If there was ONE piece of advice I could give to fellow runners, it would simply be: volunteer at a road race!
It gives a runner a new perspective on what goes in to putting a race on and may change some people’s unappreciative attitudes.
Last Sunday (January 27), I met up with the Racemenu and RACE crews to help stuff bibs … which I had never done before.
I liked getting into the rhythm of putting the chip, safety pins and twists ties (for the chips) in the envelopes. Plus, they supplied free pizza … and I can never say no to free pizza.
The bibs were being personalized with each runner’s name so we didn’t actually have to stuff the bibs themselves that day.
The experience was great and it was cool to get to know the people running the race better.
On Saturday (February 2), I had free time after my 16-mile training run with Tedy’s Team for The Boston Marathon so I signed up to help with bib pick-up from 12-4 at the New Balance Store on Boylston St.
It was cool to be the one handing out the bibs, chips and t-shirts to the runners and wishing them a good race. Plus, everyone loves finding out that with their bib they would get 15% off at the New Balance store all weekend long.
Keeping a smile on my face was easy during the 4-hour shift as I LOVE seeing other runners excited to race. Some were nervous about the impending snow and cold weather, but most were ready to get after it. Plus, there was free beer at the Finish … how could that not get you pumped for a 5k or 5-mile run to kick off Superbowl Sunday??
I missed setting up the station, but made sure to stick around and help break down the bib pick-up location. The four of us worked quickly to make sure we got out of the store on time.
Plus, I ended up using my own bib to get 15% off the one New Balance shirt I had my eye on since seeing them at The Falmouth Road Race in August.
Isn’t it great?
Then yesterday was Race Day (February 3)! I signed up to both volunteer and run the race … why not, right?
I was told to be at the race by 8am to get my location. I met Kim at 8 and was assigned to set up baggage claim.
I was intrigued by this spot since I rarely use bag check myself and wanted to make sure I set it up the best way I could since there were over 1,500 runners signed up.
Thankfully we had a large space so we were able to set up 8 different rows designated by an orange cone where each row could hold 200 #s/bags if needed (1-200, 201-400, etc). Within each row, there was a second cone denoting the second 100 #s (100, 300, etc) to make the area as organized as possible.
Yes my math mind loved this activity.
By about 9:30, Kim said she needed more help at Registration as those volunteers needed to head to the course itself. So I happily headed to registration to help hand out bibs and t-shirts. It was sprinting back and forth between bib table and t-shirt table so it was a perfect warm-up for the race itself. Plus, I was able to see a couple people I knew pre-race.
Finally at about 10:15am, I headed to do my personal prep for the race itself (which started at 10:30am). The port-o-potty lines moved quickly, but thankfully the race director had to tow some cars on the course so the Start was slightly delayed giving me plenty of time to get in position.
I had NO idea what to expect from the run since I had done 16.2 the day before, but as soon as the gun went off I booked it … and felt great.
I somehow had a sub 8 minute/mile pace the entire run, which I didn’t expect, but happily accepted.
It was snowing while we ran through Cambridge, which set a lovely scene.
I caught up with my friend George just before Mile Four and helped push him along the final hump/hill.
I just reminded him that “we had 1.08 miles til beer” and that “we eat 1 mile runs for breakfast.”
Hey! Those things keep me moving too.
I ended up clocking in at 38:34, which was a 7:43 min/mile pace … WOW!! I really don’t know how I did that.
As soon as I finished the run, I headed to the beer tent to grab a celebratory drink (of course!) then headed to find Kim to see where I could help.
I ended up going back to bag check to help with the masses, who just wanted to get home and out of the cold. I tried to move as quickly as my tired legs would take me because I knew how cold the runners were. We ended up having about 6 of us on hand to knock out the long line of people waiting.
Once the bag check was under control, I actually was able to meet up with Tyler from Popchips, who has helped me with some giveaways here on the blog and at my 30th Birthday Charity 5k. It was great to finally put a face with the name.
After catching up with Tyler, I realized it was already Noon and time for me to hit the beer tent and pour beers. I have NEVER helped at post-race beer distribution before, but I wanted to make sure to be on my A-game since I DO know how important beer is to runners.
Samuel Adams, Long Trail Brewing, Mayflower Brewing Company and Shipyard Brewing Company donated bottles of beer, while Bantam Cider provided kegs. I was put on bottles so thankfully a co-volunteer let me borrow his iPhone that had a bottle opener attached to it – yes I need one of those too!
My hands were frozen, but it was necessary to be on the other side of the beer. Many runners can get testy when waiting for free beer – seeing/experiencing what the volunteers go through (frozen hands, delays in beer delivery, running out of cups, etc) makes you appreciate and understand the wait a little more. I am not a person that ever got “bitchy” at a post-race party, but I definitely wouldn’t in the future after trying to open beer bottles with frozen hands.
Once we ran out of bottles of beer, I headed back to the post-race party tent to find Kim. They needed help breaking down the Finish Line so I headed that way. I wasn’t very strong, but helped out however I could.
I did learn how to properly fold the American flag in the triangle pattern.
Following Finish Line breakdown, I headed back to the post-race party tent to help clean up the tables and empty cups that were strewn around as people danced to Bearfight.
As the party started to wind down, I headed out around 1:30 as the wife arrived to give me a lift home.
Overall it was one AMAZING experience.
I don’t think many runners are aware of what truly goes in to putting a road race on.
To get a truly well-rounded understanding, I recommend that EVERY runner volunteers at a local road race at least once in their life.
And please remember to always thank every volunteer and police officer along the course … they give a lot to be help secure your safety and that you have a kick ass race/party!