One of my running goals this year was to volunteer at a race. Through all my years of running, I’ve never volunteered at a race and thought it would be a great idea to see what it’s like on the “other side”. I researched what races were coming up and saw that the Double Road Race was taking place this month in San Jose, California.
The Double Road Race is a unique running event created by Bob Anderson who founded Runner’s World in 1966. The Double Road Race is composed of two races: a 10K and 5K with a break in between. The finish times are then combined to see who the winner is. The first Double was held in Pleasanton, California on December 23, 2012. There are 12 races planned for 2014 with races in different states and one in Athens, Greece.
After reading about this race, I emailed one of the race organizers about volunteering. They contacted me and asked what time I could be there on race morning; 5:30 or 6:30. Guess which time I picked?!
On Saturday morning, I woke up feeling excited as if I was running the race! It was still dark when I drove to the race venue and when I arrived, I saw that there were volunteers already setting up. I headed to the Race Day Registration Table where I was instructed to meet at.
Being that this was my FIRST race that I was volunteering at, I was a little nervous but ready to work! I was introduced to my co-volunteer and was quickly given instructions on how to register runners, use a PayPal Credit Card Reader on the iPad and given the cash envelope. Um, I wondered if this was a good time to tell them that math is my worst subject. There was no time to ponder that because we were left alone and runners started to line up.
Based on my experience working at the registration table that day, let me give you runners some tips to make race day registration run smoothly for you:
Print out your registration: If you register for a race, print out your registration right away or have it handy on your phone. If the volunteers can’t find your bib number, you will have proof that you registered and paid for a race. This will make it easier for you and you won’t have to fill out extra paperwork.
Take advantage of Early Pick-Up: I was talking to one of the volunteers at the Double and she said the reason why there weren’t too many people doing race day registrations was because they had lots of runners at early pick-up. Some races allow you to register at Packet Pick-Up so you won’t have to on race day. You will avoid lines and be able to enjoy the pre-race activities. If you have any problems with your registration, these issues can be solved at pick-up and you won’t have to worry about not making it to the starting line the next morning.
Bring cash: If you are registering on the day of the race, bring cash and preferably exact change! It will make the process go faster. You won’t have to worry about your credit card getting lost or mishandled. Also, some races might not accept credit cards.
Come early: We actually had a few runners whose registrations couldn’t be found, needed to register that day AND was literally minutes away from the starting time. You can imagine how nerve-wracking that can be when you have to fill out ANOTHER registration form, fumble with payment, get your gear into bag check and head to the starting line. Don’t be THAT runner. Come early and you’ll have ample time to register or check-in, stretch, warm-up and use the bathroom.
Smile: Yes, smile! As a runner, I know what type of personalities some of us may have. Just being real here and you know what I’m talking about! (Ahem, Type-A personality) Anyway, let me tell you, a smile and a ‘THANK YOU’ goes a LONG way!
That morning, I had barely started helping out with registering a runner and she could tell we were a bit frazzled and she said, “Thank you guys for being out here so early in the dark and in the cold!” I looked up and saw that she meant it and wasn’t being sarcastic because we were taking long. She also said the magic words, “Don’t worry, I have exact change!” Best believe, we made sure her registration went quickly and smoothly!
Look, I know its early, you may not have had your coffee and the last thing you want to do is stand in line getting your stuff. Don’t worry, the volunteers are here to help! We want you to get your bib and be in time for your race! Some of us are runners like yourself so we know what its like!
One of the highlights about volunteering is actually being a part of the actual race and not just running it. There is a lot that goes behind the scenes at a race. The setting up, the registering, supervising the course, the cleaning-up, etc. After the runners had taken off, I took a quick break from my duties and walked around. The booths were manned by vendors who provided massage services, who had racing info and who handed out post run snacks.
As a runner, I gained a different perspective of just running a race. All these people make this race happen and we sometimes take that for granted. We run a race, collect our medals, eat our post-race snacks and get out of there. Many people have generously donated their time to make a race go smoothly and sometimes, we tend to forget the people who make it possible.
I’ve always had an appreciation for race volunteers but volunteering at one has made me appreciate them even more! I met some great people and other fellow runners. I encourage all runners to volunteer at a race at least once. Not only will you gain a better understanding of what goes on during a race but it’s a great way to give back to the running community.
Would I volunteer at another race? Absolutely! After this experience, not only do I plan on volunteering at more races, I plan on running this one too!
Special thanks to Bob Anderson and the rest of the Double Road Race Crew for allowing me the opportunity to volunteer at this race! It truly was fun and a great learning experience for me!
If you want to run this race in the future or want more information, please check out the link below:
Have you ever volunteered at a race? What was your experience like?
See you at the finish line!