A New Perspective: Volunteering at the Big Lake Half Marathon

On Saturday I had the chance to volunteer (with Sophia!) at the Big Lake Half Marathon. My intention was to run this year, it is one of my favorite races and I love the course. But when I realized it was the weekend before the Sugarloaf Marathon my plans changed from runner to volunteer. If you’ve never had the chance to volunteer at a race, you should give it a shot–it is a great way to get a new perspective on racing. I love to race, but I think I just love the race atmosphere in general because I loved it just as much as a volunteer as I do a runner.

Sophia and I were assigned course marshal duties and were giving directions at the second turn (just after mile one) to make sure runners followed the course. It was early on in the race and the runners were still closely packed, it took the entire field only about 20 minutes to get past our point. But it was fun to point the way and ring cowbells and wish runners “good luck!” After we finished up at our station we made our way to the finish line, where we helped set up food, unwrapped medals and get the finish area ready for the runners.


My friend Sarah, myself and Sophia. Photo credit: Game Face Media.

There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a putting on a successful race and the race director, Dave Abbett has it down. Things appeared to move really smoothly. It was fun to see, what feels like the “behind the scenes” part of a race. The finish line was completely empty when we arrived and we waited as the clock clicked away. Sophia had a blast running through the finish chute, she was loving life. My view of that finish clock shifted a bit, usually I’m in a race against the clock for a certain time. But when you see it clicking away from a different perspective it kind of loses its power.


Making the best of a rainy day.

Running through the finish chute.

Running through the finish chute in the rain.

The first runner came through at 1:18 and was thrilled with his finish. The elation on his face was contagious. You realize that the finish line is only part of the story. The real work: the real story for him was running this winter, training through the snow and cold. The early mornings, the dedication. The race is just the execution; trusting the training and letting it all pan out.

Big Lake Half Marathon winner. Photo Credit: Game Face Media.

Big Lake Half Marathon winner. Photo Credit: Game Face Media.

Second and third place were a bit behind him and then as the clock continued to click by more and more runners crossed. It was so fun to cheer and greet exhausted runners with water and medals. I realized that I must look a little crazy when I cross the line sometimes; I saw every variation of exhaustion and elation in the faces of each runner. When you’re on the other end of the finish line you get to appreciate the accomplishment and the culmination of so much hard work in a new way. It was a great day to be a part of!

Have you ever volunteered at a race? What did you learn?


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  1. says

    I love that you volunteered and the winner looks like it was an amazing feeling to break the tape! I wouldn’t know how that feels, lol. I am actually volunteering at a race Saturday, as I am injured and can’t run it so I just told the organizers I’d volunteer. Usually everyone who runs wants to run and sometimes there are volunteer positions that runners are better suited for, so I figure they can put me there :).

  2. Sarah Hussey says

    I absolutely LOVED being a volunteer. It was awesome to see everything that goes in to making a race successful. I even got to help some of the vendors set up. It gave me a new appreciation to the volunteers to see what has to happen before we all arrive :) It was great to see you and Sophia- she was the highlight of the morning with the rain coming down :) I loved seeing her excitement as she ran across the finish line, it was too cute. I had never seen the first runner come through the finish line, and it was just incredible to see his excitement. I actually got to cheer him on with his parents as he came by the finish area just after mile 1. His parents were so proud, and excited to be cheering him on! I glanced over at them as he crossed the finish, and then he ran over and hugged them, and it was a great moment to witness. Being at the finish line was so rewarding. I got to hand out water and medals to all of the finishers, and congratulate them on their race. It was such a neat experience, and I look forward to doing it again sometime.

  3. says

    I’ve volunteers twice and plan to do it again. Both time, I was surprised at some of the dumb things that the organizers did. Such as not even close to enough water at the water stop in a 5k on a hot, humid day (which led to me running off to refill the gallon jugs in a mad sprint) and not having any change for day of race registration.

    But overall I loved the experience of volunteering. It is fun to be on the other side of racing.

  4. says

    Looks like ya’ll had a great time even in the rain! I volunteered at a Disney race and it was amazing. It was great to see people’s reactions as they cross the finish line. Each one is so different!

  5. says

    Love this! I love that you and Sophie volunteered together! I went to a race a couple weeks ago to cheer on my hubby and FIL and Loved it! I am usually the one racing so I don’t often a chance to experience being on the other side of things. Cheering and Supporting the community helped me remember what is so amazing about running!


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