For once, why not help out at your local race instead of running it?
Volunteers are the unsung heroes of any organized race. Simply put, there would be no race without those individuals who would rather give than receive. And it’s not just about handing out water.
Just look at a partial list of the volunteer opportunities at the Salt Lake City Marathon:
- Registration: Assist with registration materials and packet pick-up.
- Course Set-Up: Drop off supplies at aid stations. Place mile markers, setup
course signage, place barricades/cones, and remove after race.
- Aid Station: Groups of 20 needed. Must be qualified.
- Gear Bag Duty: Assist runners with items to be put in bags, label bags, transport bags to the finish line, aid runners in locating their bags.
- Race Start: Set-up of starting line, distribute Gatorade/warming blankets, help with runner/crowd control, tear down starting line.
- Course Safety: Ensure safety of event participants in heavy traffic areas.
- Race Traffic: Direct runners around course and down finish lanes.
- Finish Line: Pre-package refreshment bags for runners. Set-up finish line area, medical tents and chip guider/collectors, pass out water and heat sheets to finishers, chip removal.
- Massage: Give free massages to marathoners (must be licensed).
- Medical: Doctors, Nurses, EMTS, etc. are needed at finish.
- Awards: Set up awards tent, awards, display, distribute medals to winners.
- Post Events: Clean up of finish line festival area after participants have left.
Many popular races have a volunteer’s link on their Web sites for those who want to sign up. The link at the Marine Corps Marathon Web site offers volunteers “a great way to get in the race day trenches with the Marines.” The New York City Marathon Web site lists a wide range of volunteer assignments along with a description of each.
“Most go through our Web site and sign up there,” says Edwin Ortiz Jr., Assistant Manager for Volunteers and Community Outreach for the New York Road Runners, the group behind the New York City Marathon and other races. “As long as they are over 14, we accept volunteers of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds. We also get a large amount of groups - - whether from high schools, colleges, large corporations, or small community organizations - - who volunteer for us as part of their community service requirements.
“Our ideal volunteer,” says Ortiz, “is someone who is willing to do anything to help our organization succeed at that week’s race.” That includes the job of Race Marshall, an assignment he says is the most difficult to fill. “It’s not the most fun thing to do because it involves telling people to either keep moving or to not go to a certain spot, but it is a necessary position in order to maintain order at our events.”
At the New York City Marathon, 6,000 volunteered to help the multitudes of runners navigate safely through the city’s five boroughs. “That seemed to be enough to get the job done,” says Ortiz, “but we could always use more.”