Are you a runner? Do you run races? Have you ever volunteered for a race? If you answered yes to either or both of the first questions, and no to the third, get your butt to a race and volunteer! There are so many reasons to do it. It's tons of fun, it's rewarding, and it's a good way to give back to people that have volunteered for races you're in. Races take a lot of volunteers. If you've been taking advantage of all of those hours of volunteer work and haven't done it yourself, it's time.
This weekend I volunteered at Post Oak. The station I worked at had 5 people in the morning, and one more joined us after she finished her race. We were at the aid station around 8:30, and I think I left around 5 and was the first to leave. So at that aid station alone 6 people gave up a day of their lives to help runners. Did we have loads of fun while we did it? Of course. Still, we were part of a large group of people that made it possible for the runners to run that day. Lots of runners thanked us for being out there. I really felt like we should thank them because they made it possible for us to have so much fun. I get how they feel though. When I'm running a race, especially a really long one, I am so thankful for the volunteers that are out there as they're the reason I'm able to do it.
At ultras, most aid stations are staffed with other ultrarunners. If you're having some kind of issue there's a good chance someone there has had the same issue and they can help you. That can be invaluable. I was nauseous and cramping at a race once and the electrolyte tablets the aid station had were ones that make me sick. One of the volunteers went to his own car and got out his personal stash and gave me some. That was way above and beyond the call of duty. In a 100 mile race, volunteers will likely be there well over 24 hours, will prepare food in their own kitchens ahead of time, and will basically sacrifice an entire weekend to help you run. There's a chance that doing that meant that had to scratch another race off of their calendar because their time spent on running is limited and they just can't do it all. They might have sacrificed training miles for their own race. I've done both of those things. It's worth it though. Seeing runners persevere through pain, fatigue, cramps, vomiting, etc makes it all worth it. It's inspiring. You also learn so much. By volunteering at a couple of different 100 mile races, I learned a lot before my own. Even talking to crews can be very helpful. If they have crewed at a lot of races they know the issues that plague runners and they know how to fix them. Even if they have never ran a step in their life, a lot of crew members can tell you how to fix any problem that comes your way.
If you have time to run and time to do races, and time to do all of the other things in life you want to do, you also have time to volunteer. You have to make it. It's the right thing to do. Don't keep taking advantage of volunteers without doing some of it yourself. This is also not a one and done type of thing. Keep volunteering. I'm not saying you have to give up a weekend every month. Get out there one or two times a year though. Even if you go for a few hours, it'll help. The runners will appreciate you, the race directors will appreciate you and you'll have fun. You can't lose!