Charity race events are becoming increasingly popular in our city. And why not? They are one of the most effective ways to combine the benefits of good health with the art of giving.

A marathon propagates the importance of fitness and demonstrates how it can be leveraged to raise funds or create awareness for a needy cause. It effectively breaks the barriers of social and economic class and brings together a sea of humanity that wants to give back to its community in a positive way.

Over the past few years, we have seen that as the popularity of such events ascends, so does the wish to be associated with something so good. And while we all wish we could run long distance, it may not be possible immediately. So, the next best way to associate ourselves with it and be an integral part of it, is to volunteer at it. Volunteers are usually the people who help make such events efficient, manageable, runner-friendly and of course bring tons of positive energy to it. In Chennai, most charity race events are managed in partnership with volunteers who are proud to be associated with the cause and they consider it a matter of honour.

Volunteering at a marathon is technically a one-time, high-energy volunteering activity that full of fun and excitement. (I say technically because this event has one of the highest percentage of returning volunteers). It has a festive and celebratory feel to it. Mostly held on a weekend, it is enjoyed equally by students and the corporate alike. It involves many facets of volunteering and the number required is usually large (depending on the scale of the event). A detailed orientation precedes the event which entails the various roles so each volunteer has a defined role to play.

So, if volunteering at a marathon for a cause is your cup of tea, read on…

Pre- Event Exposition : Even before “D Day” of the race, there is usually a pre-event exposition that takes place. The main purpose is to create a forum where the runners can come to pick up their race kits and clear all doubts about logistics and specific details of the event. Of course, it also provides ample scope for runners and volunteers to meet, greet and know more about running trends.

Finally, on the day of the marathon, there are many roles that a volunteer can opt for. Some of the most common volunteer roles in a marathon are:

Baggage Counter : Be among the first ones to greet and wish the runners luck as they hand over their belongings to you, before setting out on their run.

Information Counter Volunteer: No matter how comprehensive your communication or elaborate the exposition has been, there will always be some points that need to be cleared or assistance required. This is where the calmest and the most resourceful volunteers are placed.

Start Line Volunteer:  This is undoubtedly the most hi-energy point of the race but also, mildly chaotic! It means maintaining discipline, helping runners identify their chorrals according to their estimated timing and then of course, cheering them as they start their run. I have witnessed some very innovative start lines where RJ’s, percussionists and zumba specialists have added much fanfare to the start of a marathon.

Finish Line Volunteer:  I call this point the moment of truth when months of training, hours of running and tired soles touch victory. The volunteers placed at the finish line can literally smell and sense the euphoria of the runner as she or he steps over the finish line. They also have the honour of medaling and congratulating the finishers. I have known some volunteers to get so inspired by volunteering at this point that they have taken up long distance running after witnessing this magical moment.

Water Station Volunteer:  Stationed along the race route, the water station volunteers are most helpful, alert and considerate. They reach out to the runners with water so the runner does not need to compromise on time. Some of them really dress up and keep the morale of the runners high too!

Route Marshal Volunteer:  This is undoubtedly a group of happy volunteers who encourage and egg on the runners as they cover mile after mile. They keep the energy of the runners afloat by flanking the sides of the roads at strategic points in between consecutive water stations.

Medical Volunteer: Always an essential part of a run that we pray we don’t need to use, the medical volunteer needs to be mobile, familiar with basic first aid and life support. They are in touch with the medical team and keep an eye out for anyone who looks uneasy.

Help another racer run: Very essential in an inclusive event, running with a needy runner or guiding a disabled runner is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. You could volunteer to run with a visually challenged participant , specially-abled runner or young runners who need assistance throughout the race. You could be running with them or pushing their wheelchair. “ The first time I volunteered with a special needs boy at the “Run for Fun”’ “Never felt like I wasn’t a runner, even though I had registered as a volunteer!” said a volunteer at TWCM 14.

Refreshments / Brekker: If serving is your style, try volunteering at the food and refreshments counter and be part of the post-race celebration area. As a volunteer shared, “everyone is always in such a great mood when they get their food, after a run!”

Post run clean-up volunteer: Cleaning up after the run is one of the most important jobs to keep the marathon running smooth every year and ideally should be the onus of every volunteer. Even if the organizers have planned minimal waste, the amount that collects and how it spreads, is unbelievable. It’s simple – trash needs to be picked up and segregated. No volunteer can avoid this in our world today.

So, imagine you have helped by volunteering at your favourite charity run or marathon. The runners have retired happy and you, as a volunteer, are an exhausted but fulfilled lot too.

What do you get at the end of it? As much as the runner, I can assure you! You meet like-minded new friends, feel proud that you have been part of a group who helped a local charity or cause. And you would have supported and improved the experience of thousands of participants that day. In nutshell you get inspired and motivated about your life.

So, do you want to join an inspiring team, volunteer for a cause and have fun? You can develop your skills and experience while truly making a difference in your community.

That’s a promise that over 5000 Chennai Volunteers can make to you, after having served at several race events in our city, over the past 5 years.