Volunteering the weekend away

It’s been a week since my jam-packed weekend full of volunteering and I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. So I admit, I’ve been really slack this week.

Saturday was not only Valentine’s Day (or BRFVDay) but was also my first Parkrun experience. I had signed up to run Parkrun back in June 2014, and hadn’t yet made it to one of the local events. For those not familiar with the Parkrun concept – it’s an awesome free, weekly timed 5K event that is solely run by volunteers. It doesn’t matter how fast you run, or walk – Parkrun is for everyone!

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I made my way down to the local Parkrun event and was greeted by a huge amount of runners ready to get their 5K on! As a first-timer, I wasn’t too sure what to expect but the start (and the course in its entirety) is well marked out. Volunteers are easy to spot, thanks to the Parkrun volunteer branded bibs that are worn. I was positioned as a course marshal, at the bottom of a small hill on the way out but it was the beginning of the hill for the way back.

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I must admit that I had so much fun working the course marshal role, it was great to cheer everyone on – from those who were leading the field, to chatting to the back of the packers as they cleaned up the course markers on the way through. There’s no “just 5K” talk here, everyone is out to enjoy the run, the location and the community!

Unfortunately this week’s event was cancelled due to a music festival occurring where the course is, but I’m super eager to get back out there, volunteering and cheering everyone on next week!

With Parkrun done at about 9am, I was lucky enough to have the rest of the day (awesome early start times also mean runners can go on with their day to day) since I was going to be up SUPER EARLY thanks to my decision to volunteer at the Spartan Sprint race on Sunday.

It was an early morning and a bit of a drive to Stadium Australia (the Olympic Stadium) where the first Spartan Stadium Sprint would be taking place. I haven’t had much OCR experience – I have completed a Warrior Dash event many, many years ago – so I wasn’t sure what the participants would be going through. I initially had thought about competing in this myself, however since there is no list of the obstacles that you would face, I had decided to volunteer before competing next time around. And it’s a good thing that I did! There’s no way in my current state that I would have been able to run the 5K – 7K event PLUS the crazy obstacles!

I arrived really early to the stadium, walking around in the dark with almost no-one around can get really spooky – but eventually I made my way to the course. The Spartan containers provided an awesome entry point to the location – it really did provide an indication as to how EPIC this event is. Little did I know that people would actually be climbing over it later in the day.

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After checking in and receiving my posting (Water Station 1), I looked to see what obstacles were going to be part of the event. There were the traditional ones that come to mind when thinking about OCR such as the water crawl, but there were also a lot more crossfit type stations – and with the failure to complete, there’s the 30 burpee penalty. I was SO glad that I didn’t choose to run upon seeing the traveling burpee station.

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For those unsure abut traveling burpees, it’s a jump forward where you normally just jump up. Who knew there were various types of burpee??

Some of the obstacles are labelled mandatory since it may be quicker to do the actual penalty rather than the obstacle itself. This avoids that situation.

After a final debrief (including a notice that the Elites must do the burpee penalty, the remainder shouldn’t be so strict) we peeled off to our locations. There were no maps, so race staff were on hand to assist with finding our way around the stadium. All obstacles needed a minimum 2 people and I was quick to put my hand up when the cargo nets needed an additional person. I had been upgraded!

Luckily my station wasn’t too far from the entrance to the stadium but this wasn’t where the race began. I wasn’t sure how far into the race we were, nor what obstacles were before, or after us. I DID know that there were a whole lot of stairs that the competitors needed to run up and down. The course made use of the entire stadium, and when you think of it, any distance is hard to get up when you’re in such a compacted area!

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I tried the cargo net while we were waiting to hear the start, and with a little luck, managed to get off just before the first two elites came through. These guys are fast and had no effort in climbing up the nets.

 

Over the course of the next 5 and a bit hours, we had waves of people coming through. The cargo net obstacle wasn’t the hardest one, and we didn’t get anyone doing burpees. That said, surprisingly there were people who refused to climb the ropes and then there were the people that we encouraged and coached to get to the top. I wondered how these people would have gotten along the remainder of the course, there were definitely some really tough obstacles and I definitely think that it’s hard to say that you’ve completed the entire course if you’ve skipped a bunch of obstacles (and not done the burpee penalty) – does that really make you Spartan tough?

I was really impressed by the constant monitoring of the volunteers by the staff, they provided us with water, fruit and snacks as we checked in for the day; came around halfway through the shift with more water and fruit and then finally provided a roll for lunch at the end of the shift (around 12-12:30pm). We also had a radio in the event that someone injured themselves, luckily we didn’t need to use it.

From logging the one shift I had the opportunity to run in the volunteer wave in the afternoon. I spent the entire shift agonising over it, it sure looked like a whole lot of fun but I hadn’t really been running anywhere near the distance, nor would I been able to be successful at some of the stations. I also purposely dressed in clothes other than running gear earlier that morning to make it a little more difficult to just decide to run. Current me was thankful at past me for being that smart at 3am!

Eventually I decided to bank the hours. I do get a free Spartan Sprint run or discounted entry to the Super & Beast events. On the way out I caught some of the obstacles, it looked hard but fun! I think I’ll definitely look at competing next year once I’m done with the marathon!

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It was a tiring, but pretty fun weekend. I loved being on the other side of the races and cheering everyone on! It’s definitely something that all runners should do, it really does make you appreciate those who also get up at a ridiculous time of the morning (similar to the runners, sometimes even earlier) just to make sure that people get to run.

 

 

 

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