March 24, 2015

Volunteering at Shamrock Half & Full Marathon

Volunteering at a local race has been high on my list for a while. The only absent factor was an opportunity. Considering the (literally) thousands of people who have donated their time on my race mornings to make MY races happen, I have always felt that supporting a race on the other side was important. When I did some research on Shamrock race volunteer opportunities a few weeks before the race, I was surprised to see that there were still openings for the coveted finish line positions. I inquired with Adam if he was interested and he was, so I signed both of us up for finish line duties during the half and full marathon races.

In advance of race day, we received great communication with clear instructions on what to expect on race morning and where to park. We were easily able to find the parking area at the Convention Center in Virginia Beach and within a few minutes, hopped on the shuttle to the finish line area. We were easily able to find the volunteer tent and pick up our shirts. Mine more closely resembled a t-shirt dress but I wasn't really concerned about fashion at this part of the morning. We snapped some early morning photos of King Neptune, presiding over the finish line and then it was time to find our volunteer coordinator at the finish line.
I never get tired of seeing the King



Such a quiet place about 90 minutes before the runners arrived! 
Once we arrived at the finish line area, we were excited to learn that we would help with medal handouts! The first step, however, was unwrapping and organizing all of the half marathon medals onto tables. Considering there were 14,000 runners (I think that was the number they mentioned), there were A LOT of medals. The cool temps made it tough to open the small plastic bags in which each medal was wrapped but we all seemed to find a rhythm eventually. Every time we were working on our "last box" for our table, another 2 or 3 boxes of medals seemed to materialize out of nowhere. It took us a good hour to finish opening and organizing the medals.
Medals for days! 
Once we were done, it was time to wait on the half marathon runners. And luckily we didn't wait long since we heard that when the front runners hit the boardwalk, they were on pace for a course record (which is 1:02-something). There were no course records on Sunday, but the winner clocked a 1:03.40! Wowzers, that's fast! AND he won the 8k on the previous day. Speedy!

At first, the runners came through slowly and then all of a sudden (probably somewhere around 1:50 pace or so) it was as if flood gates opened. I handed out medals as fast as I could grab them off my arm, where we all had them staged. I tried to make a note to congratulate each runner by name, if it was on their bib. Now I understand why many races don't place medals around your neck...it takes a lot longer than simply handing out the medals.

Throughout the morning, I saw local friends, coworkers, blog friends, and Twitter friends. The finish line is simply an amazing place to see people. For the most part, we saw smiles, hugs, cheers, and high fives. We also saw wobbly legs and a few tears (and not the good kind of tears). I loved sharing hugs with buddies and squealing over new PRs. I'm so proud of everyone I saw - Preston, Kathryn, Mar, Sarah, Becca, and many others.



The volunteer experience was easily as rewarding as running and I appreciate the organization and great communications from J&A about the event. We even received a post-event follow-up email today asking for feedback for future races, and not just for volunteering. That impressed me! Ever volunteered at a race? What was the highlight?
{Christine}

I can't write this post without mentioning a really sad piece of news from Sunday morning. As we were sitting on the shuttle headed to the race finish line area, Adam received a call that his beloved aunt who had been battling stomach cancer passed away. He was a real trooper to stick out the morning and keep his commitment to volunteer at the finish line area. Aunt Cathy loved to volunteer and he felt it was an appropriate way to honor her memory on Sunday morning. 

31 comments:

  1. My condolences to Adam and his family on the loss of his aunt. What a great way to honor her Sunday morning at the race. I'm sure she's looking down on him, proud of her nephew for not backing out last minute.

    Thank you to both you and Adam for volunteering. Much of what you said is how I felt while volunteering at both the Army Ten Miler in 2013 and the Marine Corps Marathon last year. Its amazing to see the flood gates of runners open up so suddenly after watching the elites come through. Its so fun and rewarding to be on the other side of the race and to experience a race from a different perspective. I was initially sad that I couldn't find you on Sunday, but I'm so glad that I texted Preston, found out your exact location, and was able to find you.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Kathryn. Yes, I was SO happy to see you! Hopefully we'll see each other at some other races this spring, but if not, definitely at RnR VA Beach. Congrats again on an incredible PR!

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  2. Thank you and Adam for volunteering, I am sorry to hear about the loss of Adam's aunt. I would love to volunteer at the finish line one day - it must have brought so much joy to see how happy people were for so many different reasons (PRs, BQs, first run post injury, redemption runs, first time 13.1 or 26.2). There will be many more J&A races in my future, I am sure I will see you then! Thank you for the nice twitter messages.

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    1. It really was a great experience! My only other volunteering experience was at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and it was awful. The woman who was our coordinator yelled at us and was really rude. This was much better! Congrats on a great race weeekend!

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  3. Volunteering at races can be just as fun as running them sometimes. We volunteered at Disney half one yr and we were lucky enough to be at the finish line handing out the medals. So sorry to hear about Adam's Aunt. -L

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    1. I was so excited to do medals - definitely a highlight! Thanks for your kind words, Lacey.

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  4. So sorry to hear about Adam's aunt. It was definitely a bright spot to see you at the finish! Thank YOU so much for volunteering!!!! I've volunteered a couple times but need to do it more!

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    1. I'm so glad I spotted you and finally got to meet you and give you a celebratory hug! :) It was a very rewarding morning for sure.

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  5. My condolences to Adam and his family. But what an amazing way to honor his aunt! Volunteering can be just as much fun as racing!

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    1. Thanks, Mindy. I agree...I told him multiple times to head home if he needed to but he was a real trooper.

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  6. I'm sorry to hear about Adam's aunt. The volunteer experience does sound like a great way to honor her. I volunteered at the finish line water stop of the Nike Women's Half last year and it was a really rewarding experience to see everyone come through there. I volunteered at a local 5k this past weekend and hoping to volunteer at at least 1 more race this year.

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    1. I bet being at the Nike race was neat. Big races just have a different atmosphere. I loved being at a local race since I saw so many familiar faces. Definitely a great way to be a part of a race without running it!

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  7. Christine! Thanks so much for volunteering, and for the shout-out -- it warmed my lil heart to see your smiling face at the finish line after what was a rather mentally tough, solo race for me.
    So sorry to hear about Adam's aunt's passing.

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    1. I wish we had gotten to chat more and I'm SO happy that you found me at the finish line! I'm so excited for you - a new PR is always worthy of a celebration! Hope you are enjoying some post-race celebrations! :)

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  8. Thinking of your family! That is awesome that you all ended up honoring her the way that you did. I am volunteering for a local race in a few weeks and I can't wait!!

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    1. I really enjoyed it. Plus it was nice to see so many familiar faces - definitely was a special day!

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  9. Sending love and condolences to Adam and your family. <3

    I loved reading about your volunteer experience! So much work goes into races from all angles and it's great to be able to experience it from all sides. I hear you about it taking longer to place the medal around someone's neck. When I volunteered at the Philly marathon there were some runner who requested that I put it around their neck (which I loved doing) while others just wanted in handed to them. Such an incredible amount of emotions at the finish line - it's awesome to be a part of it. :)

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    1. Thank you Meridith! I had a few folks ask for the medal to be placed around their neck as well and I definitely didn't mind. I kinda felt bad that we couldn't do that for everyone. I did learn one trick though...when you're in the finish line chute, go to the people handing out medals at the back. They won't have as many runners coming their way and can give you more attention! :)

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  10. I ran that half marathon and I had to make the person put the dolphin medal around my neck because my hands were so full of stuff. I also like when volunteers put it around my neck, makes me feel like an Olympian. :)
    @heatherlas

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    1. I have definitely asked volunteers for help holding things. I wish more races gave a small bag of some sort...and they should give these out at the beginning of the chute rather than the end! :)

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  11. Sending condolences to Adam, his family and yours!!

    I have never volunteered at a big race but i think I would enjoy it. I am debating if I want to volunteer next year during the Olympic trials in LA since I don't know when I would get the chance again!

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    1. Thanks, Juliana! I would love to have the chance to volunteer at a major race like the Olympic Trials. I'm sure that would be a really neat experience. I say do it!

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  12. Those medals look fabulous!!

    I volunteered for a local charity run a few years back, it was very rewarding and its lovely to see all the finishers and experience their jubilation!! My husband and I are running our first ever 5k in May having only started running this year - I can't wait to get my first piece of bling!

    We are also running the wine and dine half at disneyworld in November - reading your blog has given us some really helpful tips about training and what to expect with disney races, so thank you so much! I can't wait!!

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  13. awesome! volunteering is SO fun and i love it. i'm sorry to hear about adam's aunt but glad you two were able to experience volunteering together! :)

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  14. You know I have never volunteered for a race, I know that sounds terrible. But one of these days I need to, sounds like such a rewarding experience!

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  15. I've volunteered at a mud run before and it was a pretty awesome experience! I loved being able to help others over the obstacle I volunteered at just like volunteers have helped me in the past. It does feel like a great way to give back to the community.

    My condolences to your family on your loss.

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  16. So sorry about Adam's aunt. My condolences to both of you!! I love volunteering. I've only done water stations, but I think I would LOVE handing out medals! So fun!!

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  17. The volunteers absolutely make the race experience! I ran the full on Sunday and every single volunteer from start to finish was amazing. Thanks for being out there!

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  18. What a fun opportunity! I think it's neat you were able to give out medals at the finish line! :) So sorry to hear about Adam's aunt. I'll keep his family in my thoughts and prayers!

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  19. That had to be the best job ever! I really need to volunteer at a race to pay back all the support I've been given by volunteers through the years. Sorry to hear about Adam's aunt; I'm glad he could find a special way to honor her memory!

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  20. Christine, I am so sorry to hear about Adam's aunt. It was so great to know you'd be at the finish line- I loved seeing you and getting my medal from you made it extra special! Thanks for volunteering!

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