Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Giving Back for Once - My Rock N Roll VR (Volunteer Report)

After a lifetime of racing (240 races and counting), I finally went to a race just to volunteer. I figured I owed them one. So I picked the LA Rock N Roll Half, which I ran last year. It's a big race, and I knew they would need lots of people.

Competitor does a great job of organizing. I received a free parking pass in the mail, so I got to cruise into a separate lot after passing the long line of cars waiting to get into the runner parking lot (not free). In downtown LA, this was a nice perk! I walked to the volunteer tent where there was coffee and snacks. I then realized that 98% of the volunteers were high school kids, who need to put in a certain number of community service hours to graduate. I found two other adults to talk with. I was immediately looked up to as an "expert" compared to these clueless kids with their smartphones glued to their hands. Which was fine.
Our first assignment was to separate the corrals. There were 20 corrals, already well marked with gates for each one. Nobody was monitoring for correct bib #s - it was strictly honor system. I was looking at bibs and there was only a few people in the wrong corral. Each of the 20 corrals had their own start horn, about two minutes apart. Worked great.

I got to be up front, holding a rope between the Elite corral and corral 1. For 30 minutes. 30 minutes before the gun, some people were already in the corrals, just killing time. No elites showed up until the last 3 minutes. I chatted with a few runners. Answered questions for people who were lost. Rocked out to the great tunes. Frank Shorter and Rod Dixon were at the start for some star power. As start time got closer, I was feeling the excitement, just like I was running.

I saw the Loop lurker I met last year at this race, and we exchanged greetings. He was lined up at the front of corral 1; wearing a batman mask and no shirt. This was a Halloween themed race, so there were many costumes. More and more costumes as the corrals went by. Only about a dozen elites came in. Deena Kastor and Mary Akor led the women. The guys were less famous. I did recognize Pete MaGill who is the fastest 50 year old in the country. He ran 15:00 at the Anaheim 5K this year. Today he would run 1:10 and get 4th overall.

Once they took my rope down, I just stood there next to the start line and watched all the runners go by. Twenty corrals came by and it was really fun seeing all the excited faces, the anticipation, the 10 second countdown and the starting horn, over and over and over. Meanwhile great tunes were blaring; the announcer was exciting. I was hyped up and raring to go! Loved it! I high fived some runners, cheered others, commented on costumes. Great fun. One plus-size girl looked terrified, like she was about to go to the electric chair or something. I gave her some encouragement. Later I saw her at halfway, and she still looked terrified, but she was getting it done.

Next we helped gather up some clothing for donation, but there wasn't too much. It was a hot day. Probably 65 at the start and would be in the high 80's by the end of some people's races. Glad I wasn't running!
Then we moseyed back to the finish area, and they didn't have much need. They tried to shoo me to the UPS bag check area, but I already knew they had tons of people - and I wanted to be a little more involved. They said a water station needed some help, so i walked about 1/2 mile to mile 7 (which is also mile 13 on the way back) and started helping out with the water.

So I handed out water cups for about 90 minutes. I was also cheering for the runners and commenting on the many costumes. None of the other (teen) volunteers deemed it worthy of their effort to cheer. But they were working hard. People were so grateful. Almost everyone said thank you; some used my name from my name tag. A lot said "Thank you for volunteering". It was very rewarding.

I got to see the leaders coming down the other side of the road (we were in the middle) as they sprinted their last 1/4 mile. A surprising amount of people were still taking water even with only 3 blocks to go. But it was hot. Luckily I got to be in the shade all day, but it must have been brutal out in the sun.

Mary Akor and Deena Kastor were 1-2 in 1:14, finishing 10th and 11th overall! There is an interview with Deena on the RW homepage if you are interested. I was trying to keep my eye out for loopsters Atombuddy and ZombieKid, but I was too late for mile 7 and was still working the other side of the road. I did catch AB's back after he went by me though on his way in.

Eventually the trail wagon showed up and they made us shut down the water station, even though most runners were still out on the course. So no mile 13 water for you guys. They actually tipped all the tables over and dumped hundreds of already poured glasses out in the street and swept them up. They were on a mission to get that street cleared on time!

So I was free to go, but I headed to the finish area, because I wanted to hand out medals! They had a dozen kids already, but I just jumped in and joined them. I then spent another hour handing out medals to the 2:15-3:00+ finishers. I must have gone through 500 medals - it was fast work! And those things are heavy! My shoulders were sore by the end. I would grab about 20 at a time and hand them out. A few people ducked their heads and I placed it over their necks - but it is not easy! Those ears always get in the way! Most people I just handed it to. Once again - very fun and rewarding to see all the happy people and share their accomplishment.

So, I heartily recommend volunteering when you get the chance. I left feeling full of endorphins and happy feelings.

1 comment:

  1. This is great! I have signed up to volunteer at a race I normally do in November- we'll see if they need me. I agree, it's lots of fun. The medals would be really cool to do.