Race Volunteers Make Events Possible

In a past life, I worked behind the scenes in some pretty big arts organizations. While I had work to do year round, and a small crew made the big decisions, those organizations couldn’t execute their events and shows without major support from volunteers. Running and Triathlon Races of any distance need volunteers, and lots of them.

Think about it. Have you ever completed an event without seeing a significant number of volunteers? The bigger the event, the more volunteers are needed. For example, this Fall’s Rock & Roll Denver races include a 5k, a 10k, and a half marathon. They are looking for more than 700 volunteers for the 3 day event! RunDisney events last 4-5 days, and need more than 1,000 volunteers to execute these magical races. A full distance Ironman event needs over 3,500 volunteers!!

Just to use the Rock & Roll Race as an example, here is a list of positions volunteers need to fill, as outlined in their website:

  • Expo: Set up, Greeters, Check in/Registration, t-shirts and swag bag assembly, Souvenir store
  • Start Line: Corrals, Runner and Shuttle drop-off, Gear Check/VIP Gear Check, Refreshments, Information, Medical
  • Finish Line: Gear Pick-up, Refreshments in finisher’s chute, Medals, Shuttle Pick up, Timing/runner tracking, Medical
  • On Course: Water stations, Relay transition points, Split point directions

Consider that water stations at a running event of this magnitude require at least 20 volunteers at each station. For a half marathon, you might need nearly 200 volunteers just to hand out water!

At a triathlon, volunteers are also needed: lifeguard and swim safety personnel, transition support, sunscreen swipers, wetsuit peelers, bike handlers and mechanics, athlete catchers, and a host of other positions across miles and miles of event course.

Most of the people with whom you come into contact at a race are volunteers. They are there because they want to be there, or they are part of an organization of people who are dedicated to giving back to their communities.

When something goes wrong, they are the first people to get an earful from a disgruntled runner. When a runner crosses the finish line, they are the first ones to congratulate them.

If you haven’t yet volunteered at a local race, please consider doing so. Walk a mile in their shoes. It is a challenging job, and in many cases, aside from a neon t-shirt that they may never wear again, they don’t get much more than a thank you.

If you are participating in an event, encourage those joining you as spectators to sign up for a volunteer shift. They get involved in race day, rather than passively sitting by and waiting for you, the finisher.

If you would like to volunteer, check your local race calendar. Larger events are always looking for more volunteers, and the links below will take you to major event homepages.

RunDisney — Road races for all ages

Rock&Roll — Running Road races, 5k, 10, Half- and Full Marathons

Ironman — Triathlon, Multisport, Cycling, Running

If you have volunteered at an event, THANK YOU. A thousand times, thank you. It will never be enough to say that, but without you, the running industry looks very different.

What do you think? Have you ever volunteered at a race? Please tell me your story in the comments.

Heather Jergensen

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