Ready…Set…Go – Volunteering at the Toronto Waterfront Scotiabank Marathon

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Toronto Waterfront Scotiabank Marathon. The marathon, which is now in its 13th year is an annual marathon held in Toronto. There are three difference races within the marathon: (5k), half marathon (21k) and the full marathon (42k). The race is considered to be a world-class event and meets the international standards as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

Every year, thousands of runners run in support of multiple charities. This year there were over 25,000 runners that helped  raise money for more than 180 local charities.[1]

While this is not the first marathon I’ve been to (I’ve done a few 5k and 10k runs) it’s certainly the biggest. It was super inspiring to get to see people running for great causes, for loved ones, to achieve personal goals and to break set records. It was also really great to see the 5k Wheelchair Run, where participants with physical disabilities are given the opportunity to take part in the race. It really was a race for everyone because you had the chance to see people of all abilities, shapes, sizes, ages participating.

Runners at Nathan Philips Square.  Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

Runners at Nathan Philips Square.
Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

On race day I was positioned as an “escort” in the volunteer check in area. I arrived really early at City Hall around 5 a.m. (after a long journey of trying to figure out which roads weren’t closed off because of the marathon) to start my shift. I was responsible for gathering volunteers after they completed check-in and bringing them to the station they were set to work at (baggage check, finish line water station, etc.). I spent the majority of day on my feet walking back and forth between the volunteer check-in area and different stations.

Marathon starting gate.  Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

Marathon starting gate.
Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

Although I was constantly running around, I did take a few moments here and there to cheer on the runners and soak in the bustling energy at Nathan Philips Square. There was lots activity happening in front of City Hall that day. There were a variety of companies handing out samples and promoting their products and services (food and beverage companies, running groups, health clinics). There were also a number of charity booths set up.  Family, friends and supports stood beside the exit chute (where the runners came out after the race) eagerly waiting for the runners to finish. It was touching to see the amount of support and encouragement that participants got from their family and friends. I remember seeing a woman who was running in memory of her husband get the biggest hug from her parents as she came out of the chute. It’s moment like these that make marathons and volunteering in general worth it.

Overall my volunteer experience with Scotiabank Marathon was very positive. Towards the end of my shift, I remember group of marathoners who came by the volunteer check-in area just to say thanks to the volunteers for doing such a great job. It makes you realize how important volunteers are. An event like this cannot function without lots of helping hands. This year there were almost 3000 volunteers who helped to make this event possible. If I get the chance next year I would certainly love to volunteer again. Hopefully next time they put me on a slightly later shift so I don’t have to get up at 3 a.m. on race day!

Runners cooling down after the big race. Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

Runners cooling down after the big race.
Photo credit: Chantal Penrose

[1] “Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon Photos.” Toronto Star. N.p., 20 Oct. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2013