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!
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.