Triathletes can be rather selfish. We seem to think that everything is all about us. Our lives revolve around swim, bike, run, and we often neglect our family and loved ones to get in a workout. We can be jerks at times, especially during a taper or a big training block that we feel we “have” to get done. We go to races, expect people to wait on us hand and foot (I’m not taking that timing chip off myself!) and take advantage of every aid station we come across. We think that the whole race is put on simply for our benefit (you mean it’s not?!?). On race day it is all about ME, ME, ME.
In all fairness, it is easy to be selfish on race day because great volunteers make it seem like it really is all about us. Good volunteers can absolutely be a game changer and a life saver on race day. They tell us where to go, slather us up with sunscreen, peel off our wetsuits, give us water when we are parched, and even put a medal around our neck when we finish. They carry us to the med tent (I can speak from personal experience on this one), hug us at the finish line, and cheer us on while we race. And they expect NOTHING in return.
Simply put, volunteers are the heart of triathlon races.
So I ask you this: how many races have you raced in 2014? One, five, ten? Now how many races have you volunteered for? If that number is less than one, then this message is for you: “GET OUT THERE AND VOLUNTEER!”
It’s easy. It’s fun. And you are giving back to the sport that gives so much to you.
Still need a little bit of a push? Here’s five reasons why YOU should be volunteering at one of your local running or triathlon events.
1. You are giving back to your community. There is no better way to represent yourself as a triathlete than by volunteering at an event. You can wear your favorite triathlon hat, team or race shirt, and those cool compression calf sleeves and not have to go through the whole swim, bike, run thing. You get to cheer on all your friends as well as complete strangers without breaking a sweat. Volunteering is your way of saying “thank you” to all the folks behind the scenes of your favorite road races and triathlons. Race directors and their staff go to great lengths to make sure you get all the bang for your buck at races and that you a have a safe, fun, and great day. By volunteering you are helping to ensure that this can continue to happen for other athletes.
2. You will get an entirely new perspective on racing. You might be that person that gives encouragement to someone who wants to give up. Your cheers might be the reason an athlete makes it through the next mile. Your expert bottle handoffs of water might help that someone to a PR. Directing someone where to go might save someone from riding an extra five miles or running the wrong way. Volunteering will allow you to be the volunteer that you always wanted to have. You will get to see the really elite and the back of the packers. And you will feel inspired watching the best of the best duke it out and the average joe give it his all. You get to see aspects of a race that you might never have otherwise seen, and this will help you better understand all the fine tuning and hard work that goes into putting on a race as well as give you added insight that may help you better plan out your own race. By volunteering, you get to see the race in a completely different light, and sometimes that makes all the difference.
Expert water handoff. This could be you!
3. There are numerous kinds of volunteer spots available which cater to your likes and wants, so you can choose what you want to volunteer for. Like number crunching? Try volunteering at the timing/results tent. Like talking to people? Consider working packet pickup. Want to just enjoy some fresh air and watch the race without a lot of pressure? Then volunteer to help direct athletes on the course. In addition to finding a volunteer spot that suits your whims, you will also get a really cool race shirt for volunteering and have special access to places that only athletes and staff can go, and sometimes you even get free food for helping!
4. Without volunteers, you simply don’t have races. Without volunteers, there is no one to tell us where to turn, hand us our water, and cheer us on. I’ve done races where volunteers haven’t shown up. It gets ugly. The course feels empty; you have to fill up your own water cup on the run, and you get really lonely. Volunteers help get us pumped up and motivated. They help make YOUR race possible and they often give us that extra jolt that we need to push through that next mile. When someone is cheering your name, it’s hard not to try and run, even if we really feel like walking. Volunteers matter, so show your appreciation by thanking them the next time you race and by volunteering your own time in the future.
5. You will feel good for doing so. Doing something good for others makes us feel good inside and volunteering at races is the ultimate random act of kindness. You are helping others achieve their goals. What’s not to like about that? Plus you will be able to share in the whole race experience without having to spend a dime!
I found this random statistic on the internet, so it has to be true
So forget about the ice bucket challenge. My challenge to you is to get out and volunteer for at least one race in 2015! You will be glad you did!