I waited tables in college and worked in retail sales and today when I dine out and shop I have a special appreciation for those that are working in those professions. I have certain expectations as well, but when I receive excellent service I go above and beyond to show my appreciation. I am also, I hope, understanding of the demands of those jobs, and on most days, a little more patient.
As the parent of two active boys, I also am understanding of children's tantrums becuase I have certainly been there.
So, we as athletes, who depend so heavily on the volunteers who staff the aid stations at our favorite races, should take the opportunity to pay it forward by also volunteering at races. Not only will you be paying it forward, but I think it will make you a better, more well informed athlete. It will hopefully also make you more appreciative of the volunteers at future races who are working hard and who are certainly not receiving the glory the athletes do.
The best races have volunteers who have experience, and in endurance racing, that experience can be invaluable to the athletes who are competing. When I ran the Rocky 100, the veteran ultra runners who staffed the aid stations were fantastic. They answered questions I didn't know I would have before the race (Is it normal to pee every mile late in the race, especially after a warm day and cold night? Apparently, yes, btw.) and they made suggestions as I encountered issues I hadn't in training (suck on a ginger candy to settle your stomach).
I volunteered at IMTX this weekend at the Run Aid Station #1, hosted by Team Bicycle World and Fitness. My motivation was primarily to give back to the community of athletes that have given me so much and to get a front seat view to cheer on my awesome Rev3 teammates Ryan and Nina. I cheered for nearly every single athlete, I danced, made jokes, encouraged, fist bumped and when needed, offered specific help to athletes that seemed a bit lost. I know what I like in volunteers and I tried to be that person to the athletes on the course, and I hope that my smile and cheer helped just a little bit. I may have also annoyed the crap out of a couple of folks, but hey, they just had to keep running to get away from me! It was also great to be able to help a few people who really needed it and to know what questions to ask and suggestions to make because I had been in their shoes.
Good races don't just happen. Having worked timing at a Rev3 race, I can attest to the endless hours that go in creating a pefect race experience for the athletes and the spectators, but the volunteers are critical to this success. The volunteers can make or break a race - period. So, give a little back to the tri, running or cycling community in which you live and race by volunteering at a race soon. It will be a great experience, I promise ... and if you live near a Rev3 venue or will be spectating at a race, I highly encourage you to volunteer with Rev3. You will become a part of the family, that's for sure!