Monday, March 31, 2014

My First Race Volunteer Experience

For those of you that don't know, I'm a runner.  I love to get outside and run! I love the community of runners and the encouragement that you feel from other runners, especially on race day.  With that being said it take a lot of people to put on a race.  The number of volunteers to make a race happen is pretty big.  Especially with longer or bigger races because you just need more help.  You need people helping at intersections, you need people at aid stations, and of course sign ups, packet pick up, finish line helpers.  There are a lot of people needed.  I've always been thankful to the people that volunteer at my races.  Especially those that are cheerful and encourage you as you pass.  But I had never volunteered for race! Well that all changed on Saturday.  Kellie mentioned to me that she was going to volunteer for a local race and I thought You know what? I should do that too! So I emailed the race director, who I know from the local running store, and he said he would be happy to have me! So he told me the time and place to be and that I would most likely be directing people which way to go (either turn for the 20K (12 miles) or go straight for the 5 miles) or cutting off shoes tags or something!  No problem!  I'm here to help in any way I can!  But as the day got closer we started hearing that the weather may not be the best.  When I woke up that morning is was a mixture of rain & snow and very cold! But I wasn't going to let anyone down so I bundled up (insert that I wore MULTIPLE layers of clothing, long johns under my jeans and winter boots) and headed out.  I got to the intersection that I would be directing the runners and this is what I saw. . .

Yeah that's snow! The really wet and heavy snow.  It was very cold and windy!  And if you can't tell it sort of in the middle of the country so no real wind block. I had brought multiple sets of gloves and I'm glad I did because mine got wet quickly from pointing to the directions and cheering the runners on.  

That's me!  I had a headband on to try to block the wind from my ears and my furry hat (it's fake fur!  Don't report me to PETA!).  I stayed in my van until I thought the first runners would be coming by and then I jumped out and started directing!  At first I thought Ok, this isn't so bad.  I'm going to stand here a few hours, help people with which way to go and then go have a Starbucks.  But what happened was I was encouraged!  I tried to cheer everyone on as they passed.  GREAT JOB!  You are flying!!  Keep up the good work!  Looking good ladies!!  The intersection that I was at was not only the turn for the 20K but once they turned, it was an out and back so they had to pass me again. So I tried to remember people as they passed and encourage them on the way back.  I saw a few people I knew but most I had never met.  But you know what? It didn't matter.  I was cheering them all on just like others had done for me so many times.  And it made me feel so good! I loved telling people they were almost there!  I loved cheering on the people that looked like they couldn't go another step.  COME ON KEEP GOING!! I loved the 7 (yes that is right!) year old girl that was running the 20K.  She had such determination and spirit!  She totally inspired me!  She might even be my hero! 

The coolest part was a lady named Tiffany (HI Tiffany if you ever read this!!) lived near the corner I was directing and she came out to talk to me.  Turns out she is a runner and had several friends running this race so she was out cheering them on and came down to talk to me.  We ended up talking for probably 2 hours.  She is a marathoner and a really good one! So I picked her brain a bit and then we started talking Disney and other bucket list races.  She helped me cheer on runners as they passed back by and even gave a couple of her friends hugs as they passed.  That is the thing I love about runners.  We don't have to know each other to feel an instant connection and friendship.  We trade race stories, the good ones and the bad ones, and become instant friends.  I don't know if I'll ever see Tiffany again, or if I would recognize her without our winter gear on, but I'm so thankful that she came out to talk to me. 

After the last of the runners passed me on their way to the finish line I packed up my van and headed that way to pick up Kellie.  I got a big hug from the race director and a personal thank you.  He also gave us a couple pineapples and a loaf of fresh bread!  I didn't need any payment (although the pineapple is AMAZING!) but his personal thank you and the friendships I made that day were priceless!  

Great job to all the runners on Saturday.  Thank you to all of you that said "THANK YOU" on your way by and even if you didn't I won't hold it against you I know you were busy! Running isn't always easy but it's something that I love and so many others do too. I'm so happy to be a part of this community! And I can't wait to see where running takes me this year!

Have you ever volunteered for something? In what ways do you give back?

Love, Lacey