I debated whether or not to run the Wild 5 5K race on Saturday. Yes, it was just a 5K, and yes, it was sponsored by my favorite running store, and yes, race team members were encouraged to run. But at the same time, it was the day before the Madison Pikermi ("half marathon"), so racing seemed like a bad idea. Then it hit me: I'd volunteer instead! I emailed the race director and asked him to put me to work. He said, "Thanks. Please come at 6:30 AM to help with registration."
I fueled up on coffee and arrived just in time. I worked with a fellow race team member on passing out packets for pre-registered runners. It's a simple job - get their race number from the alphabetized stack and hand them a packet, t-shirt, and tell them to go outside to get their chip. There were about 400 pre-registered runners, so it went quickly. People were in high spirits, thanks to the beautiful weather. Almost suddenly, our shift was over. We looked out the window and saw the race begin. Sweet: no line for the bathroom!
One of the race organizers asked if we had time to stick around and clip chips - they did not have enough people show up to help. I've clipped chips before, and it's a fun job. You get a folding chair in the shade, a milk crate for runners to put their foot on, a pair of clippers, and a bucket to put the chips in. The fun part is that you get to watch every single runner cross the finish line. We saw the winner, who blazed through, then immediately got bottles of water for the guys who finished second and third. We saw fights to the finish, groups of friends running together, and a guy pushing a jogging stroller with two pretty big kids in it. And we saw the very last finisher, an overweight teenage girl who clearly worked her butt off out there, looked tired and hot, and still picked up the pace coming to the finish line. I congratulated her on her strong finish and she said that she had just run her first 5K. I am happy that I played a small part in that experience.
Three hours of volunteering flew by in no time. I was finished by 9:30, and I racked up some good running karma. Great way to start the day!