Yesterday, I volunteered at one of the water stations at the 37th annual Broad Street Run. Little did I know that the day was going to be much more than a volunteer shift of helping runners stay hydrated while trying my best to keep from getting completely soaked from head to toe.
I knew very well what the weather forecast was going to be, and hoped for the best because I was committed to following through to for what I signed up for. I’ve never attended a major race as a spectator, so I figured that helping out at the last water station would be my best bet for overcoming any kind of awkwardness from being there and not running.
The reactions that I got from telling people that I was going to be at the Broad Street Run working the last water station were…mixed. That didn’t even bother me because I am used to getting a mixed bag of reactions for doing things that may be helpful to others (Yeah, doing something to benefit someone else – oh, the horror!).
I wouldn’t say that I was bothered or even felt out of place when I reported for duty at my designated post. It was more feeling out of place. There were so many groups of volunteers together, setting up as a team with their schools, jobs, and nonprofit groups. I’m no stranger to inserting myself into new and different situations so I figured that I’d just jump in somewhere since I wasn’t completely sure how I could help out since everyone else had team captains and were handing out assignments for event setup. There were SO many box trucks, and tables, and cartons of cups, and gallons of water!
Just by being myself and chatting with fellow race day volunteers, I found myself working closely with a group and stayed with them the rest of the day. I loved how I was included and embraced by these people who now adopted me as their newest team member. We shared so many laughs and stories, it was like I knew everyone for… forever! Rain…? What rain? Yes, we were wet, but it didn’t even matter. We were there together. There were moments that I even forgot to check the tracking app for notifications to see where on the race course the group of runners I was cheering on was.
There’s so much beauty to be found in stories that are shaped by experience. That beauty was found again from the stories I collected while standing side-by-side with the very passionate people who take what they do very seriously. They take pride and ownership in participating in the race. It’s their race just as much as everyone who is there. I met one woman that’s been helping out at the Broad Street Run for 10 years. Another person shared their observations of how they’ve seen the race change and grow over the years. I absolutely loved getting to know the many people that take so much pride in being a part of the festivities. It was so moving to listen to them talk about the joy from being present at the same water station every year, rain or shine, while cheering on each and every runner.
If you are a runner, when was the last time you looked beyond the training and logging in all of the miles and took the time out to know more about the people that help to put on a successful race?
I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to be a race day volunteer again, but I do know this:
For the first time in my life as a runner, I actually felt like I belonged in a running community. I want to thank everyone that I spent the day with for leaving such a lasting impression on me.
Race day volunteers:
Every time that I run a race I know that I am not alone. From the starting line to the finish. You are there with me every step of the way.
I am grateful for the water, and the cheesy signs.
I appreciate how you show up on your own, showing support for those pounding the pavement as they race against their friends, team mates, goals, pain, heartbreak, or whatever else they are up against as they push through and endure every mile.
I acknowledge your dedication and support to those who may have no one waiting for them as they cross the finish line.
You are there because you want to be and and the love, admiration, and passion shows with every cheer, silly dance and smile that you give to each and every person that runs by you.
I love how you are there for everyone.