My alarm rang—4:30 AM. I started to regret choosing a volunteer opportunity with such an early start time. However, once I got some coffee and met those I would be spending the morning with, I was glad I set my alarm.
I ran track and cross country all throughout high school and a couple years in college. During that time, I ran in countless races made possible by people that got up early, drove down the highway, and helped with various tasks—all without pay. I chose volunteering for a couple races being held in my community because I felt I was in debt. I had been on the receiving end of countless hours of volunteer service, and I thought a few hours might help diminish my debt, if only by a little bit. My primary job at the first race I volunteered at, The Prairie Dog Half, 10k, and 5k, was to hand out souvenir cups and medals to the finishers. I enjoyed this because I was among the first to tell race participants good job at the end of the race. My primary job for the second race I volunteered at, The Bubble Run, was filling cups of water for the participants. In total, there were about 3,000 runners, so I now consider myself an expert in filling up plastic cups with water.
One of my favorite experiences during this time was getting to know my fellow volunteers. Many volunteered purely because they enjoyed being around road races and congratulating people for their hard work. After a couple hours of volunteering for the Prairie Dog, I learned that a woman I was handing out cups with was a survivor of breast cancer. She explained how running races helped her recover post-treatment, and was thankful for the volunteers of the races she ran, and wanted to pay back the service she received while going through a difficult time. Meeting her put my complaints about waking up early into perspective, and has inspired me to continue volunteer work even once my internship is over.