Posted by: Emmett Delaney
on Aug 08, 2011
Tagged in: Untagged
Ever run a race and wondered about those people who give of their time and energy to help at aid stations or direct traffic or hand out race number or otherwise work to make sure your race day goes smoothly? Wondered who puts out water on the training runs or grills burgers at our picnics? Ever thought about helping and wondered what it would be like? Well I want to tell you why I like helping at races, what I put into it and what I get out of it.
I have volunteered at many running races and triathlons over the past few years. I have (mis)directed traffic, splashed water, guided runners, rolled pizza slices (easier for a runner to carry), handed out gels, popped blisters, carried boxes, run through the night, lied shamelessly (you look great, no more hills, you’re nearly there, the check’s in the mail), cheered runners and coached kids. Without exception every event has been fun and it is something you can do with your kids. While helping at races I have met other athletes whom I would not otherwise have met. Occasionally I get to make a positive difference.
Last year I planned to run the North Face 50. Waking up on race day my gear was laid out neatly on the floor, number attached raring to go. However I realized I was not recovered from my injury and I could not run. Miserably I dragged myself to the event, watched all my friends dash off. Instead I decided to hand out water at the final aid station, about 2 miles from the finish. At some point I noticed a man about my age dropping out of the race. He sat down, removed his number and asked for a ride to the finish line. A quick assessment told me he was nothing more than tired and thirsty. “Not on my watch” I thought, so close to the finish line. I retrieved his number, pinned it back on his shirt, made him drink some water and eat some food. I stood him up, filled his bottles, encouraged him to continue and walked him along the track. I never knew his name but that man finished his first ultra marathon that day and I had something to do with it. Then I was OK about not running myself.