February 28, 2015
Since I have been on the injured reserve for about five weeks, I decided to register to volunteer at a race. I have been wanting to volunteer and now is as good a time as any since I certainly can’t run.
I decided to volunteer at Best Damn Race – Orlando since I did this one in my 2014 race adventure and I know a few people running it this year. I have to be at the race extremely early as volunteers will be setting up before runners arrive. As such, I’ll have to leave my house around 3 AM. That’s really early. Really. Early.
I somehow managed to get out the door on time. I brought my raincoat too because it is supposed to be raining off and on today. I’m wearing some running capris and my Goofy 2015 shirt. And of course, I’m sporting my sexy walking boot. I have a few friends that are running and I’ve told them to look for me at the finish line. I’ve used the boot as my identifying feature!
I arrive on time and volunteers are being directed to park along the street. In fact, my car is now parked in the last stretch right before the finish line. This is awesome parking but means I’ll also be stuck here until the last people have crossed the line and the race is over.
I can’t drive with the boot on my leg. So, I take it off before I get in the car. Then, whenever I get to my destination, I put the boot on the ground outside the car and slide my foot back in. It’s cumbersome but I have to do it.
I hobble up to the check-in tent. I have volunteered to work the finish line since I’m not really sure what I else I would be able to do. We are given volunteer shirts and then, the few of us that have volunteered to work the finish line, are taken to our area to setup.
After unloading boxes of medals, we sort the medals by event. There is a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon, and a challenge. Runners that complete the 5k and the 10k can get the challenge medal. We won’t be handing out the challenge medals; runners that earn this medal will have to collect it at the Runner Relations tent.
We have the medals sorted and we put them in semi-organized piles on the tables. The half marathons medals are on one table. The 5k medals and 10k medals are on the same table but we only have the 10k ones out at first since that race starts first. The 5k starts later so we won’t need those medals for awhile.
We stay pretty busy setting up and we all take a few minutes to grab something to drink and hit the bathrooms before the races start. Once runners start coming in, we may not be able to break easily.
The 10k starts and we know we’ll have approximately an hour before the first person returns. The half marathon doesn’t start until about 30 minutes later so there are still a lot of people walking around. Once the half marathon starts, the area around us thins out considerably.
The 10k runners start coming into the finish chute in just under an hour. It’s a slow trickle of runners at first and then they start coming in a larger waves. It’s a great feeling to be able to give runners their medals. Seeing the happy faces and even some tears of joy gets me choked up a couple of times. I had a couple of runners take selfies with me and I was even recognized by my boot from a couple of runners in some of the Facebook groups I am in.
The 10k runners have mostly come in. There are a few still trickling in so we leave a few of those medals on the table. Now we put stacks of the 5k medals on the table so that those will be ready for those runners. The half marathon is well underway and we expect the first runners to come through in about an hour and 20 minutes.
The first half marathoners start coming through. As with the 10k, it is a slow trickle of runners at first. Then we start getting large waves. It is difficult to keep up at times. We’ve all got medals laced on our arms to make them easier to hand out. But, when the lanyards were bound together, they weren’t always neat so a lot of the lanyards are tangled. This makes for some difficulty when trying to give medals out quickly.
I see lots of tears of joy and so many smiling faces. Most of the runners that came through were extremely nice. I had a few though that didn’t say thank you and even one that snatched a medal from my hand. I saw some bloody shirts; chafing sucks; that I directed to the medical tents that were just behind our tables.
For about three and half hours, waves of runners kept coming through the finisher chute. The 5k had started so half marathoners were directed to stay to their right and 5k runners were directed to stay to their left so we could be sure to give them the correct medals. This got a little confusing a couple of times but we managed to keep everyone sorted properly.
There were still one or two runners left on the course when we were released from duty. The group that worked the finish line was such fun and invited me to go to lunch with them. Sadly, I had to pass because I needed to run a couple of errands on my way home and I definitely live farther than everyone from this crew. We did find each other on Facebook though so we’re able to keep in touch.
I had a great time volunteering. Handing out medals is probably one of the most rewarding jobs for a volunteer because (most of) the runners are so excited and happy when they cross the finish line. I can’t count the number of smiles and tears I saw. And, the number of people that knew they had a new PR when they crossed the finish line; I can’t count those either. I gave a lot of sweaty hugs and high fives.
I most definitely will volunteer at another race. I gained a new appreciation for what the volunteers do and how important their role is in making the race run so smoothly.
My expenses for volunteering were very minimal. I didn’t have to pay for parking so my only real expenses were gas and my breakfast. I maybe spent $30 total.
Until next time, when I’ll hopefully be running again…gotta run.