Five Ways to Give Back to the Running Community

It’s nearly impossible to attend a running event and not get caught up in the feelings of excitement, accomplishment, optimism and community. Even non-runners who come out to cheer their friends or family on are soon seen waving their arms, screaming with excitement, and jumping up and down with carefree joy. Running is a unique sport enveloped in an absolutely contagious mood. One of the most impressive aspects about the running community, however, is that it runs nearly entirely on volunteers. People love this sport enough to willingly give their time to ensure it keeps happening and brining joy to those involved. If you are a runner who hasn’t given back to the community yet, here are some ways to consider volunteering and doing your part to encourage the continuation of this amazing sport.

Volunteer at a race
You don’t have to travel very far to find a local race these days, and there is not likely to be a race director who will turn down volunteer help. Whether it’s a 5k or a marathon, organized races take an overwhelming amount of blood, sweat, and tears – and that’s not including the runners. Race volunteers can do a variety of jobs, including collecting entry paperwork and fees, handing out race numbers and pins, working water stations, or handing out medals and those fun space blankets to finishers.

Clean up your favorite trail
If signing up to work with a group is not your preference and you’d rather do your community service solo, simply taking a walk along your favorite running trail or path with a large garbage bag and picking up garbage and recyclables is a wonderful gesture. Odds are, if it’s your favorite trail, others are enjoying it as well.

Donate to a race
Although there are not usually drop boxes or accounts set up for specific races where you can simply write a check, drop it off, and start patting yourself on the back, but donating to a race can be as simple as contacting the race director and offering what you can. Helpful donations for races include things like first aid supplies, healthy snacks, and water or sports drinks. If you really want to go above and beyond, see if either your employer or another local company has materials or funds they would be willing to donate to the race as well.

Donate your running shoes
Many running stores will happily accept your old running shoes as a donation. A variety of things are done with donated shoes, depending on their condition. If the shoes still have some life in them and aren’t too beat up, they will be donated to a charity that gives them to people in need, locally and abroad. If the shoes have been beaten to death and beyond, they can be saved from landfills and instead the pieces of the shoes can be recycled into sports surfaces like courts for basketball and tennis, athletic courts, and playgrounds for children.

Be a pacer
New runners or long distance runners most often benefit from pacers. A pacer is generally an experienced runner who agrees to run part of all of a race with someone in order to help them set a previously agreed-upon pace and obtain a specific overall time. Pacers also offer encouragement, moral support, and sometimes carry additional food, water, or supplies for their runner. In other words, they are a personal support crew for a specific runner. Pacing is intended to be a completely selfless activity; they are out there solely to support their runner and to be whatever that runner needs throughout that race.

Volunteering to help sustain the activities you love and benefit from is always a great way to support your passions. Please consider giving back to a sport that gives so much to those who enjoy it.