I've realized what I need to do if I'm feeling down-in-the-dumps, and it is an opportunity that has been right in front of me for (too?) many years. This morning, after signing up for and running a multitude road races over the past ten(!) years, I finally took advantage of the opportunity to volunteer at one.
I have attempted to fill my summer break with personal challenges (reading, exercise, projects, and so on), and when I received an e-mail looking for volunteer road marshals for a local 5k, I took the bait. I have often talked about my desire to contribute to the local race community (other than coaching), but when I do go to watch a run without participating, I feel awkward for not running myself. Fortunately for me, this morning's 5k was a women's only race (with one man earning a spot via lottery), so the frustration of watching was ameliorated. Well, that and I woke up early to run on my own.
From the perspective of a race participant, I try to thank as many volunteers during a race as my breath will allow, naively believing that the good karma generated would help me during the race's last miles. On the surface, I suppose it may appear to be a thankless role (though I would not make it through most races without the encouragement they offer). That superficial assumption on my part could not be more inaccurate.
In addition to the free t-shirt (pic to the left), I was pleased to see that so many of the runners were also inclined to sincerely thank volunteers for helping out. As a road marshal, I was assigned a side street to "close" during the race and to direct any traffic that might try to get through. I was incredibly fortunate to also have a police officer working the corner with me (that doesn't sound right, does it?), and together we cheered for each runner as they passed by. We were stationed just before the 2-mile mark so there were plenty of "Great job, ladies!", ""Over half-way there!", and high-fives to be shared.
We in the Rochester, New York running community are VERY fortunate to have a number of high quality race promoters/organizers each of whom make the ability to volunteer easy and non-threatening (scary!), and ultimately rewarding. I would venture to guess that regardless of where you live, you have a great race promoter in you area, too. If like me, you experience some social anxiety, I strongly recommend volunteering at a local road race as a means of giving back. If nothing else, the anonymous "thank yous" received, and the experience of interacting with members of the community like police officers and spectators, is a very positive. I am glad that I finally took the step to help out and look forward to doing so again in the future.