunity to volunteer at a race. Some thoughts on this race- it was a 10 mile race that was an out and back route. We have been in the throes of Polar Vortex #2 (with #3 to arrive next week) so it was COLD. The race was about 35-40 minutes away from my house (probably not really but I missed my turn which meant I had to go WAY out of my way to turn around LOL). Start time was for 7:30 with my volunteer check in time being 7:15. I ended up volunteering for the finish line. I bundled up (seriously, I had a TON of layers on) with hand warmers in my gloves, toe warmers in my shoes (although I don't think I used them right), and bigger body warmers in my jacket pockets. My job- untie those little twist ties to remove the shoe tags (side note- I much prefer the chips on the bibs but gained a new appreciation for the volunteers who have to remove them- having to chase people down is not fun when they are barely walking). Along with the cold temps- this morning we had some fierce winds. Like the temp was 27 but the feels like was 15 type of winds, and for the runners it was a headwind on the way back.
1. To say thank you and acknowledge them. They are giving of their time and that encouragement may lead to more volunteer spots (I know it will for me). But seriously, I had runners thanking me for coming out in the cold and standing there to get their tags off. These runners who had run a brutal run (apparently about mile 8 the headwind got really strong and several came in hurting- ones who are strong runners!)
2. That a simple word of encouragement goes a long way. Some of them were bummed about their time and it showed in their expression. I tried to encourage them (hopefully I did some) by reminding them that- hey, they got out there and ran it! They accomplished what they set out to do by crossing and they did in rough conditions.
3. I learned a little trick for my phone- now, this may seem obvious to some but it was a DUH moment when I saw a guy do it. Put my phone in my case upside down so I don't have to twist it to look at it (this race discouraged headphones because it was an open course- obviously this would not work as well with headphones attached but if I went with my shuffle for the race and just used my phone as the gps it would work great.) Like I said, this may not be a new trick but for me it was a light bulb moment!
4. The last runner to cross needs support and encouragement just like everyone else. I may not be able to stay until the end of every race but I am going to try to do better at this to encourage those coming through. The smile on her face and thanks she spoke for standing out there waiting on her were priceless!
5. Volunteering rocks! I will admit that our local track club sweetens the deal with coupons off of future races and this race netted two of them because of the cold and such but regardless I gained a new appreciation for those who volunteer and am going to make more of an effort to do so. When I am running a race it's definitely easier to volunteer before but even day of would be okay as well. I am already looking ahead to figure out when I can volunteer next (more than likely it will be the Covenant Health marathon/half marathon because they have all kinds of volunteer spots (at the expo, stuffing bags, etc).