On Saturday, May 17, I volunteered for New York Road Runners as a Wave 2 Corral Marshal for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. It’s been a few years since I’ve run the Brooklyn Half. The first year I ran (maybe 2008?) the race started at Coney Island and finished in Prospect Park. The next year they reversed the route to end on the boardwalk. The race is fun, and when I did it, it was low key. No medal, no fancy sponsors, and no lottery to get in. Since what I know to be of it’s humble beginnings, the race has been sponsored by New Balance and has jumped to 25,000+ runners, with race bib numbers up to 40,000. WHOA.
Last year I led three long runs as a pace groups leader with JackRabbit Sports, but did not run the race. I knew it was presented by New Balance, but did not know how the race had changed.
My shift started at 5 am, which meant I had to be out the door by 4:20 am to arrive on time. I biked the 7 miles to the Brooklyn Museum, where the volunteer check in was located. After parking my bike, I walked up at 5:05 am – late enough to miss all of the donuts and just get the sludgy bottom of the barrel of coffee in my thermos (I came prepared!). From there, I got a name badge with credentials and an orange volunteer vest, and walked to meet my group in wave 2.
From 5:15 to 7:30, I stood near the 29,000-29,999 gate and let runners into the corral. I sent runners in groups with friends with higher bib numbers to the back where the friend’s number was – I think a few groups were pissed. People wondered why I would bother to enforce this as a volunteer, but having someone with a higher bib number/slower finish time in a faster sections effects the races of the people around them, so I wanted to stick with this.
It was great to see the excitement of the runners and to see a few friends pre-race. At 7:30 when the wave started to shuffle toward the start line, I closed up the gate and checked out. Empire was supposed to be running Aid station 5 inside Prospect Park, but when I rode over after the start of the race, only one ETC member was there (and I didn’t know him!). I started to rake cups from the run path to help out, but I noticed three other volunteers there doing NOTHING, so I decided my time was done there and I headed home.
The medals for this race – and there were no medals when I did it – were AWESOME. Maybe the best medals I’ve seen from an NYC race, ever. Really cool. It was a perfect day for a race, with cool temps to start (so cool that I had gloves on at the start and was happy wife let me disturb her sleep to grab another layer). My leg wouldn’t have let me run it this year, but volunteering scored me guaranteed entry for the 2015 race, so I look forward to having it on my calendar next year.
I’ve had a few bad volunteering experiences with NYRR, mostly at the NYRR bib pick up location where the volunteer coordinators have been rude and negligent. My marathon volunteering experience was good, and this experience was great – I would certainly volunteer at a similar job at future races, even though I’m not doing the 9+1 program. It was just a fun time and I think it’s always good to give back to the community and help other runners enjoy their races.
Congrats to all of the runners!
And on a final note, the partnership between NYRR and Goodwill, which has blue bins for “throw away clothes” that runners shed in the morning before the race, is brilliant. I’m really happy to see this no-brainer relationship that does so much good. I didn’t grab a photo but it is a really successful and smart partnership.