Week 21: Volunteer at a major race

Welcome to week 21 of 52 New Things


Volunteer at a major race

This week’s challenge was to volunteer at a local major running race, The Ottawa Marathon. I had planned on just signing up with the Ottawa Race Weekend via their website, but an opportunity at work allowed me to actually be a water station captain and organize my own team. So, 25 students and I woke up really really early to head to Gatineau to give out water and Gatorade to 6000+ runners this morning.

Being a station captain meant I had to go to meetings, recruit and organize volunteers, train the volunteers and essentially have a game plan for how the morning was to go. I will say that I learned quite a bit this weekend about how a major race like this is organized!

We met at the school at 5:30am to get shuttled to our station. We arrived and saw that all of our supplies had arrived and we proceeded to set up. We had about 2 hours to set up prior to the Elite runners going by. First we had to set up the tables (which took a bit of “move this here. No, over here!”). Next was filling up cups. Problems arose because it was windy and you could only have a bunch of cups on the table to fill, otherwise they would blow away. There was also the issue that we were not given enough plastic boards to triple stack the cups, which caused some problems later on in the morning. Some of the kiddies were moving a tad bit too slow, so I had to make them hussle a bit more. It literally took us about an hour and a half to get all the cups ready.



Basically, the station is set up that the elites water is well ahead of the other water, and then gatorade tables followed by water. Gatorade has to be mixed – and water comes from a hose. But you don’t fill each cup with a hose (that would take forever). So you use milk pitchers and try to move as quickly as possible. If you have a big bucket, you can just scoop the water and it makes things go a bit faster. Also those 18 litre jugs for water dispensers works well too!



The elites came by and were rather fast. The elites table have their own mixed bottles. Because they are being drug tested, the bottles are not allowed to be left alone. The bottles are placed in order and some have GU gels attached. The liquids inside varied. Some of the elites will also stop by the water station as well. Some of the elites decorate their bottles to make it easier to find – but the tables are colour coded. Apparently one of them couldn’t find their bottle and apparently was a bit upset. BUT – I’ve heard that some of the runners play games and take bottles that are not theirs to piss each other off. Most however didn’t take any at all. Once the elites walked by I saw a few of the pacers and they were trying to figure out where the half way point was.



After the elites went by the next group are the faster runners – but the size of the crowd was still tiny. I saw Canadian Paleo Athlete run by and waved hi. Once the 3:30ish crowd went by, the masses started to run in. This is when I literally couldn’t take a picture, or tweet anything for approximately an hour. It was just crazy. I was constantly filling up cups for the first two tables. At this point you have to be yelling “water!!” or “gatorade!!” to let the runners know what they were drinking. We did ok and only the first two tables really were empty. Most runners were really polite and said thank you. Only one told me to “hurry up” when I had to reach for a cup and I thought “umm, go to the next table??”. I saw a guy run in a kilt, one girl in a tutu, and one runner in a Bon Jovi get up. Apparently there was a barefoot runner, and a guy that wore cut off jeans and a Metallica jacket.









The walkers came after and most were smiling away. Towards the end the kids told me that they saw this one girl twice. I thought, ok, and just carried on. About 15 minutes later I saw the same girl going in the reverse direction and said “everything ok?”. She said that she someone told her to go the wrong way and she was heading back towards the split where the half and full marathons split up. I’m guessing that she was a half marathoner who ended up on the full marathon route – oppsies 🙁 I felt pretty bad for her. The last runner came and said “haha – I bet you are all waiting for me!”. So true 🙂





We cleaned up the water station area, donated the hoses to the kind people who let us use their water (hoses cannot be used again for drinking water FYI) and waited for the bus.

Overall I had a great day and will definitely be volunteering my time during Race Weekend again next year!


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  1. MomName (required)

    Comment…did you see anyone famous?

  2. jade

    Cool! That looks fun. I drink out of the hose that’s been at my parents’ house since I was little…am I going to get bacteria? Haha

    1. Rebecca (Post author)

      lol maybe! 😉

      It’s a public health thing – yay public health!

  3. Stephanie@nowirun.com

    Wow! That was quite a morning… did you need a MAJOR nap?!
    I’ll bet the perspective you gained about the production behind a race is huge.
    How on earth did you ever think of 52 different things to do all year?

    1. Rebecca (Post author)

      I never nap 🙂


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