Friday, March 25, 2011

Why I Won't Be Volunteering At The National Marathon This Year

For the past...oh...I don't know...4 years or so, Rebecca and I have been in some way involved in the National Marathon.  Either by running it or by volunteering, we both have enjoyed participating in this local race that has grown exponentially since its early days.  Well this year, that streak will end and let me tell you why.

Several months back, we had received an email sent out to previous volunteers notifying us that we could sign up.  After discussing with a few friends that we were going to add to our volunteer fun-dom, we went onto the site to sign up.  To our amazement, there were no spots to volunteer at aid stations.  Rebecca and I both thought, "Huh, that's strange, we've always volunteered at aid stations before", so we decided to investigate the glaring omission a bit further.

A quick email response through the POC listed on the site informed us that because we were not affiliated with a "group", we could not sign up for an aid station.  Say what????  This year, they were taking things in a very different direction, and one that leaves me frustrated and confused.  In order to establish better organization at each aid station, they have been assigned out to "groups" that signed up collectively to work them.  In principle, I understand the premise - To be more organized.  But here is where the National Marathon loses out big time from people like our "group".  We're not a large organization or a church group or enough people to staff a full aid station.  We are simply a group of people that enjoy playing an ACTIVE part in the race, but somehow we are now blocked from participating in the one area that makes people want to volunteer in.

To be truthful though, we were offered "alternative roles" (and I say this with air quotes).  We could:
A) Be a course marshal - the problem here is that they are only assigned as 2 people per station, so we wouldn't be together, thus negating the point of involving more friends
B) Work bag check - while it may not be an ideal role for me but something I'd do just to help out, my friends who wouldn't typically volunteer certainly would not find this kind of role something that would motivate them to get up at the a$$ crack of dawn to do
C) Work at the expo stuffing bag - this defeats the whole point of volunteering during the race
D) Work the SAG wagon - no offense, but this is also not a role most people who want to be actively involved in a race would be motivated to do    

So you may be asking, "How would I recommend a solution?"  Here's how and it's very simple.  Delegate these "groups" to be responsible for the leadership role of each aid station out on the course.  Open up a smaller number of spots for individuals like us to volunteer at the aid stations.  It is as simple as that.  And I have volunteered at other races that have employed this exact approach effectively.  Nobody gets left out and everybody has a fair chance to volunteer for a position they are interested in.

So in the end, we ultimately decided that because there was no possible way for us to be involved in the aid stations or in another active role together, we'd rather just do our own thing.  Hopefully in the future this gets corrected.

But don't worry, we'll still be out there.  I've got lots of runners who will be out there earning their racing stripes.  And I will be cheering them on and supporting them as best I can.


GeorgiaSnail said...

Have you thought about contacting one of the groups that has a station and volunteering through them?

Lesser is More said...

Unfortunately, there is no way to know what groups are part of it through the sign up process, nor was it offered as an option to us when we contacted the race.


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