This past weekend, I volunteered at the Acworth Women’s Sprint Triathlon with Shawna from Building Block, Jesica from rUnLadyLike and Lynn. Although I’ve volunteered in the past and cheered on Mr. FauxTriathlete at Augusta 70.3, it had been a while. But the emotions and fun were the same as before! Just like a race, I’ve learnt to be a better volunteer from the past. Here I am sharing some of my tips on how to be a great race volunteer.

Ready to rock out Run Course Aid Station #2
Ready to rock out Run Course Aid Station #2

1. Volunteer Duties

Clearly calling out to the racers which cups are water and which cups are gatorade is a volunteering at a water stop 101. It is usually ideal for the first volunteers in line to let the runners know something like ‘Water first Gatorade next’. Same with letting the runners know that they are in the right direction.

2. Cheer for the front pack, middle pack and the back of the pack

Who needs your cheers most?

Everyone does!

No matter how fast or slow they are, every single racer is racing against themselves. And the volunteers cheering every racer acknowledges the effort and perseverance, no matter their pace or back story.

3. Be there for the racers, don’t let your flagging energy show

Lets admit it – in a longer distance race we are all enthused up in the beginning, but once the mid pack passes and once the backpackers start coming by, our energy is on the lower end. We are hungry, tired and are just about waiting for the last person to go by. But the back of the backpack, and the last person – they need your energy. Energy is infectious. Not just encouragement, but that standing ovation energy.

Just this once, we have to suck it up for the racers.

4. Let them know that they are awesome

They are, you know. Except they might not recognize that at that moment. Especially towards the end, a lot of racers are tired and wondering WTF (Where’s The Finish). It’s easy to forget that they are doing something that only a small % of the general population even attempt. Reinforce the awesomeness.

5. If they just overcame something tough, tell them

Some parts of the course are rough! We were stationed just after the cyclists and runners crested a long nasty hill. And we let the racers know how bada$$ they were for tackling that hill. There were plenty of smiles (hopefully satisfied ones) when we shouted that the racers gave a good effort and how they showed the hill who the boss was!

6. Appreciate their outfits

Maybe I’m very superfluous, but I love noticing what people are wearing! This was a women’s only triathlon, so I told people with cute outfits that their kits were pretty! I love it when my skirts are noticed and I can only return the favor. Co-ed race? I .. umm.. *may* have told some guys how awesome they look. But don’t quote me to my family on that πŸ˜‰

7. Make them smile

A smile makes the race so much better!  Stacy is the queen of dress up cheerleaders and when I posted that I was going to in my hot pink tough girl tutu, she offered me her pink wig. Which perfectly completed my outfit. I got some “looks” but a lot of ‘love your hair’ comments and smiles. One boy, about 10 years old, even came up to me and said that I looked like Nikki Minaj. I *hope* he meant that as a compliment.

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Over the top? Maybe :)

8. Take care of yourself too

Volunteering/cheering is tough business!! Since you are out there longer than the runners are, be sure to eat a good breakfast and take some snacks and water with you. Just because you are surrounded with water cups, filling and handing them out, it does not mean that you are going to remember to hydrate yourself properly. Make a conscious effort to drink water.
I like flip flops and going barefoot. But as I discovered at Augusta 70.3 last year, flip flops do NOT make for happy feet later. No matter how comfortable the flipflop is or how much arch support it has. Shoes + compression socks is my winning combination – just like when I run. And I will attest to the fact that although my legs were tired, they didn’t hurt sore and I wasn’t moaning about my feet killing me.

9. Get inspired, get motivated and sign up – either to race or to volunteer again.

Watching racers go by is human emotion in rawest form. Back to that caveman times. How could one not be inspired? In fact, if you are trying to find your lost mojo – volunteer at a race. It is sure to get you back on track!

So how did the Run Course Aid Station #2 stack up on Sunday?

Officially endorsed by Swim Bike Mom herself!
Officially endorsed by Swim Bike Mom herself!

 

And with shenanigans like these, why not?!
And with shenanigans like these, why not?!

 

Have you volunteered at a race before?
How was your experience? Would love to read any tips and advice!

 


Connect with me  on other social channels for more tips, inspiration and fun!

 

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Tips on How to be a Great Race Volunteer
  • Tiffany Henness

    I’ve volunteered for trail and ultra races. It’s a bit different. I love the energy of happy volunteers though. I hate it when they just talk to themselves and ignore runners…or when they tell you you’re almost there and…you’re only like 3 miles into a half marathon. Knowing where your aid station is on the course and in the grand scheme of the event is always a good idea.

    • “You are almost there” is the WORST ever! We might be tired runners, but we can still do the math!
      I’ve never volunteered at an ultra. There is a group that does that and I love how they all pool together the yummiest of food!

  • You sound like an awesome volunteer! I just did a race and I didn’t have much family come out (out of town) and having the support from the volunteers made a world of difference. They’re so happy and proud of the racers, it makes us keep going

    • True, I’ve loved when volunteers can support us. Especially in an event like a triathlon – even if there was family, they can’t catch you at all spots.

  • Courtney@TriGirl Chronicles

    Awesome! Volunteering at races is super high on my priority list for next year!

    • It is a great thing! I’ve had as much of the high from volunteering as I get from racing.

  • MB Jackson

    I have volunteered at a couple local 5K races- I am now thinking about volunteering for a big Disney race!

    • Did you know that Disney has extra perks if you volunteer for their races? Let me dig it up for you!

    • Here you go! This is from someone on FB.

      “If you volunteer to work a shift at a half marathon or the full marathon put on by RunDisney, you will get a free one-day park pass and a windbreaker. If you work a shorter race you earn points toward the park pass.”

      Check it out and let us know if it works that way at Disney!

  • Nicole Rose Scott

    I loved this! After running my longest race to date and bringing in the back of the pack I couldn’t agree more with #2! I’ll definitely be volunteering soon! #sweatpink myfitfamily.com

    • I myself am a back of the pack I love being inspired by everyone around me!

  • These are great tips! Volunteers really can make such a big difference. I bet they really appreciated your spirit.

    • We certainly brought some smiles out πŸ™‚

  • What great tips! I agree that fabulous volunteers really make a race. Some of my favorite races are solely because of the awesome volunteers!

    • True, I always remember the races when volunteers were awesome. In fact, I did a triathlon a month ago in the same course organized by the same group and I was struck by how awesome every single one of those volunteers were – always on the lookout for every single person and cheering them on.

  • Jesica D’Avanza

    I LOVE this post. Great tips and it was such a fun morning. We need to do it again soon. Here is my little recap from the day: http://www.runladylike.com/?p=5453 xoxo

  • Cassidy Sutherland

    I did that race and let me just say, Thank You! Races happen because of volunteers. I *try* to say thank you to all the volunteers as I pass, but honestly sometimes I’m in a bad place and just don’t, and sometimes I literally do not have enough spare oxygen to speak. So thank you. Thank you for volunteering, thank you for getting up so early, and working hard.

    • Congratulations Cassidy!
      Ha, I’ve been there with no oxygen to speak, not a nice place! Volunteers and athletes together make a great team πŸ™‚

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