Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Volunteering at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

I love volunteering at races!  It's a great way to see a different side of a race and get a bit of the inside scoop.  Last year, I just volunteered at local races put on by Montgomery County Road Runners and I was thinking of doing the same this year.  But I didn't get into the Cherry Blossom 10 miler through the lottery.  So I decided to go ahead and volunteer for the race instead because they have an added perk... volunteering means that I can get into next year's race without having to worry about the lottery! 

Pre-race communication was great.  They sent out multiple emails with very specific instructions.  You would think that all races would do this but I've definitely volunteered at races before where I show up race morning and no one has any idea who volunteers are supposed to talk to.  With this race, the communications were detailed enough that it had specific names of people that we should talk to that morning.  And they sent us a QR code on the phone that was scanned race morning to confirm that we were there which would ensure us our guaranteed entry for next year.  Oh, and they also held a volunteer appreciation event before the race though I wasn't able to go to it.  But still a nice touch.

Killed some time by checking out the cherry blossoms before the race

I had signed up for the finish line which had a start time of 7:45.  And the race started at 7:30.  Unfortunately, metro didn't start running until 7am and since I'm near the end of the line, I wasn't sure I'd make it in time if I took metro.  So I drove.  And I left super early because I knew parking would be scarce if I showed up late.  So I actually got there around 6:30.  Street parking was plentiful but it looked to be almost gone by 6:45 so I'm glad I got there early.

Easy to find my way around, I thought the race did a great job with signage

After taking my time wandering around, I made my way to the volunteer tent.  Wow, they had a heated tent for volunteers!  Swanky :)  There was also coffee and I think donuts but I had already eaten breakfast so I stayed away from the treat area.  It was still pretty early and they were overwhelmed at bag check (it was 7:30 and they still had a line of people trying to get their bags checked in) so they had me and another early finish line volunteer run over to bag check to help out.  This involved just taking the bags after volunteers had tagged them and putting them back into lines in numerical order.  It was all very efficient and we got everyone through by 7:45 or so.  We then went back to the volunteer tent where they were ready to put the finish line volunteers to work.

The finisher chute while waiting for runners to come through

We all walked over to the finish line area as a group and our job was just supposed to be lining up along the sides of the finisher chute and make sure that as runners came through, they kept walking so that there wasn't a back up in the chute.  But there were a ton of finish line volunteers.  And apparently not enough people at medals.  So someone came over and asked me and a couple other people to go over to medals to help out there.

There was time for a selfie before things got too busy

Sweet, I love handing out medals!  Except this was more of a security assignment and not handing out medals.  This race is one where runners have the option to pay a lower price and not get a medal.  So it was our job to check out the bibs of everyone heading into the medal area to make sure that only people who had pre-registered for the medal got in.  Most people were fine once it was explained but there were also plenty of people that wanted to complain about not getting a medal.  Well, you should remember that for when you register!  And complaining repeatedly to volunteers who are just doing what they're told is not really going to result in anything changing for you.

But anyway, like I said, most people were fine.  And it was just a trickle as first and not a lot of work.  But then at some point it turned into a horde of people and I was just looking at bibs as fast as I could.  I think I stopped even seeing people's faces and just saw their bibs.  Which is why I was so happy that Jennifer called out my name :)  It was great to meet her briefly in real life and not just through the computer.  I'm sure I looked like a bit of a maniac at that point as things were a bit crazy and I couldn't talk much, but it was nice to at least say hi and hear how her race went.

And that was it for the volunteering.  At one point I looked up from bibs and saw we didn't have a crowd any more.  It trickled down from there and when we were done, the guy in charge of the medals area gave us a nice little pep talk and thank you and we were sent on our way, even a little earlier than we were told we'd be done.  This was a really well organized volunteer event.  I would definitely recommend it.  And I learned that I should register for a medal when I register for the race.  Otherwise, I'm sure I'm going to be one of those people that doesn't remember at the finish and be a little disappointed at not getting a medal after running those 10 miles.