I love to volunteer. I love giving back to the community and helping great causes. Imagine my delight when I found out that I could combine volunteering with another of my passions: Disneyland.
About a year ago, I came across a tweet stating that volunteer registrations would take place for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, and 3 half marathons later with one on the way, I am so hooked!
Volunteering for a runDisney Half Marathon Weekend is almost as popular and difficult to come by as the actual races, with registration that fills up quite quickly. In the space of a year or so, the runDisney races at the Disneyland Resort have increased from just 2 half marathon weekends with the Disneyland Half Marathon and Tinker Bell Half Marathon, to 4 weekends, with the introduction of the inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon this past weekend and the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon in January 2015.
As a volunteer, you can choose your shift(s), which can start as early as 1 AM on any given day (or later), as well as what duties you are responsible for – from working the Health & Fitness Expos, handing out water bottles at various water stations and food post-race, to manning the volunteer check-in table and giving out medals at the finish line. There are even medical volunteers and massage therapists who volunteer their time to serve the runners.
As a thank you, runDisney will provide volunteers with a commemorative event t-shirt that changes with the event’s theme, a snack box, bottled water, and if you meet your eligibility requirements, one theme park ticket! These eligibility requirements vary by race, as well as if you volunteer as an individual or as part of a group. Information regarding this can be found at runDisney’s official website, but be sure to also follow DisneyExaminer on Twitter for the latest on when volunteer opportunities open up.
Every race weekend, I try to volunteer at the medal station during one of those days. It can be labor-intensive, attempting to unwrap each individual medal and putting them on racks before the race starts. For the Avengers 5K, there were 5,000 medals we had to unwrap in the allotted time. From there, you have the option of handing the medals to the runners or providing support by getting the medals from the racks and passing them off, so that each volunteer handing out medals do not run out.
Then the fun begins! I never know how long I’m out there, because the time goes by so quickly. You’re cheering your heart out, clapping, putting medals over the runners’ heads and congratulating them. It is quite the experience to come across a runner who has trained for a 5K, 10K, or half marathon, and then to be the first point of contact when they finish. Sometimes they are exhausted and sometimes that exhaustion fades with tears of joy, but to see the look of accomplishment on their faces is why I do it. I love being able to put the medal over their head and say, “Congratulations, good job out there!”
From the kids who run (and can probably run faster than me), to the ones who can run a 10K in their sleep all the way to the disabled participants, each and every runner is an inspiration to me. Being there at the finish line and sharing it with them even if they are strangers is quite rewarding. As a volunteer, you hear a lot of “thank you’s,” some runners will even hug you or give you high-five’s. Those are the memories I take with me after each race weekend, and why I will brave cold temperatures and no sleep to continue to volunteer at these races. Nothing else, perhaps even riding your favorite attraction, can make you feel like more of a hero than serving one.
Volunteering at a runDisney race is pure Disney magic at its finest!
The next opportunity to volunteer is the Tinker Bell Half Marathon from 5/7-10/15. Registration will open on Tuesday, 2/17/15 at 9am PST. Volunteer group applications will be available starting Friday, 11/21/14. For more information, click HERE.
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Have you participated in a runDisney Half Marathon race? Did you participate as a volunteer? If so, tell us your experiences below!