Don’t complain about or yell at volunteers. They’re donating their time to help your sorry ass. – Jason Robillard
After reading Mr. Barefoot Running University’s Complaining About Races: Don’t Be a Little Bitch, I decided to dedicate an entry to the ins and outs of volunteering. I’ve donated my time to races in the past, and it can be fun, sad, hard, and rewarding all at the same time.
- You get to watch athletes of all types battling it out over placement or achieving their personal goals. You become their cheering section in a mostly spectatorless race.
- People will thank you for your time/help. If they can’t get the words out, smiles are just good.
- If you are volunteering at an aid station, you are the oasis in the desert. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve nearly jumped for joy at the sight of an aid station.
- New friends and contacts can be made while volunteering. For aid stations, there are lulls between runners which opens up times for chitchat and mingling.
- Payment comes in the form of leftover swag, free race entries, free beer, free food, or volunteer appreciation parties.
- If you’re a sweeper, you can run the course for free.
- You will inevitably deal with cranker tankers. They are one of two types. The asshole type described in Jason’s article are ones who bitch to be bitching. Don’t let these people get to you. The other type are people who are injured/sick/bonking/dealing with mental demons from the race.
- Sometimes the weather sucks, but it sucks more for the racers. Deal with it.
- You will learn to be a mind reader or become fluent in Grunterese. As the racers get deeper into a race, the less coherent some will become. Translating the grunts and gestures for water, Nuun, or Coke will make you invaluable in getting that racer in and out of your aid station as quickly as possible.
- Bring food, hydration, gear, extra clothing, and a good attitude.
- Familiarize yourself with the course and race rules. Racers should be doing this before they even sign up, but volunteers also need to be familiar.
- Be willing to come early or stay later than you had originally planned. Don’t run away as soon as your shift is over. Breaking down stations/areas can take as much work as running it.
- Volunteer at least once, and you’ll get a deeper appreciation for all of the people that put on an event and make it run.
Feel free to share any tips or volunteering stories that you’ve experienced.