In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month this April, New York Road Runners volunteer Margo Chaly shares with us a story of inspiration and dedication to giving back to the running community. Outside of volunteering with NYRR, Margo is the founder of a nonprofit that brings women in business together to network and volunteer in their communities.
On a freezing cold morning in March 2014, just after twilight, I exited the South Ferry subway station to find the Financial District wide awake with excitement. The finish line of the NYC Half was ready for runners, baggage areas were being constructed, amenities were set up, and volunteers were eagerly awaiting the arrival of 20,000 runners. I jumped right in, helping in any way that I could.
What happened next was a moment that changed my life: A caravan of UPS trucks arrived on Water Street. Volunteers were pulled from whatever they were doing to unload trucks and arrange bags in numerical order. The logistics of this operation made me deliriously giddy! See, I thoroughly enjoy organized, structured assignments and events. The level of attention to detail for such a complex event was mind-blowing! Now, I've come to learn this is the routine at every NYRR event, but the 2014 NYC Half was my first experience with NYRR as a volunteer, runner, or spectator.
The impact of this event continued. I was eventually posted near the finish line. Seeing the runners cross the line was overwhelmingly inspirational. These "superhumans" completed a 13.1-mile run in the bitter cold, and I remember I commented to more than a few of them that it didn't even look as if they had broken a sweat! This feat was unimaginable to me. I wouldn't run to catch a train leaving the platform, let alone for exercise or for what many half-marathoners call "fun."
There is no denying that I was overcome with the NYRR spirit that day. I made two promises to myself: I was going to run the same event the following year, and I was going to volunteer with NYRR as often as possible to fully comprehend the scale of preparation that goes into NYRR events.
So what happened? In March 2015, I crossed the very finish line that introduced me to NYRR. That race and eight others guaranteed me a spot in the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon, which I finished in just under my six-hour goal. November 6, 2016 became and remains the most exciting (if mildly terrifying) day of my life!
What makes the marathon so extremely beautiful? The course, the spectators, and the other runners, for sure. But the race doesn't happen without the volunteers! The day after the marathon in 2016, I signed up to be a volunteer at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. I even pursued NYRR's volunteer leader program, which allowed me to see various aspects of multiple NYRR races throughout the year. Attending the safety and logistical orientations before the United Airlines NYC Half and the TCS New York City Marathon was as exciting for me as going to an amusement park. Let's not forget my aforementioned obsession with planning and details!
I will continue to volunteer and support NYRR runners for as long as I am able. Encouraging people to push their own limits and celebrate their accomplishments is a rush everyone should experience.
Celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Month! Learn more about volunteering with New York Road Runners.