Race sweeping is a blast

Race volunteering can be a lot of fun.

Volunteers may not rack up race PRs, but they still count. Running enthusiasts who line up to pitch in at 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, triathlons, fun runs, mud runs, obstacle races, or other fitness events add plenty to the mix. Most races would never get off the ground without a sturdy stable of volunteers.

Options for race volunteering run the gamut, from packet pickup workers to finishers’ medal distributers. Races usually need folks to sign in runners, help with starting corrals, staff on-course water and aid stations, hand out finish line snacks. Some events use volunteers for parking lot organization. There are lots of slots for volunteers.

Often, volunteers receive perks. These may include free race tees and swag bags. Sometimes volunteers are invited to run future races for free.

I’m volunteering for a half marathon this week, and I can hardly wait.

I’ll be assigned to a starting corral, helping runners line up in the correct spots and at the appropriate times. (It’s a big race, with dozens of starting corrals.) Then I’ll join a few of my favorite running friends to serve as part of the sweep crew for the run.

Yes, we will come in last – on purpose.

That’s the assignment. We’ll be the back-of-pack pacers, encouraging the slower runners to finish the course within the set time limit. We’ll wear race bibs without timing chips.

The race-day weather forecast looks amazing. We’ll follow a lovely scenic route for 13.1 miles, cheering newbie and variously challenged runners (and walkers) to endure to the end.

Nope, we’re not preventing polio or rebuilding storm-torn cities. Still, we may help a few people to reach their own personal race distance goals. Or at least, we’re a pack of pals, having a great time in a beautiful city, while completing a race without the pressure of pushing for our own PRs.

Did I mention we’ll still receive finishers’ medals and race tees? Even if most of the runner food is gone by the time we reach the post-race facilities, the experience will be well worth it. 

Ready, set, go. Let’s do this thing.

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