Last year the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon here in Dublin was my first ever half marathon. This year, it was my first time volunteering at a race. It was a fantastic experience and more than anything it really opened my eyes to what it takes to put on a race. As a runner, and racer myself, the day gave me a whole new appreciation for race organizers and volunteers.
It was an early start for me, up at 5am to get to the start line for 6.30am. I was on baggage duty, and made it in time for the briefing before heading to my truck. I ended up on Truck 8, the last one and with 4 other volunteers we were soon ready to take runner’s bags for them.
The trucks were huge! Our job was to take runner’s bags, making sure their surname matched that of the truck, then to put the bags in order of the bib numbers. It got quite chaotic for a bit but we soon got the bags sorted and safe in their corresponding boxes.
As a runner, and having run over 20 races in my 3 years of running, my experience has all been on the other side of the race; today I got to experience a race behind the scenes. It helped that I knew what the runners could be thinking or feeling so as I took their bags I offered a ‘good luck ‘ or a ‘have fun’ and I meant every word. Any other race it would be me handing my bag to a volunteer, turning for the start line and never really thinking of my bag again until I needed it at the finish.
Before we knew it, it was 8.30am, race start time and the droves of runners dwindled to a trickle until finally the area was empty. After that the trucks were closed and then driven off to the finish. It made quite the convey!
I hopped onto the volunteers bus to get to the finish but we ended up on Parkgate Street just near Chesterfield Avenue for a minute. I was so excited to see the pace car and the front runner go past! I took a photo but he was so fast you can barely see him in the distance in it!
We had to take a detour after that but ended up at the finish line soon enough and it wasn’t long before we were back on duty.
The fun part was handing back people’s bags with a big ‘congratulations’ on their race. So much bling! So many medals!
The highlight of my day was getting to hand Craig Ruddy, men’s race winner, his bag. I was a bit starstruck! I recognised his singlet, and knew from my app that he had won. I got to chat with him a bit and he was really friendly. That was a pretty cool moment. 😀
Our truck got really chaotic at the end and it was all we could do to keep up with the crowd of runners wanting their things. I was so conscious that they would need their warm clothes, their post-race fuel, their phones to contact friends and families, so I tried my hardest to find their bags as fast as I could. With running back and forth on such a big truck, and having to bend down to look at numbers on bibs, then bend down to look for bags, then bend again to hand the bag over; it was tiring work. It really did give me an idea for how hard race volunteers actually work, and just how valuable they are. What really got me were the runners who were very heartfelt in their thanks and appreciation for us.
We finished up at 1pm, having given out all but three of the bags on our truck. We were given lunch too so I had a chance to eat and then headed home to get ready for my own training run. I was tired, but happy. Really, really happy.
All in all, it was a fantastic day, I had a blast and it was especially awesome that so many of my running friends stopped by my truck to say hello! It reminds me that I’m part of a community of awesome runners. Today, with the race buzz in the air, and being reminded of how many running friends I have, went a long way to lifting a cloud of depression that has been hanging around me for the past few weeks. While I did envy everyone racing a teeny tiny little bit (those pre-race nerves! that start line buzz! that race energy and finish line celebration! the bling! the t-shirt!) just being there and being part of the atmosphere was a real pleasure and privilege.
A special thanks to the staff in charge of the baggage trucks. You were helpful and friendly and really went out of your way to make us feel like part of the team.
And to my fellow volunteers; it was fun working with you!
I think the being a runner made me a better volunteer, and having now been a volunteer I think it will make me a better racer! I would recommend any runner, if you haven’t already, volunteer at a race at least once. It’s brilliant!