Each year I set aside time in my schedule for volunteering at a few different races. Having put on a few races and ran numerous races, I have a greater appreciation for having an extra set of hands around. Where races are concerned, this could be anything from setting up tents to handling a water stop to giving out bibs and shirts.
Jen, the volunteer coordinator for the Whitewater Center races, reached out asking for help with this weekend's races. Given I was racing their trail race this weekend, I replied back that I would be happy to help with their prerace packet pick-up.
When I have put on races and runner walks up to me, I can usually handle their questions quickly and efficiently. However, when I am volunteering at a race, this is rarely the case. Typically, I walk in the door, and I get the general run down on bibs and shirts and race registrations; then I head to work. Runners don't know this so they come in with all sorts of questions like what time does the race start, where does it start, what time should they arrive, are they able to leave their clothes at the start, what are the trails like, can they wear they road shoes. I could go on and on.
I found the best way is to smile, be friendly, do my best to answer their questions, or route them to someone that can answer their questions.
Yet, it is hard not laugh at their questions. When I sign up for a race, I have fair idea of what I am getting myself into. At least most of the time, this is true. From the sound of it, I suspect the closest some of these runners have came to a trail is running in the grass along a side walk. Their perspective will certainly change once they finish the race. But I do have to respect their determination. It does take guts to attempt something different and step outside what our daily boundaries.
If you have never volunteered for a race, I highly recommend that you do. Not only will it give you a better insight to what volunteers are facing, but the experience might just make you be a little more patient with them. Remember, most of the time, they are helping because they want to. If we make their jobs harder, they are less incline to volunteer in the future. Without volunteers, races couldn't exist. They are the labor force that makes races barely reach in to the black.
Something to remember for the future,
The Cool Down Runner