The Coal Cracker 10k is a local road race that's been going for 30 years now. When I found out the race date, I knew that I wasn't quite fit enough to run it, but I wanted to be involved somehow. I e-mailed the race director and asked if they needed any volunteers. He said that they could always use more help, so I showed up on race day and said, "How can I help?"
They gave me a stop watch and a couple 5-gallon water jugs (which they didn't think I was strong enough to carry, but I proved them wrong!). I manned a water stop at the 5k mark by myself. I didn't have a table, so I had to put the cups of water on my car. I filled the cups as quickly as I could and started handing them out as the fastest runners were going by less than 20 minutes after the start! I dropped a couple of the cups as I was handing them out. There's a skill to giving water to runners! Note to self: you spill a lot less as a runner if you take the cup with both hands.
It was a relatively small race, with 130 runners. The organizers were really happy with the turnout. It's not advertised that well, so it's mostly a community race, with a lot of the runners running it every year. The course is tough, with many grueling hills.
Let me tell you, it feels really good to have 100 people say thank you, one after another. I did the best that I could to make sure everyone who wanted water got a cup. There was one woman who was running toward me saying, "hurry, hurry!" She wasn't quite yelling at me. I think she was anxious to get the water, and she may have been telling herself to hurry.
The race director also ran the race (and got second place in his age division), and he even thanked me again while he ran through the water station. They wouldn't have had a water stop at the halfway point if I hadn't shown up. I'm really glad that I helped out.
After the race, they gave me a free t-shirt (is it bad luck to wear a shirt for a race that you didn't run?), and invited me to the "after party." They gave out trophies made of coal to the winners. They had a lot of awards to give! In addition to the usual age division awards, they gave an award to the 30th finisher (because it was the 30th anniversary of the race), the oldest and youngest finishers (age 77 and 18 respectively, I believe), the "Clydesdale division" winner (weighing over 190 pounds), and my personal favorite, the "clock stopper" award to the last finisher. There were two men there who ran the race every single year that it was held.
The race was sponsored by Mrs. T's pierogies, among other local companies. So each runner (and volunteer) got to eat pierogies after the race, and we were also offered beer and birch beer. It really felt like a run community event. It wasn't the type of race where people don't stick around if they didn't win an award. After the awards were given, people hung around and partied for a while.
I was thanked several times by a bunch of people, and they even joked that I should get a special award for helping out. They said that I was a lifesaver. I brushed it off and sid that I was happy to help. I didn't want any special recognition. I was just proud to be involved. It felt really good to help, and I have to admit that their thanks and compliments made me feel good about myself.
My sister and I have a goald of running the race next year. Part of me wants to volunteer again! I wish I could do both. The only thing I can think of is to try to recruit someone to help out at the water stations next year.
Although I do love running races, I can't wait to volunteer at one again!