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Rule #1 of Race Directing

Posted Oct 17 2008 9:13pm

I co-direct a wonderful race in our community, and during the last few weeks I’ve been surgically attached to my legal pad and file folders full of planning materials.  More than the details of the race, I’ve come to appreciate the saints who volunteer to help in races and who execute race-day activities.  From my work with them, I’ve established one rule:

Rule #1 of Race Directing: Never ever get in the way of volunteers doing their jobs.

Examples of our tireless team of volunteers include:

  • Race_registration A moving van lines company owner who donates his truck and driving time to deliver tables, water, cups, and waste containers before the race and retrieve them after.
  • A single mother far busier than many of us who coordinates all the details of packet pick up, which also includes 11th-hour registrations.  If you know packet pick-up hoopla, then you can appreciate the hassles of confirming information, remaining polite and flexible with runners who change their minds about shirt size, collecting higher-fee registration payments, and answering the same questions to new and nervous runners, plus from those veterans who know better than to ask.
  • The retired CEO of our community’s biggest employer, a multi-millionaire who rolls up his sleeves to coordinate the behind-the-scenes warehouse work riding the truck and grunting with the rest of us unloading and loading the equipment.
  • The queen of organization who coordinates the donations and delivery of food and refreshments for the runners.  The only thing that exceeds her brilliance and meticulous notes is her ability to manage the relationships with those donors to keep giving generously year after year.  Today’s leaders, Wall Street deal makers, and politicians could lessons from her.  Her full time job—wouldn’t you know it—a kindergarten teacher!
  • Two men, buddies and next-door neighbors, who in the quiet of the night, spray-paint the mile markers and directional arrows on the street along the course.  Sure they love graffiti, but they’re not even runners.
  • The husband of my co-director who does all the computer, data base, and  logo graphics work for the brochure and shirts and signage.
  • A grade-school principal, who's known for greeting his students every morning outside of school and saying good bye to them in the pick-up line every day.   He can set up the finish line scaffold, PA system, banners, finish chutes, and sectioned-off runner finish area faster and tear it all down, accomplishing more  than most people can do in a weekend.

One detail all these volunteers have in common is runners won’t even see them on race day.  Their work is done out of site, quietly, and with minimal to no exposure to the runners themselves.  We also have legions of other volunteers who hand out water, direct the runners, take finish tags, and hand out medals.  But our invisible guardian angels give race volunteering a whole new meaning.

If heaven holds a place for runners, then I predict the race volunteers have a loftier, special section just for them.  Imagine all the brightly-colored race volunteer t-shirts they’ll be wearing.

Race registration on Flickr by Analog Chainsaw

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