It’s Good For You!
There are a lot of race reports on this site. Like, heaps, and heaps. They cover adventure races, marathon mountain bike rides, runs, hikes, walks, you name it. But they (hopefully) all have one thing in common: thanking the volunteers at the end because, without volunteers, none of these races would happen. Races, even local club races, take a lot of time and effort to set up, from course planning and marking, through to all the admin work and timing (to determine who really did win that sheep station). If organisers had to pay for that time and effort, well the events would be too expensive for the average punter to enter.
So you should always thank the volunteers that you see. Better yet, you could try volunteering yourself! Yes, yes, it may all seem like hard work, but you may not be thinking about some of the advantages.
For starters: is it really work if you’re doing something you like? You can volunteer to help come up with a course, or to mark it out. In which case you’d just be riding around somewhere (maybe new), pausing every now and then to throw up a marker, or make a note. Is that any different to what you’d be doing anyway? AND you get kudos!
And, if you’re marshalling, manning a checkpoint or doing something else out on course, you can check out how some of the pro’s do it. For example: at Stromlo there is an off-camber corner coming around the hill (coming from Homeview Junction) as you approach the carpark (turning right instead and heading towards the end of the downhill track). A few events I’ve been in have taken that turn, and it’s always given me trouble. During a CORC race I volunteered at, I wound up marshalling on that corner, because the signage wasn’t very clear. So, I got to see how some of Australia’s best mountain bikers take that corner. (Surprisingly, they don’t do much different - they just go faster and smile the whole time).
It’s not just the racers you can learn from either. You can learn how courses are set, why they are set the way they are, and why course setters are such sadists (they’re not - they’re capitalists making money from the masochists who enter these events!) Or you can just chin-wag and compare gear with people in the event - it’s a great way to pick up a heap of tips and tricks.
Or you can just do it for the feel good factor. To the the smiles on people’s faces as they race past you; see them lift that little bit when you cheer them on and encourage them. Volunteering is a great experience, and well worth trying. And, the best news is, just about every event needs volunteers. So, just find one that you’re interested in, and find the volunteers section on their site. Here are a few to get you started:
And it’s not just events, you can go along and help out on various trail days for the local MTB groups:
- Hit upthe Berm for regular and calls to tools
- Majura Pines Trail Aliance regularly post their trail days.
- Friends of Bruce Ridge
- Trail Rats (Pine Island trails)
Yes, this is all very mountain bike specific, but you won’t have to look too hard to find volunteering opportunities in any sport or activity. For example: my brother frequently paddles alongside swimmers in long distance events and triathlons. Just check out a site for your favourite sport, and you’ll find something of interest.