Ottawa Race Weekend Volunteer Profile

Too often runners overlook the many thousands of people who give their time to make events like the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend possible – the volunteers.

At this year’s Tamarack Ottawa Race weekend, more than 2,000 volunteers will come together to make the Race Weekend happen. Volunteers help out with all sorts of jobs including handing out race packets at the Expo, staffing information booths, handing out water on course and even providing entertainment along the route. And they all do it with a smile on their face despite the fact they aren’t getting paid a cent!

Without the help of these great volunteers, the Ottawa Race Weekend would simply not be possible.

Volunteer Profile: Rebecca

I talked to one volunteer, Rebecca (@RebeccaRuns on Twitter), to find out why she’s giving her time and volunteering at the 2015 Ottawa Race Weekend so that the tens of thousands of runners can all take on the challenge of their races.

James: How many times have you volunteered and what do you normally help out with?

Rebecca Wemyss at the water station, awaiting the throngs of runners

Rebecca: I have volunteered four times for a few different events in the Ottawa area. My biggest volunteer role is with the Ottawa Race Weekend where I am a station captain for one of the marathon-route aid stations.

I ran a station in 2013 with my school, but could not volunteer last year since I was participating in the half marathon. I also volunteer with inStride Event Management who put on the Manotick Miler and Ottawa Beer Run. I’m one of their pacers for the 5 Miler at the Manotick Miler and also helped lead a group of young children in a 1K and helped lead a group in the Ottawa Beer Run.

I already have a few volunteering gigs lined up for 2015 including The Ottawa Race Weekend, Manotick Miler, the inaugural Ottawa Sporting Life 10K and hopefully the NYC Marathon!

James: Why did you decide to start volunteering at the races and had you already run races before, or was volunteering what got you into running?

Rebecca: I have participated in every Ottawa Race Weekend since 2010 and was asked to lead a water station in 2013. I had a bit of experience with running athletic events since I am a track and field coach and have to officiate events from time to time. I emailed inStride Events one day to see if they needed pacers for the Manotick Miler and that started a volunteering relationship with them.

James: What’s the best and worst parts about volunteering? Any memorable stories to share?

Rebecca: I’ll start with the best part first…meeting new running friends! The Ottawa Beer run last year was one of the best afternoons of the year. I was a “Beer Bunny” that was in charge of leading a group on the route to different breweries. I ended up talking to several people throughout the day and eventually I discovered that I knew a few of them through Twitter. We all ran together as a giant group and were talking/laughing throughout the day. We almost made a detour to a popular Ottawa donut store! This year there are even more of us running in the event together.

Along with new running friends, volunteering allows me to gain valuable experience in event management, be a part of something big and fun in Ottawa and of course I love getting the race goodies and a chance to participate in events for free.

IMG_0056There really aren’t many worst parts. Maybe nerves about being a pace bunny when you are not feeling 100%. During the Manotick Miler, I had some GI issues since I had not discovered that I couldn’t chew gum and run yet (I have an intolerance to sorbitol) – that made for an interesting run.

Other than that, waking up crazy early for the Ottawa Marathon and ensuring that 40+ teenagers [water station volunteers from local high schools] wake up before 5:00 A.M.

I can’t think of any more bad parts about volunteering. During the Ottawa Marathon in 2013 I only had one person who was a bit rude during towards us. Everyone else was so nice!

James: Any advice for first-time volunteers?

Rebecca: Make sure you check the weather the night before and dress appropriately. You will most likely be outside for a long time — be prepared for anything!

At the water station, really separate the water/gatorade tables from each other. Make sure that everyone is yelling “WATER” and “GATORADE” continuously and Gatorade should ALWAYS be placed first. Wear a poncho/water proof jacket and boots. You will be surprised how wet you get! Make sure that you don’t slack on filling up your cups before the race gets started. Everyone under-estimates how many runners will go through the stations and it’s hard to be filling up water cups while handing them out at the same time. If the weather on race day is hot and you are using a hose for your water source, spray the runners!

James: What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering?

Rebecca: Definitely try it out. There are so many different roles that one can take part in during a race. You don’t necessarily have to sit outside and hand out water for hours. For the NYC marathon for example, there are over 30 jobs to choose from. Make the “race weekend” a double header and run one day and volunteer the next. For me, Ottawa Race Weekend is one of my favorite weekends because I do just that.

Thank your volunteers!

When you are at the Expo picking up your race kit, or when you are out on course in Ottawa, make sure you thank the volunteers. It’s not hard to flash a smile and shout out a “thanks!”, and they really appreciate it.

If you are interested in volunteering in Ottawa, you can get more information at the Run Ottawa website.