We should all give back to what we enjoy doing. Stage racing is no different. Yes, competing is fun and what we train for but we should consider lending our time and talents to further the sport along. I am talking about volunteering in support of stage races.
Like ultra running, most every stage race happens because of the volunteer base. These heroes are there for you and do everything in their power to make the event an enjoyable experience. They want you to succeed!
Volunteers are needed for many aspects of a stage race. Areas of opportunities can include medical, camp crew, cooks, aid station workers, timers, drivers, logistics personnel, media managers, information technology, communications, volunteer coordinators, course marking/sweeping and liaison.
No matter what area you wish to support you should have some very basic skills in order to be a contributing stage race volunteer. You should responsible, have experience living and working in the outdoors, be able to work long hours under adverse conditions and possess very good communications skills. You must also have a very positive attitude and the ability to let the little things roll off your back. Being multi-lingual is also a big plus.
Duties and responsibilities depends on the event and how it is organized but for generalities here are some details.
Medical: This is typically a highly specialized area of support and requires certification (MD, wilderness medicine, etc.). Lots of foot care!
Camp maintenance: Tear down, move and set up camp and start/finish line each day. Maintain camp operations such as water, sanitation and other infrastructure.
Aid station: Maintain aid stations in remote locations. Water, timing, encouragement and getting to see parts of the course Typically there is one aid station lead and 2-4 others (perhaps an embedded medic)
Drivers: Transportation of personnel and equipment to remote locations. Typically stage races look for locals with their own vehicles. Having a commercial drivers license may be a good thing.
Media/IT: Manage Facebook/websites. Cyber tent operations, distribution of emails, posting of results, etc.
Finish/Timing: Very similar to aid station work but with added timing responsibilities.
Liaison personnel: Act as an interface between the Race and local entities. Also between the Race and competitors.
Course Markers/Sweepers: This is perhaps some of the best work to do especially if you want to see the course.
Due to the limited number of volunteers, most will be doing more than one thing. Typically many volunteers support pre-race preparation, racer check in and equipment checks. You may also need to fill in if other volunteers drop out at the last minute.
Volunteering for a stage race is a hard thing to break into. Most races have a cadre of volunteers that they rely on and know the ropes so to speak. Having experience in volunteering for regular ultra races is helpful such as aid station work, medical, and general race support. Once you have obtained some relevant experience it is easier. Sometimes you may have to start at a lower level of responsibility to get your foot in the door and to become known to the race organizers.
So if you want to experience a race from a different perspective, make new friends, entertain yourself as a non-racing spouse, get out of doors and just have a grand time consider volunteering for a stage race.