In my two year running career I have run quite a few races. I have always been appreciative of all the volunteers, but never really thought much about what it takes to put on a race.
Last month I read a blog post from Danica about volunteering and realized that I have been selfish with my races. When I have the time to go to a race, I want to run it. But shouldn’t I take the time to “give back to the running community” (to quote Danica) for everything it has given me? I decided to find a race to volunteer for. I looked into volunteering at the LA Marathon, but they had all the help they needed. Then, while looking at possible trail races to run, I saw Crystal Cove. Honestly, I was hoping to run it, but it was sold out. I e-mailed them and offered to help.
The pre-race volunteer info was pretty thorough. They sent a sixteen page document that describes, in detail, all the volunteer positions. A couple of days before the race, I was e-mailed a list containing all the volunteer assignments. I knew that I was going to do registration and food. Knowing that really helped during the chaotic pre-dawn setup. I didn’t feel like I had to track someone down to ask what I was doing. I just went to the registration/food area and started working.
This morning my alarm went off SO early. I had to be at Crystal Cove State Park at 5:30! It is a 30-35 minute drive. It was very hard to drag myself out of bed that early to volunteer. I didn’t know what to expect and I was actually a little nervous. When I arrived, it was still very dark. The only hitch of the entire day was the parking. I had no idea where to go. I had thought that I had read that we should park at the school at the bottom of the hill. That lot was empty. I saw a guy get out of a truck to put up a sign and asked him where I park and he directed me up the road. What he failed to do was tell me that he had our parking passes. So after finding the right people in the park, I had to drive back down to the entrance to get my pass from him. Not a good start. Luckily, the day got better from there.
We started out by setting up the t-shirts, goodie bags* and the registration area. The volunteer coordinator was super busy and was in and out of the area quite a bit. All the volunteers worked really well together. Nobody just stood around; we all were pitching in right away. She gave some general directions about the food prep and headed off to do her thing. We started taking care of business. We cut up oranges, bananas, melons, muffins and croissants.** By the time she had returned, we had a good portion of the food prep done.
Then I moved to start helping with registration for the 17K race***. Time flew by as I handed out bibs, shirts and bags. The runners were in a good mood and the weather was perfect for running (around 50 degrees and overcast). This race was originally scheduled for December. It has been rescheduled three times due to rain since the park closes the trails in heavy rain. I think everyone was glad to finally run this scenic course.
After helping cook scrambled eggs and then doing the registration for the 5K race, I was asked to help with the timing of the 5K. This was my favorite task of the day. I had a clipboard and pen and had to write the bib numbers and finish time of the runners as they came in. This was no easy task! Thankfully, they told me that it was ok if I missed a few, since the clipboard was just a way to double check. There were no chips in the race, so they used the old fashion chute system with the bottom of the bibs on a ring. After the first finishers came in, very close to a course record, I relaxed a bit and had fun. I cheered for the runners as they crossed the finish line. I really enjoyed cheering for the later runners. They seemed to appreciate it more.
I was out there for almost eight hours. Phew… I am tired. I feel like I actually ran today. Often I wished that I was out there on the trails. However, I think it was better that I didn’t run today. I ran four days in a row and twenty five miles, which normally wouldn’t be that big of a week. Running 17K would have brought my mileage over 35. Since my last week running over 30 miles was well over a month ago, I would be pushing it a bit. I really like to follow the 10% rule**** when I can to avoid doing too much, too soon and getting injured.
It was a good day. I have a new found appreciation for everything that goes into putting on a race (and this was a pretty small one!). I am glad that I was able to do several different things. Next time, I might want to try out course marking and aid stations. I met some great people (and even saw some familiar faces) and am sure I will see many of them again. Xterra and Generic Events does a great job and I can't wait to run or work another one soon! Fun times.
*The t-shirts are pretty nice. They are cotton, but they are a nice maroon color. The bags are cloth reusable shopping totes; so much better than plastic bags!
**There was quite a spread. In fact, I am not sure I have been to many races that had that much food afterward. In addition to the fruit and baked goods, we made fresh scrambled eggs for the runners after the race. It was awesome. After the race, runners were raving about the fantastic food.
***There was a 17K and a 5K race. In order to minimize the impact on the trails, the races were run separately. The 17K started at 8 a.m. and the 5K at noon.
****I try to increase weekly mileage no more than 10% a week. If I do more than that, I try to take it easy the next week in order to let my body get used to the additional miles.