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A Volunteer How-To Handbook (Read 124 times)

    I'll start off by saying what I'm sure is obvious and agreeable to all: we are indebted to those who volunteer at races. Without them, a race is just another run. They make the event.

     

    As with all things, of course, good intentions don't always result in effective service. Personally speaking, my sense of direction is pretty awful as it is, so if I'm not given clear on-course directions on the rare occasion I'm in the lead (or in 2nd or 3rd with the leaders out of sight ahead of me) I WILL take a wrong turn (I'm not that fast, I just run a lot of small town races).

     

    Yesterday for example, near the end of a 5K I was winning (at a pace that didn't deviate much from my Running Wizard base building plan), a woman walks out into the street in front of me, yelling what I thought were standard words of encouragement. I ran past her, down a 150ft hill, and completely out of site of the entire field. Of course, she was the turn-around point of the last out-n-back, and she wasn't cheering me on so much as yelling at me to turn around.

     

    For the record, I'm not mad at all; I've gone off-course five times since I started racing, and not one of those times was I completely faultless. Plus it's kind of funny; in the state of Virginia where all of my detours have taken place, I've gained more notoriety for my poor sense of direction than for running without shoes. My nickname has gone from Barefoot Josh to Wrong Way Josh, which I kind of like.

     

    ANYWAY, the point of all this is to ask what tips would you give volunteers at races to maximize their helpfulness? Here are a few I've come up with:

     

    1. Point in the direction a runner is supposed to go. Don't shout it.

    2. Start pointing as soon as the runner is in view.

    3. U-turns need to be incredibly obvious - make a sign if needed. Cones help.

    4. When marking the course, put an arrow at every intersection, even if the runner is supposed to go straight.

     

    What would you like to see on the Volunteer How-To list? If I end up writing a post about it and share your idea, I'll credit you however you wish.

     

    - Wrong-Way Josh

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    JML


      Like you, I also appreciate volunteers and make a point to thank them whenever I can.  Working at a waterstation must be hell with sweaty runners seemingly determined to spill the drink on you while they are trying to take the cup.

       

      I ran in a combined 5k/10k race yesterday that were both a simple out and back course on a running path in Brooklyn. The turnaround for the 5K was great.  There was a volunteer with cones and a large sign, so there was no missing the fact that it was time to reverse course. I am lucky that I ran the 5K as there was an issue with course measurement on the 10K in that it measured 4.8 miles.  The RD apologized profusely and indicated that the volunteers had setup the turnaround point in the wrong place despite it being clearly marked.  I felt bad for him as he had a lot of angry runners and he runs a bunch of local races so this is not good publicity for him.

       

      I would add to your list:  Make sure that you are in the right spot for the turnaround.

       2014 goals: run a bunch....race some.....repeat...

        Just to be clear -- marking the course is the job of the race director (who MIGHT be a volunteer).  They should also tell the volunteers what to do...

         

        I was the assistant this year at a race I will be taking over next year.  When I marked the course, I put arrows for intersections indicating even if you should go straight.  If I thought they were even remotely confusing, about 10 yards in on the wrong direction, I spray painted "wrong way."

         

        I figured if anyone still went the wrong way, you can't help them...

        And you can quote me as saying I was mis-quoted. Groucho Marx

         

        Rob

          5.  Don't spray-paint the street.

          zonykel


            to the OP, volunteer at a race to atone for your running sins :-)

              5.  Don't spray-paint the street.

               

              Why?

              And you can quote me as saying I was mis-quoted. Groucho Marx

               

              Rob

                Dont approach the runner with the water cup. Stay at the side and let them come to you. I volunteered at a water station once where everybody was getting up in the runners' faces with water. Great enthusiasm, but get the eff outta the way.

                cookiemonster


                Connoisseur of Cookies

                   

                  Why?

                   

                  Well, in part, it's illegal unless you get permission from the municipality to do so.

                   

                  Have you considered using sidewalk chalk or something less permanent?

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                  "C" is for cookie.  That's good enough for me.

                    to the OP, volunteer at a race to atone for your running sins :-)

                     

                    Ha, I love volunteering, so the atonement would be an easy assignment.

                      Just to be clear -- marking the course is the job of the race director (who MIGHT be a volunteer).  They should also tell the volunteers what to do...

                       

                      I was the assistant this year at a race I will be taking over next year.  When I marked the course, I put arrows for intersections indicating even if you should go straight.  If I thought they were even remotely confusing, about 10 yards in on the wrong direction, I spray painted "wrong way."

                       

                      I figured if anyone still went the wrong way, you can't help them...

                       

                      Good point, and great idea re the "wrong way" paint/chalk. Although if I were to see it, I'd probably think "oh look, somebody is cheering for me!"

                       

                      It's true, I might be beyond help.

                         

                        Well, in part, it's illegal unless you get permission from the municipality to do so.

                         

                        Have you considered using sidewalk chalk or something less permanent?

                         

                        We use spray chalk...  Smile

                        And you can quote me as saying I was mis-quoted. Groucho Marx

                         

                        Rob

                          Don't yell at the runners to "STOP!!!!" immediately as they cross the finish line. I actually spoke up and told a couple of volunteers not to do that, because people need to keep up their speed until they've crossed the line.

                            cookiemonster


                            Connoisseur of Cookies

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                              "C" is for cookie.  That's good enough for me.

                              FTYC


                              Faster Than Your Couch!

                                Make sure each volunteer or group/aid station has a way of communicating with the base/headquarters/RD (walkie-talkie or phone numbers). This is especially important in case there is a medical emergency on the course. Also, make sure that the volunteers know where they are on the course (mile, significant landmark, intersection), and what the name of their and the next AS is. I was captain of an AS and had a volunteer posted at an intersection about 1 mile down the course. To call me after the race for pick-up, I had given the volunteer my cell number, there was no extra walkie-talkie at the AS for her. Later that day, a runner broke down right where the volunteer was. Doing CPR, she called me, and I could direct emergency services to the runner.

                                Run for fun.

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