I volunteered at Saturday's NYRR Spring Triathlon in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. I woke up at 4 (yes, 4 AM) and got myself ready to go. I had to bring the things I would need for my trip up to New Rochelle, and thinking logically that early in the morning is pretty difficult for me. I managed to get myself organized and into the car. I made it to Flushing with time to spare, only to get lost outside of the park. I drove around in circles, getting increasingly more frantic for close to forty minutes. It was miserable. I angrily shouted, "They should have effing volunteers directing traffic!" only to realize that I was said volunteer. Oops.
I finally figured out where I was supposed to park my car, and headed into the park. Since I was late, my friend T had already been assigned to a group, and I had to join the rest of the stragglers. I was put on Run Zone 1 duty. My partner Miguel and I took to our station and waited for the race to begin. We were lucky to be placed close to the bike route, and we soon realized that the bike volunteers needed our help. I directed the cyclists to turn left and stay to the right of the cones.
At about 7:45am, I headed back to my official post to direct the first runners. The run portion was 3 miles and I was stationed at about the half mile mark. I soon became bored with merely telling the runners to run this way and stay on their right, so I decided to cheer them on. It was brutally hot, and most of the athletes looked pretty tired after their half-mile swim and thirteen mile bike ride. I remembered the group of Boy Scouts who cheered for me during my ultramarathon. No matter how many times they saw me trekking along, they yelled out my bib number and told me I could do it. I decided to bring this enthusiasm to this race. And let's be honest, the fast triathloners didn't need much encouragement - they knew they could do it. It's the runners in the back, who are tired and thinking about giving up, who need to be cheered for. They know they're not going to win, and maybe they think their efforts don't matter, but they most certainly do. So I cheered, and I jumped, and I even ran about 100 feet with one guy. I complimented runners on their apparel - I especially liked the Tri Latino tri-suits - and their sneakers. I wanted them to know that finishing made them winners. They were so close to the finish line, I didn't want anyone to give up. Miguel and I stayed at our posts longer than required because we could see runners still coming towards us. We didn't want anyone to miss out even if they might not get an official time. I think our efforts paid off as a lot of competitors thanked us when we headed over to the finish to hand in our vests and lanyards.
I really enjoyed myself, almost more than when I'm competing. I definitely recommend volunteering because you get to help other athletes reach their goals.