When it comes to sports events, days are long, the work is hard, it's sometimes boring, the weather is unpredictable so you could be working in extreme temperatures (anyone remember #GNR2017 or #JBTT2016?). More often that not you end up wearing a hi-vis which is two sizes too big, you've got to think outside the box, inside the box, everywhere else in between and then you could be asked to jump in a lake and stare out a swan.
So why do people volunteer? For me it started when injury prevented me from taking part in sport but I still wanted to feel part of an event. I had also just started as organiser of a large running event so I thought some experience behind the scenes at other events would do me good. It was chaotic - knowing who to ask for equipment, what time? where? how? why? You had to just get stuck in, get one job finished before quickly going on to the next, think on your feet, solve problems, answer questions. It was non-stop and I loved every minute of it - I learnt loads, met some great people who are still friends and perfected the art of unzipping people out of wetsuits while on a full tilt run!
Now, on the other side of the fence, I think about the people who have volunteered for us over the past three years - they are truly invaluable. I care deeply that they give up their time to help make an event successful, memorable and enjoyable for our athletes and I am proud when our race feedback reflects this. I love the fact that some keep coming back event after event and it reassures me that they are having a good experience, being treated well and enjoying the job they have been given. They are people who come from all walks of life, not just athletes; we have a great bunch of students from Derby College, we also have people who want to put something back into the community, people wanting to meet new people, learn new skills, be inspired.
Time and again we have a fantastic team of people who turn up at our events, get stuck in, make suggestions, use their initiative and on occasion, wear their plastic ponchos with pride. Most importantly there is a constant smile on their faces throughout a race, words of encouragement, motivation and congratulations as athletes are out on the course and when they cross the finish line. I feel privileged to call them friends and they inspire me to do the best I can to make sure they enjoy the experience just as much as our athletes do.
So this weekend I will be raising a glass to volunteers as they make such a huge difference and I am looking forward to seeing the team again soon. Thank you guys!