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Race Day Volunteer

by Meghann on February 24, 2013

CONGRATS to all the Gasparilla Half Marathon and 8k finishers!!!!


I was on the other side of the fence this morning as a race day volunteer.


Gasparilla is a Tampa legacy and it’s one that I’m proud to have been a part of for the last four years. In 2009 I ran the Bud Light Challenge (5k, 15k, and Half marathon) with Caitlin, in 2010 I ran the Michelobe Ultra Challenge (5k, 15k, and full marathon <- the last year they did the full!), and last year I ran the half marathon with my sister (I skipped 2011 since it was the same weekend as Disney’s Princess Half). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run any of this weekend’s races (they have a 5k and 15k on Saturday and half marathon and 8k on Sunday) due to budgetary reasons, so I registered to volunteer instead.

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I love volunteering for races. If you’re ever in a running slump, sign up and volunteer for a race – there’s nothing more motivating or inspiring than seeing so many thousands of runners of different shapes and sizes cross that finish line. Today I saw runners’ eyes well up with tears of joy after reaching a new PR or crossing a finish line for the first time, I saw ladies older than my grandmother finish a half marathon with smiles that I hope will never fade, and I saw groups of friends just having fun out there. They were all inspiring and have me pumped for my next race.

I was on site just as the half marathoners were starting at 6:00am this morning (yes, races started EARLY in Florida!). I parked about a mile from the start line and was already sweating after my mile jog to the start. The sun wasn’t even up yet and the heat and humidity were already borderline unbearable. Part of me was thankful I was volunteering and not running this morning, those weren’t pretty conditions.

I found the volunteer coordinator, was handed a bright yellow shirt, and directed to my water station.


As luck would have it, my friend Chris had signed up to volunteer at the same water station. He was my water buddy for the day.


Once runners started crossing the finish line, our job was to hand them bottles of water. Easy enough.


Before the first finisher came through, I snuck a peek at this year’s finisher medal.


Gasparilla seriously has the best medals. I may have been a teensy bit jealous I wouldn’t be going home with one of these bad boys today.


At around 1:09 (a new course record!!) the first finisher came through. After that it was a slow trickle until around 2:00 hrs, when there seemed to be a huge rush of runners from 2:00 – 2:30 and a steady flow after that. It was insane, but in a good way. I loved the rush of seeing so many happy (and some not-so-happy) finishers. Every time I handed a person a water bottle, I made sure to say “Congrats!” They ran a half marathon! They should be proud!


I also had the pleasure of giving water to some of my racing friends.


CONGRATS on the new PR, Mary!!!

I love how small the running community is sometimes, I saw so many familiar faces out there today. I also met some new ones. A big HELLO to all of the Meals and Miles readers who said “hi!” at the finish line!


At 9:00, the 8k started. This is a new race that they started lasted year and has really grown in popularity. The 8k rush was even crazier than the half marathon rush, it felt like everyone was finishing at the same time. A lot of the 8k runners were challenge runners (meaning they’d run multiple races this weekend), so they all seemed extra happy to be done.

I saw another familiar face in the 8k crowd.


Steph killed it, but would you really expect anything less? Wy to go, Steph!

Chris and I stayed until the final runner crossed the finish line (to the biggest round of applause by all the volunteers), then headed to Mary and Marcus’ for a post-Gasparilla brunch they put on.


I know I didn’t actually run this morning, but my body sure felt like I had. My legs were exhausted from being on my feet all morning and my stomach was grumbling as if I hadn’t had food in days (I did eat a big bowl of oatmeal before starting my shift). I happily loaded up my plate, then went back for more eggs and bacon.


Everything was delicious and exactly what I was craving.

After brunch, I headed home and promptly crashed. It was a great inspiring morning and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to volunteer again.

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

1 TorontoRunner February 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Those medals look fab!!
how great you got to see your running friends accomplish their goals too!

It is my thing this year to find a race around me that I can volunteer at. I think the experience and atmosphere would be sooo incredible. I love, love, love seeing all the volunteers when you’re IN the race, so I want to be on that side of things too!
TorontoRunner recently posted..THE RUN OF MY LIFE!!! *15 treadmill miles!!!*

2 Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes February 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm

This summer, I volunteered at a local 70.3. It was so motivating, humbling, and inspirational to see triathletes of all ages, shapes, and sizes cross the finish line. After volunteering at the race, I decided a half-Ironman will happen one day! πŸ™‚
Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes recently posted..Write It Down, Do It Up – Week of Feb. 24

3 Meghann February 25, 2013 at 9:53 am

That’s how I ended up signing up for my first marathon – I volunteered for the Disney marathon and was so inspired I registered for my first marathon a week later.

4 Samantha February 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm

I agree, volunteering is a great motivator and a great way to serve the active community!

It’s funny to me you think 6am is early for a race! On Guam races start between 2:30 and 4:00 am due to the heat!

5 Heather @ February 25, 2013 at 5:24 am

Holly Cow that’s early! I thought our FL 6AM starts were killer!

6 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More February 24, 2013 at 7:29 pm

I really should volunteer at a race sometime – i never have but having run a few races, I sure appreciate ever volunteer! And I can imagine you can still benefit a bit of their post-race-excitement!
Katie @ Talk Less, Say More recently posted..Sunday Confessions #2

7 Meghann February 25, 2013 at 9:51 am

Yes, you feed off of everyone’s post-race high and the adrenaline rush is amazing.

8 Mrs. Swan February 24, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I actually have. πŸ™‚ I volunteered a few years ago at the Florida Challenge. It is one of those if you bring a volunteer you get a free admission. My hubby ended up being a DNF as he isn’t big on trail runs. I LOVED it though! I have a big mouth so it was easy to yell out “Water on right, HEED on left” My mom lives like 10 miles away so we stayed there the night before and she watched our boys during. Everyone was soooooo nice! Each person I handed a water to said “thank you”. I kept trying to tell them to save their energy I didn’t need a thank you.

(Anyone that ran it in 2010 I was at the first water station) LOL

I really need to look into volunteering again, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for the reminder!
Mrs. Swan recently posted..My first 5k-I did it!!!!

9 abbi February 24, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Wonderful day! I love volunteering for races! I’ve helped at several local races. It would be fun to volunteer at a larger race some day. I agree they are great sources of inspiration though – from the lead pack to the back!
abbi recently posted..This is a Running Blog

10 Diana February 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I ran the 8k this morning! I’m a Florida girl but that heat and humidity was awful! I’m glad I finished and didn’t melt away πŸ˜‰

11 Meghann February 25, 2013 at 9:50 am

Congrats on doing the 8k! I’m a Florida girl too, and that weather would have killed me – way to rock it!

12 Meredith @ The Coupon Bride February 24, 2013 at 10:40 pm

I’ve haven’t volunteered for one yet – just recently joined NY Road Runners. But my fiancΓ© volunteered for one and said it was a blast. He also came home with an enormous bag of leftover bagels that didn’t get distributed for runners. We froze them and ate them for months!
Meredith @ The Coupon Bride recently posted..DIY Diaries: Hardcover book table numbers

13 Kristen February 25, 2013 at 5:11 am

Way to give back! This is something I’ve always wanted to do and haven’t gotten around to yet. I’m thinking this is going to be the perfect year to volunteer at an event and like you said, a great motivator.
Kristen recently posted..Now and Then

14 Heather @ February 25, 2013 at 5:27 am

I’ve run a ton of races, but never volunteered. Looks like I know what’s next on my to do list! Even though I didn’t run in Gasparilla, I’d like to thank you for supporting the runners! I know how important it is to have awesome volunteers after a race πŸ™‚
Heather @ recently posted..GASPARILLA 1/2 Marathon

15 Alicia at Poise in Parma February 25, 2013 at 7:50 am

I gave out medals at the finish line of the Cleveland Marathon in 2011. I had a ball!!! So worth the early wake up time to give out medals to my friends that finished that morning.

16 Sara @ Fitcupcaker February 25, 2013 at 8:17 am

I’ve never even thought about volunteering at a race but now I want to!
Sara @ Fitcupcaker recently posted..True Protein Freak

17 Heather @fitncookies February 25, 2013 at 10:05 am

That was so nice of you to volunteer your time! Standing for that long definitely hurts the legs, but Iam glad you got some yummy foot in you after! I would love to volunteer for a race. I love cheering runners on!
Heather @fitncookies recently posted..MIMM #4 (And a New Craft!)

18 Barry Wright, III February 25, 2013 at 12:35 pm

What a great idea – we’ll definitely have to volunteer at something this year!
Barry Wright, III recently posted..Control Therapy

19 Sonia the Mexigarian February 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Without the volunteers out there on the race courses, it’d be a hot mess. I greatly appreciate all of them as they work hard to make sure everyone gets something to drink or shout words of encouragement as we trudge on by. I especially love when the kids out there reach out for high fives or are the ones handing out the medals at the end. So cute. My grandparents in laws volunteered quite a bit for races after he retired from run races. We still walk the Big Sur together.
Sonia the Mexigarian recently posted..Peace, Scream, Recycle. . .

20 Angela February 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Wow! Such a great time, I want to volunteer!
Angela recently posted..Sunday Inspiration

21 BroccoliHut February 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I volunteered for a marathon on Valentine’s Day during high school. I was assigned the task of handing out Vaseline on popsicle sticks (for chafing). It was not exactly the task I had hoped for, but it was still fun to motivate the runners!

22 Laura @ Mommy Run Fast February 26, 2013 at 7:11 am

This is a great reminder… I keep saying I want to volunteer, but need to make it happen. What’s more inspiring than runners on race day?!

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