Volunteering—and Singin’—in the Rain at the Run as One

The majority of people reading this report are runners. And when a weekend race comes around, it’s highly likely that you want to run it.

But even if you can’t make it to the start line, there are other ways to get in on the action. One way is volunteering, especially if you plan on running the TCS New York City Marathon and want to qualify through NYRR’s 9+1 program.

While NYRR employees are always on hand to organize and execute a world-class event for all our runners, they cannot do it without the help of our volunteers—people who give up their time to ensure everything runs like clockwork on the day.

As part of NYRR’s Run as One 4M and Walk as One Presented by JPMorgan Chase coverage, I decided to put on the high-visibility vest for a day as a course marshal and help out.

Here is my account of how things went.

Monday, April 15
The proposed idea to write a blog about volunteering is given the green light by the volunteer team at NYRR. In an email, I receive instructions for the day.

The NYRR volunteer team are particularly excited that I’m willing to help out at an event where the weather forecast calls for “torrential rain.” Wait, it’s going to rain?

Saturday, April 20 
7:00 a.m.: Ah, so this is what they meant by “torrential rain” as I arrive in Central Park with multiple layers on, hoping one of them will be at least rainproof.

Check-in begins at 7:00 a.m. and for hungry and sleepy volunteers, snacks and beverages are on offer. I am also given a sweet visor, which is the volunteer souvenir for 2019 springtime races. Most importantly, I’m handed a poncho, which are extremely popular on this wet New York morning. Many volunteers, including myself, jockey for position in the volunteer tent as we seek temporary refuge from the rain.

Some volunteers, many of whom have given their free time through all seasons, easily stand out, looking dry and weatherproof. Unlike myself, as I didn’t wear rainproof sneakers. Well done Gary!

One might ask? But the race doesn’t start until 8:30 a.m., so what now? For the next 40 mins, while team NYRR assesses the number of volunteers and whether they have the required numbers, I chat with fellow runners, who—for one morning—masquerade as volunteers.

Speaking to Rosemary Dooley, she—like many other runners—initially started volunteering to fulfill her 9+1 credit toward the TCS New York City Marathon. But after joining NYRR’s Group Training program, she learned more about the organization and realized how important volunteers are when it comes to races. “It’s an easy thing for people to do,” she says. “Of course, when I see the runners go by, you always want to be out there with them. But volunteering is only a few hours out of your day, you’re surrounded by nice people, and you feel part of something big.”

7:37 a.m.: Zone 4 course marshals receive final instructions from our volunteer lead and we make our way out to the east side of Central Park. Of course, there’s time for a quick snap of the intrepid team before we leave. On the half-mile walk to our final destination, I meet Valentina Naumova, an event associate with NYRR. We discuss everything from the “delightful” weather to life in Queens and our favorite NYRR races.

7:55 a.m.: After receiving final instructions, I meet Edouard Darres as we are paired together just past Cleopatra’s Needle. The race doesn’t start for 35 minutes, plenty of time for Edouard and I to discuss marathon strategies, fall racing schedules, the recent Boston Marathon, the upcoming TCS New York City Marathon, and, of course, the damn weather.

8:33 a.m.: The rain is pummeling us, but at this stage, we’re wet so there’s no point complaining. “We can’t get any wetter at this stage,” I say to Edouard. Spirits are then lifted by the sight of the lead vehicle approaching, closely followed by runners with “AA” on their bibs, their form still perfect despite the elements.

For the next hour, a seemingly never-ending stream of runners flows by, some of them singin’, some of them dancing in the rain. Many express their gratitude toward us for volunteering. As well as keeping some pedestrians off the course, it’s a chance to scream some well-wishes toward many people I know racing. When the last runner goes by, it certainly doesn’t feel like an hour has passed by.

Thankfully for Edouard (below right) and I (below left), our zone was incident free, meaning a relatively easy shift for us. The NYRR sweep vehicle sends us back to the Bandshell to return our credentials and high-vis vests.

10:00 a.m.: Upon our arrival, it’s a different scene than the ghost town we left at 7:37 a.m. as thousands of runners flow in after completing their four-mile race. It’s a little after 10 a.m. and the shift has officially ended. It’s not called work because it doesn’t feel like work.

And for several volunteers, those few rain-soaked hours were worth it as they took a significant—and meaningful—step toward the 2020 TCS New York City Marathon.

So why not register to volunteer with NYRR. Experience the camaraderie, help out fellow runners, and take a step toward the 2020 TCS New York City Marathon. Hopefully you’ll get better weather, too. And volunteer spots are still available for one of our biggest races of the year, the Popular® Brooklyn Half.


Gary McLaughlin

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