Today was so fun. I did something new and volunteered at a local race for the first time! I have always wanted to, but due to all kinds of commitments (kids, long runs, vacations, holidays) have never been able. Given that today was the last day of my post-race rest week, the Fort Langley Historic Half was the perfect opportunity to take the plunge and give a little back to our running community.
My morning started at 7:15am when I reported for duty just inside the Fort. As a runner, I’ve always been focused on my race and hadn’t thought of how much work and preparation it takes to get the start/finish area all set up. Everyone was hard at work setting up the timing system, taping off the corral, setting up the sound system and prepping the post-race food.
As we got nearer to gun time, things inside the Fort were starting to get exciting. Runners were warming up, pace bunnies were gathering their followers – we stayed busy answering questions, directing people for start waves and getting ready to cheer everyone on as they started. The morning had so far been dry, but just as runners were lining up to start it started to rain.
Around 8:00am the gun went off and the first wave of runners got going. It was so exciting watching the range of emotions on people as they got into the corral – you could see runners who were excited, scared, focused, nervous, pumped, cold, everything! Despite the rain, everyone seemed to be in good spirits.
It would only be about 15-20 mins before the first runners returned, so we got everything ready. I was excited to be doing chip removal because I thought it would be fun to be there as everyone crossed the finish. Our foot stools were up, the buckets were ready, clippers in hand – all we needed were the runners. And once they started to return, it was busy!
I felt clumsy at first but got the hang of snipping off the chips pretty quickly. When a runner would come in, they’d throw their foot up on the stool, snip, snip and off they went! I’m sure it was tortuous for some to lift a leg after pushing for 5, 10 or 21 km, so I was up and down, snipping, untying runners’ laces and providing a shoulder to lean on for tired runners as we got all their chips.
It was a lot of bending over and crouching, which is normally pretty hard on my back, but the excitement of being around all the finishers was invigorating. It was awesome to cheer them on as they sprinted, ran, hobbled and walked across the finish. Smiles, tears, cheers hugs and leaps – everyone had a different reason for being excited to cross the finish line. Everyone was happy to talk about how their race was, what they thought of the course and I heard so many personal stories.
Before we knew it, most of the runners and walkers had returned and so we turned some of our efforts to sorting out the chips from all of the clipped straps. I couldn’t believe that more than 3 hours had already passed – I guess it’s easy to get focused on the runners and the excitement and forget that you’re actually working. It didn’t feel like work at all.
When our chip duties were done, we helped clean up all the leftover food and chipped in on garbage collection and getting all of the race displays cleaned and packed up. I’m a geek and was pretty excited to be offered some of the yummy leftover Clif bars, fruit, bagels and tofu – I’ll never say no to a free snack! (and the boys had wayyyyy too much fun playing with the Clif bars when I got home…)
All in all, I had a great experience volunteering with Try Events and hope I can work some of their future events into my schedule this year. As a runner, I appreciate the volunteers every time I show up at a race but it’s so nice to have finally given back, even if just a little bit. Congratulations to everyone who ran or walked at the Historic today, I’m thankful to have been part of your race day!