Saturday, April 14, 2012

When You Can't Run, Volunteer

Today I volunteered at a race for the first time. Here are my observations:

1) Local races always need help: I am still tender in my right ankle, so though I was signed up for this local 5K race (sponsored by Carbondale's Neighborhood Food Co-op to benefit an area food pantry), I decided not to run it. I haven't gone for a run since I hurt my ankle at the Springfield Lincoln Presidential Half, and I didn't need to have my first run back after this minor injury be a race, even a small, local, friendly 5K. But I wanted to help, so I showed up (rode over on my bike). I was put in charge of course maps (no one seemed to need one) and was asked to help runners over a speed bump on the course. I was happy to do these small tasks to help the race organizers.

2) If you want sympathy after injury, show up at a race with a cane: Runners always seem to want to hear about other runners' injuries! So many people offered their sympathy when they saw me gimping about with a cane. They wanted to hear about how and where I suffered this injury, and wanted to know how I was taking care of it. This made me feel much better than sitting at home watching reality TV reruns.

3) Finish line applause is always welcome: After the racers left Evergreen Park, the park became oddly silent. I'd never been at a race when I wasn't part of the pack setting off on the course. The big timing clock looked awfully lonely! I started chatting with a man and his wife who just happened to be visiting the park, explaining what the race was for (charity), how long (3.1 miles), how soon the runners would be back (fastest man was around 17). We formed a little cheering squad for the incoming runners. I had no problem cheering for people I didn't know, and if I knew the person, I'll yell out his or her name ("Go Marla! Go Judy!"). Some folks looked like they really appreciated the support at the end.

4) Even if you aren't running, come by for your T-shirt: This race has great giveaways, if you are patient enough to wait around until after the kid races (which I discussed at length with a little blond boy who was waiting for his father to finish the 5K). It was so cute to see him and his brothers cheer for their dad as he crossed the finish line. Again I assumed my position as "Speedbump Girl" as the kids ran laps around the park (one lap for the littlest kids, two laps for the in-between kids, three for the oldest kids). It was not timed, and everyone got a ribbon for completing their laps. After the kids were through, there were prize giveaways, massages from students at the local community college, and an awards ceremony. Last year at this race, I hung around because I was pretty sure I had gotten an age group award. But this year, I stayed through the whole ceremony and cheered for every person who received an award. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and honestly, I didn't miss running.


  1. Perception is the product of perspective! Great post! Hope you heal quickly!

  2. People really are grateful somebody cheered them at the end. Someone did that for me on my second 5k, and it gave me that last little bit of motivation to finish strong. Volunteers are very appreciated when you are just starting out and not sure what to do lol

  3. When are the next marathons and what are they benefitting?