April 28, 2014

Volunteering at Cherry Blossom 10 miler

I fully intended to get this info posted earlier, but that clearly didn't happen!  Cherry Blossom is one of those races that everyone talks about.  It's a bucket list race for most.  After seeing that so many of my running buddies were heading to DC for the race, I started thinking about volunteering.  Once I confirmed that my friends were willing to house Paddy and I, I went back to the volunteer sign-up online to pick my position.  Since it was last minute, there weren't great selections.  I settled on an awards ceremony position with a 6:30-11:00 time.  

On Sunday morning, I woke up bright and early to head out.  It was much cooler than I anticipated so I borrowed a pair of tights from my friend Jamie and layered up.  Before I added my volunteer shirt that I would receive upon arrival, I had on 3 layers.  The early Sunday morning wasn't so bad since my friend James was headed to the airport and he dropped me off at the Roslyn metro on his way.  The metro was totally deserted which was a little unnerving but soon enough, I was headed in town with no issues.  I got off the metro at Smithsonian and had a magnificent sight!
Metro selfie - duh!
Good morning, DC
I headed to the race area to figure out where to check in as a volunteer.  I kept re-reading the instructions but it wasn't easy to find the right tent.  I stopped in at a few other volunteer stations to check where I was supposed to be and eventually found it.  And along the way, I got a nice view of the start and finish line.

I found the stage and my volunteer coordinator.  Immediately, I was a little surprised by the interaction because the coordinator seemed annoyed with all of us.  There were a few other volunteers there and we were asked to start hanging signs on the stage, which seemed simple enough.  Apparently that was a wrong assumption because we had to redo the sign placement a few times so the coordinator was satisfied.  Mind you, they didn't have any supplies to hang the signs so we had to hunt those down.  Luckily in the midst of all this, I got to see a few buddies.  And in typical style for DC pre-race, Danielle was clothed in a trash bag.  She sure is classy! 

Once we hung the signs, we were supposed to be "security" for the stage to make sure no one stole any of the awards.  Note that the awards weren't even out - they were in a box under a table on the stage.  From about 7 until 10, we had nothing to do.  Seriously.  We just milled around the stage and chatted with each other.  Luckily there was a huge screen that was live streaming the finish so we got to watch the elites finish.  But otherwise, it was really boring.
My view for the morning!
Around 9:00 or so, I started seeing friends that finished the race which was fun!  I got to see Danielle with Dan and Pat, and Cyanne and her friend, and I finally met Becca and Kathryn.  I also got to formally introduce myself to Kathryn's husband, Preston.  Funny story - when Mom and I finished the WDW marathon, we asked someone to take our photo in Race Retreat.  It turned out to be Preston!  I put two and two together after Kathryn commented that she thought he was the one who snapped the photo.  It's a small (runDisney) world.   
Me, Cyanne and Kathryn
After I saw all of my buddies, my volunteer gig was getting underway!  At long last, they were giving away raffle prizes and the race awards.  Seeing all of the elites was really cool.  The Kenyan ambassador was there and was clearly very proud of her athletes.  Sara Hall, aka Ryan Hall's wife, was also there and represented the U.S. women well!
Top 10 Elite Women - Sarah Hall is 4th from left
Top 10 Elite Men
Overall, I'm glad I volunteered.  I was more than happy to donate a few hours to helping the race run seamlessly.  I found it frustrating that there wasn't much for us to do and our coordinator wasn't terribly nice to us.  And after hearing friends say the overall race experience wasn't that great, I'm questioning if I'll even use my guaranteed entry next year.  I know that if I do, I won't have expectations for a PR since it appears to be a crowded race.  

Did you run Cherry Blossom this year?  How was your experience?


  1. Volunteering is always a fun experience! I'm sorry the coordinator wasn't very nice though. So cool you got to see the elites!

  2. I always love how small the world really is, and I'm so glad that we finally got to meet in person at Cherry Blossom. I wish that the experience were better for all involved - volunteers, runners, and even spectators. As you said, its a race on so many people's bucket lists, partly due to the extremely flat course. I really hope that CUCB will make some changes in the future, but I fear that with its popularity and how long its been running for that changes are very unlikely.

  3. Ah yes, my pre-race "Hefty Chic" look!

    This race was on my bucket list mostly because I love running in DC! I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't have any desire to do it again unless some changes were made to space out the runners a bit more...it was crowded and not particularly enjoyable - but I still had a great weekend and DC and got to see lots of friends, so totally worth it!

  4. This is the second post I've read about volunteering for a race where the coordinators were difficult. I read another one about a Disney race where the coordinators yelled at the volunteers for something or other. I get that there's a lot happening. There are many questions all at once and I'd guess the volunteer coordinators may even be getting conflicting directions from THEIR higher-ups. There are some people who just don't handle high-stress situations well. They probably shouldn't be in charge of other people.

  5. Sorry to hear that your volunteering was not what you had expected. But I'm sure you had a great view at the finish line of the race! And how cool that you saw all the elites! I would still use your free entry next year, it's free so what do you have to lose. That was a nice thing for them to offer the volunteers.

  6. In the future, if I'm volunteering for a DC race, I'll stick to the ones organized by Pacers. They've spoiled me and the treat their volunteers really, really well by offering things like race credits and complimentary "thank you" happy hours. They're a pleasure to work with which is not at all what Cherry Blossom was like.

  7. Sorry your volunteering experience wasn't what you expected, but looks like you still had a good time anyways. Super cool you were able to see all the elite runners.

  8. I am sorry your experience wasn't great... I am rather surprised to hear that the race coordinator was rude to people who were donating their time to help. I am glad to hear, though, that overall it was a good time! I've heard great things about this race!

  9. I love DC and would love to run a race there! I'm sorry your volunteering situation wasn't the greatest, but it sounds like you had fun with your friends!

  10. I had the same problem with the last race I volunteered for, felt like I was just standing around.