Thursday, February 4, 2010

Volunteer Tips

Tonight I volunteered at New York Road Runners to assist in number pickup for the NYRR race on Sunday. NYRR makes everyone volunteer once a year in order to qualify for automatic entry into New York marathon (if you also run 9 qualifying races). I am unclear why they imposed this requirement ( I can be cynical and think it is to reduce costs or altruistic and make runners have a better understanding of the process and logistics.) But tonight was my once a year (and it sure beat last year -- clapping in the cold in November for 6 hours beginning at 5:30 a.m.

At any rate, now that I have been on the other side of the table, I offer some tips I learned tonight.

1. Speak your name SLOWLY. I am in my 40s, but still able to process people's names. But I am not writing them down. And I really don't remember anything beyond the first two letters -- at first. So, say your name, and repeat it SLOWLY. Please be patient. This is not rocket surgery, but on the other hand, I have never met you, have no idea what your name is and really, it is kinda confusing when you tell me your last name is Zihuatanejo and start Z-I-H-U. . . So, please, slowly.

2. Speak loudly. It is crowded. In a crowed room, with other people picking up numbers next to you. So please speak so I can hear.

3. Smile, please. I am volunteering, as a service to you, and I enjoy the company of my fellow runners. It makes my time go quicker to smile and be smiled at. So, I know you are in a hurry, but remember, this is all about fun.

I worked for about three hours, and am pleased to say that I did not meet a single rude person. By far and away the vast majority of people were friendly, patient and understanding, (even if they spoke too fast).

Now that I have written these things, it occurs to me that they apply about the way I interact with a lot of people in a lot of jobs and roles. So, I'll be more patient and friendlier.

And have a great race! (That was our improvised send off to everyone as they walked away.)


  1. Good morning NY Wolf,
    Great points to share, I liked # 1:) I am happy to hear that everyone was on their best behavior. I think it would be kind of fun to volunteer for a race or two. God bless the volunteers:) Now if we can just get your name to be drawn for the NYC marathon!! Have a great weekend NY Wolf:)

  2. In the old days, I volunteered for most NYRRC (as it was then known) races I didn't run and would spend all of Marathon week-end working.

    Best job was 1982. Was given a car before dawn and drove to Brooklyn with some people to put up mile markers from like Mile 11 to the start. My race job was at the finish line so after the start I drove with several other cars in a police escort to the start, which was muy cool.

    Then I was the head linesman for the women's finish. In those days, the race had three finish lines each with four chutes. The finishers had to be kept in order, with their numbers being taken at the end of the chutes. The head linesman's job was to decide when to move the rope from one side to the other, which changed the chute. So I stood on one side of the finish line and then periodically as the chute filled would dart across to the other side, rope in hand.

    One thing about that was that all of the finish-line volunteers had to stay beyond the photography scaffolding while the first runners came in, to ensure we were out of the TV shot. Then when we were released it was controlled chaos for the next many hours. (It was not like the NCAA XC, where people are assigned to drag collapsed runners out of the way.)

    Worst job was the 1979 marathon. I was at the bottom of the ladder and was assigned to the baggage claim. City buses were assigned numbers for baggage, and I got 1-999. But there was neither rhyme nor reason to how the bags were placed on the bus, and making matters worse was that over half the runners used the race's bag, i.e., they all looked the same. It was hot. The buses arrived by the bandshell, near the volley-ball courts, and some of us went on board, opened the windows and threw the bags out. Then we were left to put them in some semblance of order, but because we had low numbers we didn't have a lot of time. It turned into quite a mess as we went searching for bags by searching for the little number tag, like a coat-check room with nothing but Burberry's. Good times.

    And, thanks for volunteering. I've done it a few times recently in local races and enjoy it.

  3. I picked up my number last nite! What time were you there...maybe you were the one who gave me my race # and didn't even know it :)

    Thanks for volunteering!! I volunteered twice for races last year (paceleader at More Marathon and water stop at NYC Half) and actually enjoyed it...whoda thunk that it would be easier to get in my "plus 1" than my 9 races? (didnt get in my 9 last year)

  4. BTW, you forgot to tell us. What's the appropriate tip for a volunteer?


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