Above: Our lululemon race volunteers and cheer squad keep the energy high!
Usually on race day, I'd get up early to eat a small breakfast, get dressed, and get stretched for the kilometres ahead. Yesterday, I woke up earlier than usual on race day, but with none of the same concerns that I would normally have as a runner. That's because yesterday I wasn't a spectator or a runner, but I was at a race for the first time as a volunteer.
Coffee in hand, I was excited to be part of the first ever Toronto Women's Half Marathon and 5K race, a highly anticipated event by runners of all levels. The organizers, volunteers and partners setting up generated a buzz like no other – it was like being backstage at your favourite concert!
Bag check was where I was at, securing participants' backpacks and jackets while they were on their run. With an ample supply of caffeine, we were hands down some of the most hyper bag checkers you'd ever meet. Our station wasn't as exciting as the post race chocolate station, but it was a great opportunity for me to support where needed and meet some incredible women.
A good handful of the 1,300 women that ran were first time half marathon runners. Ranging from age 18 to 75, it was inspiring to hear some of their journeys that had led them to this event. Many of the runners were drawn to this specific race solely because it was a supportive and friendly environment to be active with other women. I had never seen so many strangers congratulate and selflessly share running tips with each other.
The most inspiring moment? A young mother of two shaking my hand after I handed her bag back to her. It was her first half marathon since the birth of her second child, and she was grinning ear to ear. "See you next year! Thanks for your time and help!" she said as her kids dragged her away. All I had done was given her bag back, but for her, she was able to run and didn’t have to think about being responsible for anything but herself for two hours.
Seeing how all the little details mean so much to the big picture of a race was a phenomenal experience. The volunteering side was just as rewarding and fun as running the race. The next time you catch the running buzz, try supporting another runner through her journey by helping out at your community’s next race.