The value of our volunteers can’t be overstated.
Try to imagine a large road race without volunteers…Runners would show up at packet pick up and find themselves forced to dig through large cardboard boxes, hoping to find their bib number and timing tag like a needle in a haystack. Their next challenge would involve fighting over event t-shirts strewn across tables like Black Friday bargains. On race morning, they’d have to leave their “gear bags” in their own cars or hide them behind planters or other fixtures near the start/finish area. The start line area would be confusing since there would be nobody to direct you on where to stand. Once the race got underway, the real chaos would ensue. Only some of the intersections would be staffed with police. The other intersections would be completely unmonitored, allowing random motorists to go around barricades and drive onto the course route. Serious injuries could occur and some runners would inevitably make wrong turns and get lost. The first water station would be an apocalyptic scene with people pushing and shoving in survival mode as they tried to get fluids and continue their journey. If the runners somehow made it safely to the finish line, they would grab a finisher’s medal laying on a table and place it around their own neck with no one to smile and say “Congratulations!” By the time they arrived, the food and beer tents–with nobody to manage them–would have already been looted, leaving little or nothing to consume. The post race meal would consist of a half-eaten bagel and a brat bun with some ketchup on it. Some runners would figure out how to tap another barrel in one of the beer wagons but it would be gone in minutes and those left waiting in line would decide to just go home feeling sad and dejected.
This is a pretty dark picture but probably a realistic one if we really had no volunteers. We’re fortunate then, to have over 2,000 volunteers that help in all of these areas each year. The majority of interactions runners have during race weekend are not with me as the race director, or with my staff, or with public safety officials, but with our volunteers. They are our front line. I urge all the runners to pause for just a moment during any of those myriad interactions with volunteers this weekend and say “thank you” for what they do. Other than the colorful t-shirt they’re wearing, your gratitude is the only payment they get. THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!