As an associate at Independence Blue Cross and a lifelong runner, I’m fortunate to have unique opportunities to join the Independence Blue Streaks running club and volunteer with the Independence Blue Crew. If I’m not running a race, I try to be a race volunteer. I’ve experienced rain, excessive heat, frigid cold, and blustering wind. I’ve also seen average people perform at extraordinary levels and cross a finish line for the first time.
What I Love Most About Running
What do I think is the single best thing about running in a race? It’s the people who cheer you on.
Whether encouraging you to keep up with your training plan or attending races, it is often the family and friends who hold signs that make you laugh, shout for you as you run by, and embrace you in a sweaty hug at the finish line that keep you going.
There are also countless race volunteers. As any race director will tell you, it doesn’t happen without volunteers. They’re the folks who arrive very early — before sunrise and ready to withstand any weather conditions — and stay until the last runner crosses the finish line. They are responsible for checking in runners, handing out water along the course, and awarding you with a medal.
A High Five Can Go a Long Way
In between the race setup and take down, race volunteers give something that I think is the best of all: high fives. What is so special about a high five? Simply put, it’s universal. Young and old, fast and slow. I’ve never met a high five I didn’t like.
As a runner, I’ve had moments of struggle and some simple encouragement is all I need to keep going. I’ve also had moments of triumph and the need to celebrate a personal record along the way. A high five is there for the taking whether you’re having a good or not-so-good race.
Race Volunteers Are Just as Important as the Runners
One of my favorite races to run and volunteer is the Back on My Feet 5-Miler. There’s an inclusivity of people from all walks of life; some who are experiencing homelessness and are moving their lives forward, step by step. A race and its finish line are just the beginning.
Another favorite race of mine is the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. It is a quintessential Philadelphia experience. Philly is the home of Rocky, the birthplace of independence, and the location for the nation’s largest ten-mile race.
Challenge and determination define the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. And whether you are running it for the first time or the 40th, you’re bound to see a smiling race volunteer holding out his or her hand for a high five at the finish line.
You will find me volunteering at both races this year, standing along the course, cheering loudly, and stretching out a hand for strangers and friends to find their own encouragement and triumph.
After all, the very essence of volunteering is to lend a hand and help someone else.