Thursday, January 19, 2017
We’re seeing a new trend that we think is pretty cool. More and more runners are planning out their volunteering calendar at the same time they are planning their year’s racing schedule. Whether they are looking to pay it forward, pay it back, learn before they run the race, or just wanting to hang out with a great community, people are putting race dates on their calendars so that they can volunteer.
We know we are very fortunate at Go Beyond Racing because we have incredible volunteers. And that’s not just what we think – it’s what racers tell us over and over again. In our post-race surveys, runners gush about the volunteers and tell us how volunteers made a real difference in their race. Here are just a few of the comments from 2016 races:
“The aid station volunteers were so supportive, energetic, comforting, and also pushed me to keep going.”
“The volunteers at all the aid stations were beyond amazing.”
“Let the volunteers know we love them!”
“The volunteers were absolutely incredible and very encouraging.”
“I am humbled by the sacrifice of so many volunteers.”
“I’m slower, so I finished towards the back of the pack, but I really appreciated how the volunteers were as peppy for me as they likely were for the elites.”
“Thank you all volunteers, you were amazing.”
If you are considering volunteering at one of our events, here are some simple Dos and Don’ts to make it even more fun and rewarding:
- You’re going to touch sweaty runners and their sweaty things. You may take off socks to help a runner address a blister. You’ll get and give high fives from hands that have been wiping snot and sweat away for hours. And there’s hugging. You’ll touch used gel packs and bar wrappers as you put them into garbage and recycling bins. If this stuff is gross to you, don’t volunteer at an aid station or the finish line. Instead, volunteer at check in or to help mark the course.
- You may cry. If you are concerned about doing this in front of others, don’t volunteer at the finish line. It is really inspiring watching people complete their races and sometime, realize their dream. Some runners and their fans may cry with joy – this could make you cry too.
- Secret tip: If you want to gain favor with an RD, do volunteer to help tear down. There’s a lot of work involved with breaking down the finish area when the race is over and everyone is tired and ready to go home. Sticking around to the very, very end is really, really appreciated. Really.
- We love dogs, but dogs are not allowed at aid stations. Some runners are afraid of dogs and we have heard from people who were scared to approach an aid station because of their presence. We cannot have situations where racers aren’t able to access aid. Well-behaved dogs on leash are welcome at the start/finish areas. Do pay special attention to your furry friend at the finish area as tired runners are often sitting on the ground eating their post-race food. We’ve seen more than a few sneaky pups steal food from unsuspecting people.
- Sweeping is not running the race. Don’t volunteer to sweep if you are thinking that this is your way to run the race for free. The sweepers follow the last runners. This means you could be out on the course longer than anyone else. Do volunteer to sweep if you really want to help someone finish a race. Being a talker is a good characteristic too. You may need to distract a runner to help them get to the end. Or you may need to just run quietly and apart from the last racer if they need to work through things on their own.
- Do a little research. Have a decent understanding of the course. You can review the course maps and cutoff times on the race website beforehand. This will help you answer runners’ questions. You don’t want to send someone the wrong way or tell them there are just a couple miles left when there are more – racers really hate that.
- Many of our races are in wilderness areas without cell or internet coverage. That means you won’t be able to use your map app or call for directions when you are en route. Do print the driving directions and bring them with you, or take photos of them on your phone.
- Grumpy runners don’t really mean it. Sometimes racers are not having their best day. They could be physically hurting or at a really low point, and may not return your high five or smile. Shrug it off and don’t take it personally. You’ve probably been there before, or if you’re volunteering to learn about ultra racing, you’ll get there someday. We hear from racers who feel badly for how they treated volunteers and in reality, were quite thankful for the help.
- You could smell like bacon. Or burgers. Our kitchen volunteers can spend several hours cooking food that smells really good. Racers love coming into the finish and smelling the BBQ. You’ll enjoy it too, at the beginning. You may not enjoy how you smell as you are in the confined space of your car when driving home. Do bring a clean set of clothes to change into after your shift, or don’t, if you like the smell.
We use Ultrasignup to recruit and manage volunteers for almost all of our races. Just click the green Volunteer button with the heart, next to the register button, for the race you’re interested in. You’ll see a list of all the currently available volunteer positions with a brief description and time requirement for each. Click the checkbox next to the spots you want and then click the Volunteer button at the bottom. You’ll get an auto-confirmation email from Ultrasignup right away. We’ll also send you an email or two with more details, as the races gets closer.
All of our volunteers receive a race t-shirt and Go Beyond Racing socks, get to eat and drink at the finish for free, and are invited to our annual Volunteer Party in the Fall.
If you’re ready, get out your calendar and sign up to volunteer:
Smith Rock Ascent & Smith Rock Road Half Marathon & 10K
Trail Factor 50K & Half Marathon
NUT 100K & 50K
Mt. Hood 50
Mountain Lakes 100 (positions posted soon)
Elk-Kings 25K/50K (positions posted soon)