Every morning in Africa, an antelope wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest antelope, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or an antelope -- when the sun comes up, you'd better be running. -African proverb

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Giving Back

vol-un-teer  v.   to give on one's own initiative.

Think about all the races that you have run.  Now think about all the ones you have volunteered at.  How close is that number?  Not to worry -- mine's not close either.  But ... the ratio is improving at least!  I would much rather run a race, but I have found some significance to volunteering at them too.  Besides the obvious of feeling good about doing good, there are other benefits to volunteering. 

As a volunteer, I get a chance to see the winners (which doesn't happen often in a race unless it's an out and back).  I watch what they do hoping to pick up a few more tricks of the trade.  For instance, one of my weak spots is fueling during a race.  First of all, I probably don't fuel enough -- but that is a topic for a whole other post!  But, I also have a hard time fueling while running.  I have to slow down quite a bit at the aid stations, especially if I am going to try to drink something.  So, I thought I would volunteer at an aid station during a race.  That way I could watch what the winners and other super fast runners do.  They don't seem to slow down at all.  Just grab the cup, pinch and pour.  I also noticed that not all of it gets into their mouths.  :) 

Anyway -- the point is volunteering is a great learning experience.  You get a behind the scenes look at how things are done.  I started recommending this to friends who want to try something new, like a triathlon.  I suggested they go volunteer at one before competing so that they can see how everything works.  Another advantage is that sometimes race directors will give race credit in exchange for volunteer hours.  This is helpful on the wallet!

We all know that volunteers are a key component to a well-run (excuse the pun) race.  Like anything else, you'll have a deeper appreciation and better understanding of what goes into putting on a race once you have put yourself in their running shoes.  So, when you start scheduling your races for the year, don't forget to add a few to volunteer at as well!

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