Volunteering for Triathlons

This week I’m tagging in an expert- my friend Janae Dixon from Team Betty 2017! Janae is a multiple Ironman & Ironman 70.3 finisher who loves helping new triathletes get on their feet. She’s also an avid race volunteer, so I asked her to share her experiences on why volunteers are needed and how you can get involved!

Why are volunteers essential to triathlon races?

Some races will have a small crew who are paid but some are all volunteer. This really depends on the scale of race and whether it’s for profit or not. Regardless of which kind of race or production it is races still need volunteers, if they didn’t have volunteers race prices would dramatically increase. If you are looking at filling a volunteer role for a for-profit production company, check if there are any benefits you may get like 1/2 off a future race. If it’s a for-profit then take joy in helping keep athletes safe and giving back. If a race doesn’t get enough volunteers they will either hire temp workers or rearrange volunteers to only cover the import positions. Even though a race ideally wants a volunteer at every turn or intersection they may only be able to cover the more confusing ones.

What kinds of jobs can people do?

Typical jobs are 2-4 hours long including parking monitors, course monitors, traffic control, transition volunteers, body marking, packet pickup, finish line and sometimes set up/tear down. For longer races there can also be wetsuit strippers, changing tent volunteers, special needs and other things that are specific to longer courses. The most coveted position (at least for short races) is transition, body marking, or finish line because it gives a non-athlete access to transition or a restricted finish line where you can see friends or relatives you may be spectating. If you sign up for these positions, remember you are there for ALL athletes and athlete safety is priority number one. Don’t get in the way of a racer to snap a picture or chat with your athlete. The most important volunteer positions are those involving athlete safety, usually out on the course. They aren’t the most glamorous but are the most important. If you’re not an experienced competitor, volunteering in transition can be really useful to watch what other athletes are doing: how they set up transition, how they run with their bikes, and much more.

What’s your favorite job to do and why?

My favorite is body marking and transition because at a lot of local races I know most of the participants and get to say hi. I also like covering important intersections where you have to give directions or have a little more awareness. Some intersections are better filled by experienced athletes. If you are an experienced athlete it is worth mentioning to the race director. Because athletes have a better awareness of flow of traffic and are usually more conscientious of competitors, he or she may want to move you into a critical position.

Why do you volunteer?

I like helping out in general, in what ever way I can, so it’s just natural for me to give back to my community by volunteering. I started volunteering back in 2012 when I was introduced to triathlons and it’s opened a lot of doors for me. Some races I still volunteer but others I’m part of the crew. Volunteer positions are usually short but crew members work really long hours on back to back days.

Do you have a great volunteering story to share?

My most memorable volunteer day was at Kona ’14 since it inspired me to do an Ironman myself. We were at mile 4 on the run and passed out water/coke to runners. There were some incredibly fast athletes out there! But others you could already see in their faces that they were using every ounce of their fiber to keep going. It would be a long run but they had incredible determination and resilience. It was inspiring being around so many top tier athletes for a week working out beside them. We swam, rode, or ran every day while there! A friend and I also had the opportunity to swim the Kona course a few days before the race which was a huge factor in feeling I COULD do an Ironman. Before that trip my longest swim had been 1.5 miles training for a half. Volunteering at any race distance can inspire you and fill your training fuel. Ultimately races wouldn’t happen without volunteers and it’s nice to help other athletes have smooth races.

How can people get involved?

Check out your local race websites. Usually they have a sign up system or request form where you can contact the race director. If no volunteer information is listed then reach out using the provided contact information and ask if they need volunteers.

You can find Janae over on Instagram @janaedixon

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