A bit of a change from the usual! Due to injury-ridden January and February, my fitness is nowhere near where I would want it to be. A pity for my spring racing season. The 2017 edition of the first race I ever ran, Les 10km de l’ULB was coming up and I knew I was not going to get in a shape to speak of. I would not be happy with whatever result I could run. Instead, I decided to volunteer.
The organisation sent us (the girlfriend decided to also volunteer) a list of keywords for questions we might receive from runners. I made sure to study it/read it a few times as well as looking at the map of the area a few times to make sure I knew what was where (think bag drop off, bib pick up, …). Since we were in the list for bib handout, the girlfriend also practised her listening comprehension of French numbers.
The race would start at 10:30. The organisation had asked us to be present at 8:00. Some others had to be there at 6:00 already, so that could have been worse. We woke up at 6:00 and did not care too much about our morning routine. The organisation said that there would be some croissants for us, but my experience with relying on a breakfast like that is that I am usually left hungry. So, I had a bowl of muesli. We calmly got ready and were out the door a little past seven. The girlfriend went by public transportation and I biked. We both arrived nicely at 8:00, within a few minutes of one another.
We were given a T-shirt and one croissant each. Good thing I had that bowl of muesli. The girlfriend was happy to also make use of their coffee. Nobody really told us what to do so we stood around for a bit. I saw some people offloading fruits and drinks, so I helped them for a bit. After that it was a bit more standing around till a lady started placing cutting boards on the tables. We started cutting oranges in four, did a few 100 of those. When the oranges were taken care off, we started on the bananas. Bananas was just a matter of cutting it in the middle so that people would not needlessly take too much. The girlfriend and I made good time on the bananas. She placed them in a row, I cut ten of them at once and placed them in the bins. I feel like the two of us did half of the bananas they provided.
Once more we were out of a job. Nobody told us anything, but the mail they had sent had stated we would be doing bib handout. So we walked to the bib stands, but all seats were already covered by other volunteers and nobody seemed to be in charge. We wandered around some more, not quite sure what to do. We ended up at the T-shirt stand. People that had paid 10 euro extra (sign up fee without the T-shirt was 6 euro for students and 10 euro for others) could come fetch their T-shirt there. We saw there were some empty seats at this stand and just one person behind the counter. We asked him if he could use a hand and joined him. Someone else also joined us, so we ended up with four volunteers on a pretty easy job. There never was a long queue to get T-shirts and half of the people passing by seemed to just be asking for directions to the bib stand or the changing rooms.
As the start time neared, our area got emptier and emptier. When the start was about to be given, we went outside our stand to be on some higher ground and see the people go. Funny in a way how long of a time there is between the shot and the people all the way at the back even being able to move. When I am in the thick of things I never really notice that as much.
After the big crowd had left for the run, some latecomers still passed us running to the start line. We packed up most of our stand and walked back to the area of the fruits and drinks. As you can expect with a 10 km, there is about 30 minutes of nothing happening between the start and the first finisher. We used this time to make sure all the water, sports drink, etc were ready for the finishers. Even after the first finisher things are not very active since the bigger crowd is of course another 10+ minutes behind him.
And then things got a bit messy. More and more people poured over the finish line and headed to our stand, grabbing everything. After a while of this, someone of the organisation told us that the finishers were only supposed to grab one drink. Bit late on that info. Never mind that the food and drink stand was 20 metre long, people could easily grab something in several positions. With over 3000 participants arriving in such a small space, it is hard to keep track.
In the end, the last few 100 people that passed the line were in for disappointment. We ran out of everything. I do not know if this happens often in races in Belgium, I am closer to the front usually. A downside of our cheap (compared to the USA) races, perhaps? I am not blaming the runners though. I know how I am in that position, I just grab and drink and munch. Well, I am blaming some of them. I saw one lady grab a few sports drinks and just put them in a bag unopened. Bitch.
The race for the podium was decided in a three way sprint, finishing in 33:36, 33:40, and 33:43. First female came in at 39:47. In total, over 3200 people took part, with another few 100 extra sign ups that were a no show. We watched some of the podium ceremonies, then went to a nearby supermarket for some food. By the time we came back, it did not look like clean up would be soon to start. We did not feel like waiting around much longer, so I biked back home while the girlfriend ran via another route.
It felt nice to help out and see a race from a different perspective than my usual one. If you have interest in a race, but cannot actually take part, definitely consider volunteering. As for me, I do like the running part better and hope to just run the races I am interested in.