If you’ve ever competed in the News and Sentinel half marathon or two mile race, you know how great a group of volunteers we have.
A lot of people have told us over the years how much they enjoy racing. Much of that joy stems from just how great the volunteers at Parkersburg really are. The race is supported by almost 1,000 volunteers. I cannot name them all here. But I will describe some of the things they do to make sure the races run smoothly.
Most of the volunteer effort begins a few weeks before the event. I’ve had the privilege of watching them do their thing for the past two decades. It took me a while, but I finally learned that it’s best to thank them for their help, avoid them, and let them do their thing.
Here are some of the “Things” that they do.
Prepare the racing bags. Each racer who participates in the races will receive a beautiful drawstring pouch provided by Mountain River Physical Therapy. Each bag must be filled with different materials before the event. This includes the four pins that hold the race number on their shirt on race morning. We set up a kind of production line and the bags are passed from one person to another while different items are put into the bag. My job is to remember to bring them pizza when they’re done.
Paint the finish line. This will be painted on the Monday night before the race by volunteers, who show up with knee pads and paint rollers to refresh the 10×40ft sign from the previous year. It usually takes about 2 hours and 4 gallons of paint to restore. The last time it was painted was 2019 so it may take longer this year. I have a giant template in case the old one is too worn out to navigate by August. I tend to take photos of people painting while giving unsolicited advice.
package pickup. When you pick up your race pack on the Friday before the race, a volunteer will help you sort things out. Many of them are data entry professionals for Highmark West Virginia. You know your job well. Volunteers at the pasta dinner. Volunteers cook and serve hundreds of pounds of pasta the night before the race. They also scoop ice cream, make salads, bake cookies and serve hungry racers, many of whom are healthcare professionals at WVU Medicine – Camden Clark Medical Center. On the racetrack. From the start line to the finish line, it’s the volunteers who make the race run. Without them there would be no race. You will see large numbers of them at more than a dozen water stops and block dozens of crossings on the route. Some patrol the course on bicycles to ensure everyone’s safety between water stops. They’ll be there for you at the finish line to put a medal around your neck and offer you a cold towel and something to drink, and they’ll offer you medical help if your race didn’t end the way you planned .
Volunteers are the heart and soul of the race. It’s their faces that come into direct contact with the racers, and it’s them that have left such a great impression on visitors to Parkersburg year after year. You give up a Saturday morning for little more than a cotton t-shirt. I am very grateful for that.
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