Before I get to my tips, did you see the news article yesterday about Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons being sued for exploiting its volunteers? Supposedly, Rock ‘n’ Roll represents themselves as having a charitable purpose and gets volunteers that way. She feels that every volunteer since 2012 should be paid minimum wages for their hours.
1. Really? Really? How can you not know that Rock ‘n’ Roll is for-profit? I’ve gotten many an email from them and never once gotten the impression that they were contributing proceeds to charities. (Charities get their money from the fundraising by the runners, not from the race itself. Most (if not all) big races work this way. The one exception I’m aware of is the St. Jude Marathon.)
2. In a way, you are supporting the charities. Many of the runners out there are charity runners. If there were no volunteers to help make these races possible, charity runners would not be able to race to raise money. And charities make a TON of money off of these races.
3. Volunteering is fun. It’s also a choice. No one made her choose to volunteer.
(Fine print: I am not in any way associated with Competitor or Rock ‘n’ Roll. They are not even my favorite race series. I’ve never volunteered or worked for them. I have, however, been paid staff at a few other races and volunteered at more races than I can count or remember.)
OK, off the soap box…
1. Dress appropriately!
- If you ask yourself, “do I need another layer?” The answer is yes. Always yes. You will be much colder as a volunteer than you will as a runner.
- If you are working a waterstop, wear waterproof shoes. Even if it’s not raining, there will be spillage. Trust me. I’ve had the squeaky wet shoes to prove it.
2. Bring snacks and something to drink. You may be out there for a long time and volunteering is hard work.
3. It’s them, not you. Most runners appreciate volunteers and many of them at least give you a half hearted smile or a quick thank you. But there are always a few that seem unappreciative. While I’m sure there are a few that truly don’t appreciate the volunteers, most “unfriendly” runners are just in their own heads. Maybe they are struggling. Maybe they have a time goal and are trying to stay focused. Whatever. Cheer them on and forget them.
4. Have fun! Wear something funky. Bring a cowbell. Cheer on the runners. You could just make the day of someone who needs a little boost!
Photo credit to fellow MRTT mom, Casey
5. Never say “you are almost there.” N.E.V.E.R. If the finish line is not in sight, they are not almost done. Some better things to say:
- You look great!
- You got this!
- Looking strong!
- Keep up the great work!
- You’re more than halfway there! or You only have x miles left! (Use these only if you are absolutely sure of your location on the course and they are a mile or more past the halfway point.)
Have you volunteered at a race? You should! It’s almost as fun as running.
As per usual, I’m hooking up with my girls Cynthia, Mar, and Courtney for Friday Five. They are all talking music today, but I’m still stuck in college (which was more than 20 years ago), so you don’t want to know what I listen to.
40 thoughts on “Five tips for volunteering at a race”
I have volunteered at a Girls on the Run end of the season 5k. I was at the 1st water stop. Totally changed my perspective of what volunteers have to go through. It was a mad house!
Water stops are insane and even more so when most of the runners have no experience with races…
I volunteered at a race for the first time this year. It was a lot of fun passing out water to the runners, and yes a big responsibility! This is great advice, more runners should take the time to volunteer at at least one local race!
Wooooahhh some people – I had no idea that was happening! Great post – #5 in particular 🙂 I haven’t volunteered since April… should poke around today as there are plenty of fall races in the area that will need them.
Saw it on Facebook and confirmed it on Competitor. It’s not getting a lot of press and I’d be shocked if she got anything… Talk about useless lawsuits…
Love this! Thanks for sharing! I plan to volunteer for some local races coming up, and I honestly never would have thought about wet shoes… 😉
I didn’t even think about the water proof shoes! Genius.
This is a great list of tips for volunteers; wish I’d had this kind of information the first time I tried it – whew! I think every runner/walker should try volunteering; I gained a whole new level of respect for each and every one of them after my experience. Thanks so much for sharing this and I hope you have a great weekend!
Yes I volunteered just recently!! There were lots of fun parts, and some frustrating parts…probably because it was an inaugural race and because, oh hey! It’s *voluntary*! So some people bail. But it was so great being able to experience that side of racing and I will definitely do it again!
And by the way, I went to college around the same time as you, so I definitely want to know what’s on your music playlist!
thanks for listing number 5. i HATE hearing “you’re almost there.” that comment is ONLY acceptable when there is less than .25 left in the race.
Yes, if you can’t see the finish line, you are not almost there.
I haven’t seen that article….crazy. Ha, I knew exactly what water stop we were at so I did say Only 4 miles to go! And I always wear my rain boots when working a water stop!!
I think I got the idea from you all and totally regretted not buying some at Costco the other day.
I absolutely want to know what songs you have on that playlist! Ha ha! I feel for sure I would ahve some of the same ones too!
Ha! I’ll have to put together my “college” playlist – which basically means 80s/early 90s.
Volunteers asking for money? shall we direct them to the definition of volunteer? Sorry.
I love volunteering at Races and find that while it’s obviously beneficial for the runners, it’s very rewarding for us as well. It’s always motivating to see everyone out there, to cheer for others, and to support the running community that has done a ton for me. I wish I did it more often, I’d like to make that a goal of mine to be more consistent than just a few times a year.
Volunteering is such an amazing experience. When I volunteered at last year’s Army Ten Miler, I left completed motivated by all of the finishers, especially the disabled vets. I can’t wait til next weekend when I’ll be volunteering at the Marine Corps Marathon.
One of these years I want to volunteer for MCM. It’s just always a crazy time of year for us.
Yes! I love volunteers and always say thank you, but please – stop saying almost there. It sucks. It just feels mean.
It sounds like a lot of. Maybe I should start getting involved in it next year. 😉
All races need volunteers to exist. there wouldn’t be a race around that could afford to pay volunteers. Crazy!
I did a lot of volunteering last spring and it’s great to get another perspective on things for sure. I never thought about the waterproof shoes-great tip!
Wow, I hadn’t heard of that lawsuit. That’s an interesting claim but I never felt like they hid that they were for-profit. It’s like the volunteer didn’t do any research at all 🙁 I’ve volunteered at 2 races this year and while they were a lot of work, it was a great experience and I definitely want to do it again. The waterproof shoes are a great tip.
Not having cold, wet feet is a very good thing.
That lawsuit is just crazy!!! I think every runner should volunteer at least once. I’ve volunteered at a few races, including the Boston Marathon – awesome experience!!
I love volunteering, sometimes more than I love running LOL.
I was a volunteer for a local race producer for five years and this list would have been great to give to my “crews.” Especially #3. It’s easy to get your feelings hurt, or even get annoyed, by some runners (ahem, mostly men, not sexist, true), that seem almost rude. You’re right, it’s not about you, it’s about them.
Haha, never thought about the waterproof shoe thing, but that’s a great point! I also love the volunteers who are going crazy cheering. Sometimes ya just need that extra boost when you’re running.
Number 5 may be the best tip ever.
Even though I’m not a big fan of Rock’n’Roll races, I don’t agree with suing them. I mean, come on. You volunteer because you like to help other runners, regardless if they are profit or non-profit. I enjoy volunteering at races, especially at kids races. Their smile when they finish is priceless.
HaHa! I love how you just did your own thing for Friday Five, since music isn’t at the top of your list for working out. I had to employ my son to help me out! 🙂
Love it! So much fun! 🙂
I’ve never volunteered but I would love to do it. It seems like so much fun!!!!! And yes, my friends just ran a half this past weekend and don’t say you are almost there and you are at mile 5 of 13! LOL. #wowlinkup
Hmmm…I feel like I like hearing “you’re almost there”…within reason of course lol…I’ve never volunteered for a race but you have just made it a top priority for next year! #wowlinkup
Great tips! I really appreciate awesome and enthusiastic race volunteers and definitely want to do it myself some time 🙂 #wowlinkup
Nice tips! Love your list of better things to say! I haven’t volunteered at a race yet but will definitely do it one of these days! 🙂 #wowlinkup
I have yet to volunteer for a race but I hear that it is awesome, thanks for the great tips for when I do!
Great post! I tried to thank as many volunteers as possible during my last race, by at least waving or smiling, but it definitely can get tough when you’re really in the zone! I hope I didn’t offend any volunteers on Saturday! These are definitely great pointers for newbie volunteers, and even the old pros. Thanks for sharing!
I used volunteer in the 1990s for the Chicago Marathon because it ran on the street next to my apartment. It was a lot of fun but I did my time LOL. #wowlinkup