Volunteering the F^3 Lake Half

I’ve had several moments over the past year or so of my running career where I’ve taken a step back, considered something I just did, and thought to myself, “What on EARTH is wrong with me?” (Examples include, but are not limited to: the time I ran seven miles in a steady rain with temps in the low 40s, every single stupid time this past summer when it was 90+ degrees and/or the dewpoint was in the 70s and I still chose to run anywhere between three and five miles). I’ve embraced the fact that I’ve turned into one of “those crazy runners” who will run regardless of what the weather or logic say, but I think my crazy hit a whole new level a few weeks ago when I, completely of my own will, chose to volunteer at the F^3 Lake Half.

I’ve been around the racing block a time or two, so I’m well aware of the importance of volunteers to a race. Races can’t happen without volunteers, period. Even though I know this, I had only volunteered at a race once before (and that was because I had to, not because I chose to). The more I thought about it, though, the more I began to think that it’s incredibly selfish of me to take advantage of the generosity of hundreds of volunteers who give of their time and energy so I can run a good race without ever giving of my own time to help someone else have an ideal race day experience. The F^3 Lake Half was incredibly convenient for me, so I signed up to volunteer at the race.

Okay, fine. I’m in need of a reflective vest and when I found out I could get one for free by volunteering at the race, I immediately e-mailed the volunteer coordinator to get myself on the list.


But I do still think it’s extremely important to volunteer at races and if you’re a runner, YOU MUST VOLUNTEER AT RACES AS WELL AS RUN THEM. You should have your Runner Card revoked if you don’t.

Enough of that soap box. Let’s get to my race day experience, shall we?

I knew it was going to be a bit on the chilly side, so I layered up like a boss.



Three layers on top, three layers on bottom. Unpictured are my two pairs of socks, my two pairs of gloves, and my ballin’ parka which has done a bomb dot com job of keeping me not-frozen this past week and continued to be awesome on Saturday.

I got to the race site around nine and stood around for a little while before heading over to the start corrals, which was my volunteer assignment for the morning and had to have been the easiest job in the world. I literally stood in one spot holding a pacing sign so runners could line up. That was it. (I also ran into Christina as I was headed in that direction, as she was there to run her first half marathon! Exciting!)


Once all the runners had cleared the start line, I put my sign away and wandered over to the booths set up in the start/finish area to grab myself a cup of hot chocolate. The only downside of volunteering at the start line of a half marathon is that there’s about an hour or so with nothing to do. While I’m sure that’s fine and dandy when it’s 70 and sunny, it wasn’t quite as fun Saturday. I tried to keep moving to stay warm and eventually headed over to Montrose Beach to see what the lake looks like in the winter.


When I was done admiring the north skyline, I made my way to the finish line area to see if I could help with the setup over there. Things were pretty calm at the finish line at the time, though once runners actually started finishing it got a little hairy at my table. I was working with some high schoolers who definitely hadn’t volunteered at an aid table before, so there was a bit of a learning curve, but they got the hang of it pretty quickly.

I helped with clean-up a little bit after most/all of the runners had finished and that was that! Easy peasy. See? Volunteering is so simple. Yeah, it’s probably more time consuming than running the race itself, but like I said: if someone’s willing to do it so you can run a race, the least you can do to give back the running community is do the same thing.

I’d also like to point out that I PRed on Saturday. I now officially have a new personal record for the earliest day of the year I’ve gotten sunburnt. I credit the combination of five hours outside with the sun reflecting off the snow, acne meds that make me more sensitive to sunlight than I naturally am, and wearing absolutely no sunscreen for this remarkable feat and the new red glow on my cheeks. On the bright side, in a couple of days I will also set a new PR for earliest tan of the year!

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

25 thoughts on “Volunteering the F^3 Lake Half

  1. Count not agree more about volunteering for races especially if you are a runner. I once volunteered for a half marathon in London and was giving out water at a water station. I was standing around mile 5 and cheering everyone on so loud. One of the other volunteer commented (or complimented?!) me on my enthusiasm and I said that I’m a runner and I need motivation when I’m running so it’s only my job to give it right back to other runners. After that she joined me in screaming and the runners loved it!

  2. ahhh my running card is revoked! i honestly don’t know why i’ve never volunteered for a race – i think it never even really occurred to me, which sounds awful. i’m definitely going to make sure i do in the future though because you’re right! it’s super important! i’m impressed with your PR too lol, getting sunburned in the winter is like a skill. i think lake michigan during the winter is one of my favorite things in the world. it’s all cold and beautiful. i love the lake.

  3. It was so nice seeing you Saturday. I was REALLY NERVOUS! HAHA You helped calm me down. The only race I have volunteered at was the Palos Half Marathon in High School. I want to volunteer for a couple of races though. I cant believe you got sunburnt! I also missed the hot chocolate. I guess when you are running really slow (like me) they ran out! haha. 🙂

  4. I guess that makes me one of those crazy runner people who goes out when it’s freezing cold or pouring rain or 100 degrees. What can I say? I’ve caught the run bug. I actually do have a pretty extensive history of volunteering for races. My mom’s office puts on a race every year and back when I hated running, she made me decide to run or volunteer so obviously going to volunteer. But that was in the middle of the summer so I have no idea how you survived in the cold. Actually, I would have too for a mizuno vest…

  5. Hahahaha ok i love your sense of humor and how you just laughed at yourself for that sunburn…that’s awesome 🙂 and you make an excellent case for volunteering at a race…i haven’t thought about doing so but you’re absolutely right…if i can run in one, i can certainly help out at one and should as a runner!

  6. I volunteered at the Solider Field 10 last year. It was rewarding, and was definitely work in it’s own way! I was up earlier than I would have been had I been running the race. And I ended up with a group of high schoolers who you could tell aren’t around races much. I had to school them in NOT yelling “you’re almost there.” But it was fun (and tiring) to help out, and I was able to see a lot of friends running, and it made me appreciate race volunteers SO MUCH more.

    • Ahhh “You’re almost there” is THE WORST! Unless I’m legitimately almost there, like less than a quarter of a mile from the finish line, “You’re almost there” isn’t nearly as encouraging as it sounds. But yeah, I think seeing the other side of race day really makes you appreciate the work that goes into putting on an event, and I think that’s really important.

  7. Thanks for volunteering! I wish I would have looked for you at the starting line, but I was busy before the race waiting in the Port-o-potty line.
    I definitely need to volunteer at races more (I think I’ve only volunteered at 1!). The volunteers are always so awesome and I usually wish I had more energy to thank them.

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