Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kidney Day Run: The Volunteer

As a runner taking part in races, we almost never notice the details, small or big that makes a race what it is. We get to the race start location, meet up with friends, chit chat, wait for the gun to go off and then get down to simply running.

We pass directional signage pointing us in the right direction, race marshal's on hand to guide us, water stations to quench our thirst and hydrate us, medical teams on standby for any emergency but oftentimes we hardly notice and take them for granted. At least I do anyway.

Most times I would just run a race, not care about anything else around me, expecting that things are supposed to be there for me and get annoyed when it isn't. Today my entire perspective of that changed considerably.

While my work sees me being involved in running events quite a bit with printing of race bibs, race day banners, buntings, entry forms, certificates and even setting up start/finish arches and even though I enjoy doing anything that involves running, that's all just part of what I do for a living. It's just the business aspect of my life.

Today was my first foray at being a volunteer for a race event. I wanted to experience what it was like to be on the other side of the fence for a change. To give back to running in any small way I could for what it has given to me. I had the opportunity to do just that at this morning's Kidney day run and I must say that it was quite an experience.

I decided this year that I wouldn't be running as much events as I did last year to concentrate more on training. To take up the slack of not running races, I thought it would be a good idea to be a volunteer for races. At least that way I could still be a part of the race even though I was not running it.

Since I'm currently in full training mode for my marathon in two months time and didn't want to miss my usual weekend LSD session, I decided to do my run before my volunteering duties started cos I know if I kept it for the evening after the event, the session wouldn't have been done due to laziness.

As luck would have it, the Sabun's night LSD group was having their monthly night session right at the race start location, I thought it would be a great idea to join them and do my LSD with them so I wouldn't be running alone. At least that's what I thought anyway. I got there around 1.30am and most of them were already done with their session and the few that weren't done were somewhere out there on the roads running. Looks like it was going to be a lonely LSD session after all.

Once I was done with the run, chit-chatted with Ray and the remnants of the group before excusing myself to go look for somewhere to shower, or at least wash up. I wasn't going to report in for my first volunteer duties smelling like, as Jamie would put it, a wet mongoose. I was told by Ray that the toilets in the buildings across the road may have some sort of tap. Well, let's just say it was my first time trying to 'shower' in a toilet cubicle squatting down with a short hose attached to the tap! But it did get the job done.

Feeling fresher, I reported in at 4am and was given a briefing and then told that I would be the water station 'Captain' for the first station. Here I am, a rookie and you're putting me in charge of a water station? Damn, I could do with less pressure! We all know how whiny runners can be when they don't have their water all ready for them. No choice, in for a penny, in for a pound they say.

Was dropped off somewhere near the 2.5km mark along with my 'equipment' at around 5am to wait for my team of six to help me set up the station. I got bored of waiting all alone for them to arrive and got down to setting up all the tables, dumping the bottles of water in ice and arranging all the cups myself. By 6.30am I was done and my team still hadn't arrived yet.

My quiet and lonely station after being dropped off at 5.00am ...
They were finally dropped off around 6.45am. After introductions and a short briefing, my first instruction to them was to stop calling me 'Mister' Nick! I seriously dislike being addressed to as 'Mister'. Not that it worked cos they kept calling me Mister Nick the entire time ... siggghhh ...

We got down to filling the cups around 7am and drawing from my experience as a runner and what I would like to see greet me when I arrive at any water station, I gave them firm instructions to fill every cup on the table with ice chilled water and to make sure none of the cups were empty. If possible, give the cups personally to the runners so they won't have to stop just to find water. I was petty in that way. My entire plan was to provide as much chilled water as I possibly could and to make sure there was free flowing water available at all times.

While we did the best we could, once the first wave of elite runners were through and the mid pack started coming in droves, things got hectic. Trying to replenish the cups and water was a stretch but I must say that the six girls did a great job! Kudos to them for keeping their cool and getting the water out to the runners as fast as they could. In fact, they were actually personally handing out water to as much runners as they could while still trying to replenish new cups of water.

The flying Frenchman was the first to pass my station ...
My only regret was not being able to provide ice chilled water the entire time as we only had two small containers to put ice into and it could hardly accommodate enough bottles to be chilled in time. My apologies to the runners who just got tepid plain water cos with the sun ablaze, I'm sure you all would have just loved for the water to have been chilled and also to those who patiently waited for water to be filled in cups for them when we were swamped at times.

Overall, I must say that it wasn't easy. I have renewed respect for the folks who run water stations and tirelessly try to keep up with the increasing number of parched runners coming in at the same time demanding water. These volunteers do the best they can to keep things smooth but sometimes even their best can't keep up yet they don't give up trying to put out cups after cups of water.

Personally handing water out to runners ...
After a small hiccup waiting for transportation to take me back to the event venue, I finally headed home around 11.00am to much needed sleep.

Now that I've seen things from both sides of the fence and speaking from the standpoint of a runner, my respect for the tireless and oftentimes thankless effort you guys put behind the scenes to give a runner a pleasurable running experience is greatly renewed. Speaking from the standpoint of a volunteer, I would take great pains to make sure a runner has as much a pleasurable experience as I can possible give them cos it takes both the runners themselves and the volunteers to make a run a successful one!

Would I volunteer again? Sure but maybe this time I won't be silly enough to do an LSD before the event!

14 comments:

  1. *snigger*
    Mister Nick sounds like a brand name, btw! :D

    anyway, volunteering for races is our way of giving back. i'm sure your work is appreciated! :)

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    1. Hahaha ... I wonder what brand you're referring to!

      I think I'll just stick to running from now on, so much less stressful!

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  2. Mister Nick,
    Thank you to you and your team for a job well done, especially serving cold water instead of tepid ones.

    Can't help pitying the volunteers who had to stand for hours under the blazing sun. At least we runners still can find a patch of shades here & there on the route.

    Any visible tan lines? :-D

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    1. Yeah, I was roasting under the sun and the last runner to finally pass my station was somewhere round 8.20-8.30am!

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  3. Its tough to run the first and the last water stations. The first one, you will got the overwhelming crowds at once; and the last one, you will need to work extremely long hours :P

    Good job!

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    1. True, after the 'elites' came through, I was bracing for the next wave. Good thing my 6 helpers were up to the mark and were pretty efficient too :D

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  4. Good job Nick! KY

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  5. good job mister nick.

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  6. Good job Captain Skechers, thanks for joining the LSD. See you next month :)

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    1. I enjoyed the LSD though most of you guys were almost done. Next session I'll come much earlier :D

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  7. it's different isn't it when we are on the other side of the fence? But good to gain a perspective nonetheless.

    Good job Nick! :)

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    1. It is Francis, it really is! But I was happy to give something back.

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