As the Race Director for the marathon, it’s important that I try to understand what motivates people.
I’m not just talking about the participants but also the thousands of people who help produce the event each year. It’s my job to lead and support the marathon staff, who in turn lead and support the Operations Committee (team leaders), who in turn lead the thousands of volunteers that address the needs of the participants. To do a good job of this, we need to provide solid leadership, well-defined jobs, an occasional meal and beverages, a fun working atmosphere, and some nominal perks such as a logo’d t-shirt that tells them they are part of the overall production.
But that’s really the minimum standard in ANY working environment. So what keeps many of these folks coming back to help year after year? Since most of them receive little or no true compensation, what is the PAYOFF?
After ten years, I think I’ve figured it out…
When you cross the finish line of a running event, a triathlon, or any endurance competition for the first time, the sense of accomplishment can be overwhelming. It’s not uncommon to see grown men (or women) brought to tears or cheering wildly. And here’s the rub: Helping others to reach such milestones can be just as fulfilling. I’m convinced that THIS is precisely what drives the return rate for many of our committee members and volunteers.
The glory in the achievement of reaching a finish line is not limited to the individual in the running shoes. It is a glory which is shared by everybody who had a stake in helping them get there — spouses, family, friends, training partners, coaches, and those of us on the organizational side of the fence. It’s been said, “there is no individual achievement,” a perspective that is particularly apropos with regards to endurance events.
It’s exhilerating to work behind the scenes in these events and I’m convinced that the phenomenon of shared glory is a big part of it. I’ve often explained the passion of being a race director by saying that, “the only thing more fulfilling in crossing a marathon finish line is helping tens of thousands of others to do the same.” See you at OUR finish line!
Cellcom Green Bay Marathon