Race Volunteering

For day two of race week blog-a-thon, I’m unearthing a blog post I started a while ago but never finished. Very fitting for the season…the post that came back from the grave….ooOOOoooo

The ghost of unwritten blog posts…I’m haunted!


Moving on from that silliness….a little over two months ago, I tackled a running related New Year’s resolution of mine that didn’t actually involve running: being a race volunteer.

It took me until August to do this because I was a tad incredibly lazy about looking for opportunities. And to be completely honest, I didn’t stop being lazy about it, the volunteer request just showed up in my inbox one day. I get lots of emails advertising area races, and one of them that came through had a “volunteer registration” button alongside “race registration”. I don’t think I’d seen this before, and if it wasn’t so easy to sign up I wouldn’t have thought to help out. Nice job, race director.

Anyways, once I had signed up I got a call to confirm and to check my availability. Turns out they needed people to help get race packets together in the week before the race. That worked perfectly with my schedule, so I arranged to do that for a few hours a couple of days before the race.

At the designated time, I drove to my local YMCA and found my way to race headquarters! Sounds exciting, but it was just the gym, with two people stuffing race packets. There was one other volunteer, an older man who admitted that his wife had added volunteering at the Y to his “honey do” list. Haha! The race was put on by the YMCA (but you probably already guessed that?), and the other person stuffing packets was the Y employee in charge of putting on the race. This was her first time being in charge, and occassionally some of the people helping her would pop in when they had a free moment.

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Me running through the park where the race started. At a VERY different time of year.

When I showed up, the race numbers were already stuffed into mini, race number sized envelopes with runner’s names on them. My first job was to put 4 safety pins in each one of those envelopes, and then stuff those envelopes into corresponding larger manila envelopes.  It sounds super boring, but I had a good time. I enjoy repetitive tasks, I find them calming.

Our next step was slightly more involved…we stuffed the manila envelopes with race shirts. This is where things got a little dicey, in my opinion.  The first 100 runners were guaranteed a shirt, and their manila envelopes had a “T” on them to indicate this, as well as a requested size. Everyone else just had a size. As it turned out, the race director had ordered enough tshirts that everyone that registered would get one…but maybe not the size they requested.

We started stuffing envelopes that had a “T” to ensure that if someone was guarenteed a shirt, they would get the size they requested. Then Ms. Bossypants showed up. Ms. Bossypants was another Y employee who had experience with race planning, and had planned 7 other YMCA races. She came in and kind of took over the show. She started filling all the envelopes with shirts, regardless of a “T”, and had us all do the same. Eventually, we ran out of some sizes, and this resulted in some runners with the “T” not getting their requested size.  This really bothered me. I didn’t think it seemed fair, so I tried my best to sneak around and switch shirts so that all the “T” packets had their requested size. It just seemed right that if you were guarenteed a shirt, you should have size priority over someone who is just lucky to get a shirt. Don’t you think?

My guess is that Ms. Bossypants doesn’t race very often or ever, because in my experience, runners take our shirts VERY seriously.  And let me tell you, these were AWESOME shirts. I’m lucky they over ordered because they offered me one for my help…good thing I wear an apparently upopular size. 🙂

Notice how the logo on the shirt is the same as the park statue you can see in the picture above! Cool.

Sweet shirt, right? They had ladies sizes, and ladies shirts were sleeveless. Probably one of the nicer race shirts I have, that fits…too bad I can’t claim I ran it.

Aside from Ms. Bossypants cramping my style, I had a really good time volunteering. I would definitely consider helping out again, and probably will. The YMCA has a whole series of runs throughout the year, so there will be plenty of opportunities, it’s just a matter of scheduling.

And now, some questions for you all:

  • Have you ever volunteered for a race?
  • Do you enjoy repetitive tasks?
  • What do you think – just stuff the envelopes as quickly as possible or give the “T” runners size priority?
  • Do you feel as strongly as I do about race shirt sizing? (I get really mad/disappointed when I don’t get a shirt that fits)