Volunteering at Club Run

The Hyderabad Runners Club Run was announced sometime in January 2016. The date was February 7th. Initially, I wanted to run it. But then, I went on a vacation and by the time I was back, the registrations were closed. 

Then a mail came around asking for volunteers. I had been part of several HR events in the past. I ran the Club run in 2012, Airtel HM in 2012, Airtel FM in 2013, Rockathon in 2015, Airtel HM in 2015 and Alankrita Run in 2016. I had also ran in a few of the Sunday long runs and had always wondered who were the folks who took the pain in providing the SAG support and other volunteering. So, this time, I decided to become a volunteer and help in the running event.

Promptly, I registered my name as a volunteer. The form was a simple one and asked your name, age, mobile number, email address, age and which days were you willing to volunteer.

A few days later, someone called me, introduced himself as Siva and asked if I was still willing to take up the volunteering. I replied in affirmative and he said that he will form a whatsapp group and to watch out for the same.

A whatsapp group was created. In the group, another person named Anil took up more active role. He told us that we will all be Route Marshalls. I did not know what a route marshall is expected to do. I did a little bit of google search and found that it is basically to be stationed somewhere on the route and direct the runners while managing traffic. Anil sent out a mail with details of the route marshalls who were supposed to man different locations. A group of 3-4 route marshalls were under a team leader. I was assigned to Tunnel1. I was bit surprised as there were no tunnels as far as I know on the route. Later I found that I was to be stationed near a underpass in the ORR. Hence it was the Tunnel1.

On 6th February, early morning there was a meetup of the volunteers. We planned to meet at Gachibowli stadium by 5:30AM. By the time I reached there, it was still dark. There were some folks milling around. I saw one tall person speaking to everyone. He was Anil. I introduced myself. Anil gave everyone instructions on what is to be done. He spent more time with people who were manning critical and busy junctions.

We were supposed to arrange the cones and stop traffic on the side of the road where the runners were to run. Some of the roads were blocked. Some of the busy junctions had to be controlled carefully.

Then we went on a route recce to see the entire distance. 

The next morning, I reported at 5:30AM at my station. It was 8 KM from the start point. By 5:45AM Srinivas, who was our team leader came to me and gave me a reflective jacket to wear. Since it was quite dark, the reflective jacket was a good protection. Anil in his white Honda City was going to and fro several times on the road. 

By 6:00AM the race started. I carried the cones and blocked the road. A few auto rickshaws and bike fellows were coming. But looking at the cones, most of them went back. Some of the fellows did not heed the cones or me and kept riding. But since it was early and no runner had come that far, I allowed them. I estimated that the first runners will take at least 35 minutes to reach my station.

By 6:20AM, the sun started rising. I kept waiting for the runners to come. It was almost 1 hour that I was waiting along.

By 6:37AM the first runner crossed me. Then there was a long gap. A group of 4 runners crossed me at 6:41AM. Then slowly, the rest of the pack came. By 6:50AM, it was a stream of runners. 

I was cheering the runners by clapping and saying encouraging words. Some of them responded by smiling or by thumbs up. But, few of them ran as if I did not exist! That felt really bad. So, lesson learnt, next time, when I run, I will smile or do thumbs up to acknowledge the effort of the volunteer.

Anil came in between and handed over a Volunteer T-shirt and the breakfast packet. I eat the breakfast. 

By 7:00AM, a college fellow on a bike came. He was leader of the college volunteers. He asked if I need any help. I said no. But still he insisted on sending 2 college volunteers. They arrived around 7:20AM. The three of us kept cheering the runners. By that time, the return stream has started. 

Around 8:00AM, only a few were trickling in. I started running with them for short distance to give company. I told the college folks to leave as most of the runners had gone. I stayed at the station till about 8:30AM when Anil came on his white Honda City. He thanked me and asked me to go to the stadium.

What did I learn from this?

1. Volunteering has its own rewards. You get the best place to see watch the runners, take pictures and see how they are running. You also get to meet new people, make friends and network.

2. Volunteering is a difficult job. Unless someone had intrinsic motivation, it is better not to go for it.

3. It takes a lot of energy and effort to coordinate the activities of the volunteers. Managing them is not easy.

4. Acknowledge the work of volunteers. That is the least one can do for them.

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