Secret Blogger Club: July Edition

The theme of this month’s meeting of the Secret Blogger Club is the Fourth of July.

On July Fourth this year, I did something completely new to me – I volunteered at a road race. In honor of the fact that declaring independence was a new experience for our founding fathers (too much of a stretch?) I thought I’d talk a little about this new-to-me experience today.

I “ran” this same race on the Fourth last year (read all about my struggles and how I came in last here) and wasn’t entirely looking forward to running it again… especially since the race is traditionally extremely hot and run at noon. The one thing I loved about the race last year was how many people who lived along the course set up unofficial cooling stations with garden hoses, since it was in the upper 90s and sunny and terrible. They, along with the volunteers who kept motivating me as I rode the struggle bus past them, were what kept me from quitting halfway through and I decided this year that I wanted to pay it forward. So I signed up to volunteer, putting my name down as a course marshal and as part of the clean-up crew.

I showed up a little more than an hour before the start of the race, grabbed a neon volunteer t-shirt, and was quickly assigned the role of “runner,” since I was superfluous until the race started and I could begin my course marshal duties. As runner, I lurked behind the registration table until I was handed a stack of day-of registration forms, which I then had to run over to the race timers so they could enter the runners’ info into their system. I ran the length of the parking lot several times (well, mostly I walked it quickly) and was glad to have something to do; before one of the coordinators told me to be runner I was just standing awkwardly behind everyone, trying to look helpful without getting in the way.

My view from behind the registration table

My view from behind the registration table

Being a course marshal was the most fun part of the morning. I was stationed around the 2.5-mile mark, at a place on the course where runners had to turn left instead of continuing straight down the road.

My course marshal station

My course marshal station – runners came at me down that little hill and turned to my right

After a few minutes of standing there feeling a little awkward (no other volunteers were near me and I was just standing on the corner of a pretty busy road), I was amazed to see the eventual-winner come tearing down the street toward me. I got to step out into the road with a hand up to stop the on-coming traffic and pointed the guy in the right direction with what I imagined to be an authoritative-yet-encouraging gesture, all the while yelling to him that he was flying and doing amazing. He ended up finishing in 15:01 (!!). The next half-hour or so was spent pointing, clapping, yelling out things like “Only half a mile to go!” “It’s all downhill from here!” (which was true) and “Looking awesome!” and traffic wrangling until a bicycle cop joined me and took over that duty.

As I’m usually the one struggling past race volunteers and croaking out a “thank you” in their general direction, it was fun to be on the other side of that for once. Some people were completely in the zone – including fellow Shammies that I cheered on by name and they later said they never saw me along the course – some were clearly struggling and making me a little nervous that they were about to keel over, and others, especially kids or grownups running with young kids, were looking like they were having the time of their lives.

Once the other bike cops rode down to tell us there were no more runners, I made my way back to the start/finish line to help with cleanup. I figured I’d be sent out to a water stop to pick up cups or something, but apparently the water stop volunteers took care of all that. I ended up just hanging around during the post-race festivities, chatting with run clubbers and sneaking an ice cream bar since all the pizza was long gone by the time I got there. There were a few kegs of beer, but they only had Bud Light which I’m not a fan of… though that didn’t stop multiple people scolding me for not drinking. Despite the rain that moved in, people just didn’t want to leave the fun and that made it a little difficult to clean. I picked up where I could, but was eventually sent home well after everyone was supposed to clear out. Shammies clearly like to party!

It was a nice change of pace to be on the other side of a road race for once, and I’d definitely volunteer again. I loved being able to yell out motivation as people ran by me along the course! There were also a bunch of other roles I’d like to try in the future, like packet pickup or helping with the kids’ fun run. It’ll just be tough choosing between helping out and actually running… at least now I know a way to stay involved if I’m out injured again!

Have you ever volunteered at a race? If so, what’s your favorite volunteer role?

Have volunteers ever helped you through a particularly tough race?

Blonder Side of Life
Thanks to Kelsey, Suzan, and Kristin for hosting this month’s Secret Blogger Club!
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24 thoughts on “Secret Blogger Club: July Edition

    • I love the idea of working at a water stop, but am a little scared I’ll end up drenching a runner or holding the cup wrong and ticking someone off, haha. I’m sure there’s a proper way to do it that isn’t hard to learn… it seems like a great spot to encourage all the runners!

  1. i’ve always wanted to volunteer at a race, thats so nice of you! the volunteers always make my race better, so it would be great to do the same.

    • It’s so true – volunteers have encouraged me during so many races, and have helped me not get lost during ones with really windy courses, and it felt great to pay that forward! πŸ™‚

  2. That sounds like fun! I’ve never volunteered at a race before, mostly because almost every weekend that I’m not running a race I’ve got something else going on. I should try to make the time to do it!

    • It was fun! That’s pretty much why I had never done it before, either. It was handy knowing that I didn’t want to run this race anyway, and since my running club put it on I got an early invite to sign up and regular reminders about it so I could keep the day clear. I’d definitely recommend trying it! πŸ™‚

  3. Sounds like a great experience. I volunteered a while back at a local 1/2 marathon, I passed out t-shirts at registration and bib #s. It was fun to talk to all the runner and hear their stories about running and training. When I ran Boston this past April, the volunteers were all amazing, I wish I could go back and hug them all and thank them for the motivational things they said that helped me keep going!

    • I’d love to volunteer sometime at the registration table so I could have more of a chance to chat with the runners – sounds like that was a cool experience! I’ve always appreciated volunteers for making races better, and I’m sure they’re especially amazing at a race like Boston!

  4. I was once a course marshal and felt suuuuper awkward because no one got to me for 30 minutes! I used to think volunteering to run cheer stations was pointless but once I started running half marathons I realized how important those cheer stations are to the runners- if I was going to volunteer again I would def do cheer stations!

    • I was lucky that there were so many fast runners at my race, otherwise it would have been SO incredibly awkward standing at that corner by myself! Cheering volunteers have gotten me through so many races, and I’m sure I’ll only appreciate them more as I start to race longer distances. Three cheers for the cheer stations! πŸ™‚

  5. I’ve volunteered at one race for the last 7 or 8 years. I started at the water tables just watching everyone fly by (there were some Kenyans!). It was fun! Since I started running in that race, I do packet pickup the day before now. Different kind of fun :). And interesting because every woman wants to change their shirt size πŸ™‚

    • Hahaha, I’m not surprised every woman wants to change their shirt size! πŸ™‚ It must have been incredible to watch Kenyans fly by in person… I was amazed just seeing the local winner of this race speed past me!

  6. That was so nice of you to volunteer though, especially since you’ve been there. I did one 5K (like one, ever) and the volunteers looked bored and annoyed so I bet they loved seeing you!

    • Ughh, isn’t that the worst? I’ve definitely run races where some volunteers were surly, or at least disinterested and not paying attention. I was trying to channel the best volunteers I’d seen, the ones who were cheering and helpful and upbeat πŸ™‚

  7. I volunteered once at a water stop at mile 17 of a marathon. It was funny because the other people there were from Sam’s club and had no idea what to expect> They were really nice and brought fruit and Gu’s for the runners but didn’t understand why the runners weren’t eating the chocolate they brought. I tried to explain that dairy and running is no bueno. It was OK, we ate it instead.

    • Aww, at least their intentions were good! And an extra chocolate bonus for you and them πŸ™‚ I bet working a water stop at a marathon is a loooong shift!

  8. Um you’re pretty much the biggest Boss for not only volunteering at this race but also being sucha big deal you stopped traffic…I bow down to you πŸ™‚

    • You should do it! I’m really glad I did, even though it meant hanging out outside during the storm πŸ™‚ The rain felt amazing after the awful humidity right before!

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