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