Sunday, March 3, 2013

Volunteering - Hooters to Hooters

I've never experienced a race that moved me to tears at the finish line. Even the races that left me completely elated - or completely devastated - haven't really gotten the waterworks going. But something about volunteering chokes me up. Watching people struggle and overcome in a way I myself have before is profoundly awesome.

Standing in 43-degrees - luckily the rain had stopped by the time the race began - ringing a cowbell and telling runner after runner, "You look great!", "Looking strong!", "Keep it up!", "Great job!", I had to compose myself multiple times.

Just before the runners showed up, clutching my cowbell to keep me warm. If you look closely, you can see my ear muffs.
There is something truly moving about watching runners of all calibers and abilities push themselves to the limit. From the moment we saw the first runner coming in, accompanied by a policeman on motorcycle, to the last runner keeping with the sweeps car, I was filled with joy and a warm feeling of solidarity that overcame the cold of the day.

Our friend SP nearing the end, still looking cheery!
The first half-dozen racers were men, and I cheered like crazy for the first woman to cross our mile. (M and I were at 5.5.) I saw runners in jerseys for groups I belong to; I saw children; I saw at least four friends that I had time to call out to; I saw old and young alike; people running together in matching outfits; runners of all shapes and sizes...Basically, I saw the runners I always see, racing by, smiles on their faces. Some thanked us. Some gave us high-fives. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.

Bagpiper playing in the runners at mile 12.8.
Because this was the Hooters Half, one of the women cheering near our mark was holding a sign of a torso, nipples covered in bandaids, that said SHOW US YOUR HOOTERS! Multiple people, despite the cold, really did flash us! Not surprisingly, most of those flashers were men. It was hilarious. We worked with a police officer to block traffic. My nifty orange vest made me feel all kinds of official.

By the end, I was so warmed up from hopping around and shouting that I barely felt the cold. Like the last time I volunteered at a race, I felt energized and excited to run. It was definitely worth the 5:30 wake-up.

Servers from Hooters handed out the medals. I love these track suits!
The bottom line here is that volunteering at a race is a worthwhile experience if you like to run races yourself. Races can't happen without volunteers. Seeing the other side of things helps you gain an appreciation for the work that goes into any race day, no matter how big or small the race. Plus, seeing all those runners tearing up the course serves up a good dose of personal motivation and inspiration.

Perhaps the best part of all this was that M, who had no interest in volunteering and wanted a chance to sleep in, got up and came with me. That's true support and love right there. I'm paying him back in waffles.



  1. I LOVE volunteering!! It's almost more fun than running (especially if they give the volunteers a tshirt! haha). I cheered/volunteered at a few DetermiNation events last year, and spent the rest of the day smiling. You can't be that positive and encouraging and not have a bunch of it rub off on you!! Thanks for the photos and the reminder!

    1. I told M afterward that I felt as accomplished as if I had run the race myself! It feels really good to know you made that mile a little easier for some people, coaxed a smile from them, got them laughing, whatever. I plan to keep volunteering, especially for the big races where they really need help. It's such a great experience!