I am willing to bet that almost all of the readers of this blog will have at some point benefitted from the kindness of volunteers. They fill a vital role in the running of every event we all enjoy so much yet do we take them for granted? I have recently been unable to participate in a couple of my planned trail running races due to injury so I took the opportunity to gain a different perspective and volunteered instead.
I felt volunteering would be a worthwhile way to combat my initial frustration at being out of action. It gave me a way to still be involved in the excitement of race day and meet other like minded individuals that share my love of running.
Proceedings at the start line of the Hameldown Hammer were supervised by chief marshall – Mrs Ewe
My first experience of volunteering was at the South Devon phase of the Coastal Trail Series organised by Endurancelife where unfortunately, we had some of the most testing weather conditions possible. With almost continuous heavy rain and gale force winds threatening to blow the marquee away with all of us in it, I was thoroughly impressed at their determination to still hold the event and the number of competitors still in attendance. It was a fine example of the impressive leadership and organisation typical of Endurancelife events that despite the Start/Finish arch blowing over, the registration area turning into a bog and the odd case of hypothermia (and that was just the volunteers) the day still ran very smoothly. My roles at this event were handing out t-shirts at registration, taking times on the finish line and a brief stint as traffic control. Though the work itself was somewhat tedious at times it was a huge eye opener to realise the scale of organisation involved to run 4 different races at one time. Full credit to Freya and the team behind the company for professional management skills. I found it really enjoyable to watch the competitors journey from the start when they are either a bag of nerves or swaggering and cocky to the finish when they are all tired and bedraggled but full of proud smiles at their personal victories.
Beesands base for the Endurancelife event
The second event was the Pure Trail organised Hameldown Hammer based at Widecombe-in-the Moor, Dartmoor. Though a much smaller, new to the calendar race, run by a company still finding their feet I loved the friendly, approachable, team atmosphere of this event. It was a really enjoyable company to be involved with because I got to meet the 2 faces (Steve and Mark) behind it all and they both made a big effort to introduce me to to all the other volunteers and showed masses of gratitude for the help. Happily their event was blessed with incredible weather showing Dartmoor at its very best, everything ran smoothly and there were many happy, thankful faces by the end of the day. My role on the day was to run the tea, coffee and cake stand with Steves wife Sophie who had provided a variety of very yummy homemade cakes. I also got to take a drive around the watering stations during the race to lend a hand, meet the other volunteers and see the runners in action.
Photo by Dale Turrell
Pure Trail run a Wednesday evening group trail run over Dartmoor by torchlight in all weathers that has accumulated a dedicated group of followers. A lot of the volunteers on the day were friends of Steve and Mark through this group. I felt this showed a really positive side of the sport where everyone had come together through their passion for running and Dartmoor to organise this fantastic event that showcased the best of our beautiful National Park.I look forward to being involved with many more events organised by this great company.
Views along the course weren’t so bad either!
For me the main reason I volunteered was out of a budding journalists curiosity to know more about the sports I wish to write about but your motivation can be a wide range of things. A few examples I’ve come across are
- To support a charity organised fundraising event
- To gain work experience in event management
- Possible way to fund your own races by working for entries
- Boredom avoider for friends and family supporting a competitor
- Volunteer as a group to run a feed/watering station for a different fun day out
- Offer to course sweep for a training run as part of your race preparation
- A big self motivation boost when you see all the happy finishers.
When it comes to your first day volunteering don’t be put off by the unknown, I found there were several other people in the same boat as me and it was fine, you’re not expected to be an expert! The most important qualification is a willing attitude and a big smile. All the tasks are very simple and you are never left on your own so there is always someone else to laugh and be confused with.When in doubt don’t be afraid to ask questions, before the day itself and during the event, this just shows you’re interested in what’s going on and means you will get more out of the experience.
Volunteering is something I believe every competitor should do at least once throughout their racing career, whatever the discipline, to give something back to the sport. It helps us to gain perspective and appreciation for all the work involved behind the scenes. If everyone made the commitment to help at 1 event a year it would support the continued running of our favourite events and create more opportunities for growth within these less mainstream sports. At the end of the day everyone wins as you drive home with the thank you’s of all your running compatriots ringing in your ears, motivation spinning around your mind and warmth in your heart making you feel good for giving something back.
For more information on upcoming events run by Pure Trail see pureTRAIL
For more information on upcoming events run by Endurancelife see endurancelife