Give A Little/Receive A Lot

Through the years, especially during my late 20s and early 30s, I’ve run countless 5Ks, three half marathons and one triathlon. I’ve always been a participant, never a volunteer…until today.

I friend of mine was responsible for recruiting some volunteers for the Music City Triathlon. This friend has been a real fitness mentor and has been so helpful to me as I learn the ins and outs of triathlon training. How could I say no to her?

My jobs were body marking and manning a spot on the bike course. If you’ve ever watched a triathlon in person or on TV, you may have noticed the competitors have their numbers and ages written on their arms and legs. Body marking volunteers get up close and personal and do the writing.

I arrived at the transition area at 5:30 a.m. I remarked to a friend who was also volunteering that it felt great to show up at an event and leave the nerves at home. Soon we had received our orientation. With magic markers in hand we began scribbling on countless arms and legs.

Once the swimming began I hoofed it to my appointed location and waited for the first cyclist to come through. To my delight it was my spin teacher’s son, who happens to be an Olympic hopeful (seriously). My official job was to point the cyclists in the right direction on the course. I soon figured out my secondary task was to keep them safe from the spectators who felt compelled to cross the street at the precise moment a cyclist was coming through.

My course location was both at the beginning and the end of the route, meaning I was required to remain in position until the last cyclist finished the course. There were both Sprint and Olympic distance events taking place, so by the time the last Olympic distance cyclist finished it was High Noon and hot.

While I gave only a few hours of my time, I received a lot:

Good vibes: It felt very good to help my friend in her recruiting efforts. It also felt good to provide a calm voice and reassuring words to the newbies who were obviously nervous.

Laughs: One of the men I marked told me, “You know, I usually buy dinner first.” Hillarious!

Vitamin D therapy: If felt great to be out in the sun.

Inspiration: I saw men and women who represented the epitome of fitness. I couldn’t believe some of the physiques. But I was also inspired by those who were carrying quite a few extra pounds and didn’t let that stop them from participating. And I’ll never forget the 85-year-old man out on the course. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Gratitude: I was surprised at how many cyclists thanked me for volunteering as they zipped past. When I participate in events, I always try to be mindful of thanking course volunteers. Until today I didn’t know how much that’s appreciated.

Love from the back of the pack: I tried to be extra cheerful to the cyclists who were way behind the rest. I made a real effort to look enthused as they went by. After all, I spend much of my event experience in the back, and I appreciate it when volunteers don’t act like my slowness is keeping them from getting on with the rest of their day. Today’s slower cyclists thanked me for cheering them on.

I suppose it’s a Universal Law but as usual, the joy I got in helping out-weighed the energy it took to be there. I think I’ll volunteer again next year.

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