No race can happen without this group of special individuals – they come from all walks of life, have different commitments and jobs, and yet choose to come together to dedicate a portion of their time in doing good for the sports community, without expecting any monetary benefits in return. Race volunteers, you have our salute for all the work done before, during and after race events!
Volunteers and their roles
Most race participants only know of volunteers whom they see at the race pack collection booths, race day expo and hydration stations. However, there are many other volunteers who manage duties that are mainly behind-the-scenes, or do not engage directly with race participants. Some these silent heroes include:
- Transition Zone Marshals (Ironman/Triathlon/Duathlon)- They assume the role of traffic police during the race to direct participants at the transition areas and keep non-participants out of those areas. After the race, they continue to prevent non-participants from entry and must ensure that participants bring along the correct bike with matching numbers written on their arms. (Source: Triathlon Association of Singapore)
- Sweepers – They track the last runner of the race and update the race organisers about his/her progress at every checkpoint so that no race participant will be left unattended to.
- Photographers – These volunteers might or might not be affiliated with the race organisers but nonetheless, they carry their large photo equipment all around the race tracks to capture every precious moment of the race participants.
- Finisher/Winner Spotter – With so many participants running towards the same finishing line regardless of their flag-off time or distance, it is important to identify the correct podium finishers and top rankings for the respective categories. These volunteers will station themselves at different areas near the finishing line, identify the winning race bibs and lastly cross-check among themselves, race officials and emcee to ensure accuracy and fairness.
Pre-race logistics – Start of the buzz
After closing race registrations and compiling all participants’ data, volunteers are delegated to their respective duties for race pack collection dates. It can range from manning the collection counter to being a runner for materials and even involved in crowd control.
While we might complain about the long queues ahead of us during collection, we should not forget that these volunteers have been standing even longer than us, repeating the collection routine for countless of times and some are even doing this job for several days!
Race day – Earliest to reach, Latest to leave
Be it rain or shine, these volunteers will also encounter the same experience as you, the race participant. However, before you even step out of your house to the race venue, these committed individuals have already started their day by setting up important booths for the race such as first aid, bag deposits counters, admin booths and hydration stations.
It does not matter if you are racing alone or with a group of friends because volunteers situated at the respective stations will be there to support you! Their contribution might be simple such as refilling drinks at hydration stations, cheering you on and giving you a hi-five or road marshaling at various race checkpoints. However, all these simple gestures are what it takes to complete a runner’s race experience and their significance are often underestimated.
After the race, the ones who are responsible for packing up and ensuring that the venue is returned to its original state are none other than the race volunteers once again. While race participants can head home for a rest or meal, these selfless individuals start to get busy again and tie up the loose ends of the race – managing waste and extra resources, handling lost and found items, attending to casualties and so on.
Stand in the shoes of volunteers, Show your appreciation
Many wonder why would these people work for free and are willing to dedicate so much time and effort for others who do not even know their names and faces. Well, the amount of satisfaction and pride in seeing one’s contribution making a difference in many other people’s lives is invaluable – You could be that volunteer who handed the champion marathoner a cup of water; you could have been the first-aider who saved someone’s life during a race; or even someone who inspired a runner to sign up as a volunteer like yourself for another race!
Therefore, as athletes, the most basic and appropriate thing to do in return as you receive your race entitlements, hydration or a direction guide, is to simply say ‘thank you‘. Those 2 words is enough to make a volunteer’s day because it makes him/her feel appreciated and efforts being acknowledged. After the race, perhaps you can offer a drink to the volunteers, make friends or even take photos together to keep this precious race memory alive.
From running to volunteering
Besides expressing your gratitude to volunteers involved in your race, why not take on a new role for your next race as a volunteer? Besides getting first-hand adrenaline rush and excitement by being the front-line personnel who interacts with race participants, it is also an act of giving back to the sports community. Yes, it is definitely going to be challenging and stressful at times. However, when you see fellow volunteers working together with you and race participants successfully completing a race which they had been looking forward to, all your exhaustion and pessimistic thoughts will ultimately disappear.
Once again, a huge thank you to all race volunteers, regardless of seasoned or new, for your effort, time and sweat in trying to make every race the best race it can be. Every race is unique and everyone involved in the race, be it runner or volunteers, has a story to tell. What will be your side of the story?