Signing up for my first obstacle course race (OCR) was a bit of a rush. I'm talking the first day of school, way too excited to go to sleep rush. It was 2015, my birthday, and I wanted to do something “different.” There I was searching online for something to do. Then it happened, I came across a red symbol which looked like a head with a helmet on it. Interesting, a Spartan Race. It had the mud, the challenge, and the memories I wanted. But, I wasn't sure if I was going to really like it. After my first Spartan Race, which was the Maryland Sprint, I was hooked. Yeah, I was extremely sore, plus I fell asleep in the car while still in the parking lot exhausted, but I didn't care. I wanted more experiences like this. It was the best 3.1 plus miles of my life.
After running many varied races from New York to South Carolina, I started to factor in expenses while traveling. So, while searching race websites, I noticed a volunteer section. Bingo! I can volunteer at races. I can either volunteer first and then run the race, race then volunteer, or simply use a free race credit or discount to run a future race. Through my discovery of race credits, I have now volunteered at multiple Spartan Races, Bonefrog, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Battlefrog, and Savage Races. I have held various volunteer positions working as a race course volunteer, photographer, builder, concessions, parking, bag check, kid's races, and starting line volunteer.
Some of the pros are you get to see the race map ahead of time, a chance to meet like-minded individuals, a better understanding of OCR operations, plus a chance to see how the elites compete. I also enjoy being able to test out obstacles (if given permission). The free lunch and swag is a great bonus too. Some of the cons are early morning hours, long shifts, lack of rest before the volunteer heat, or potentially not eating anything. If you chose to run on the same day you volunteer these factors can affect your race outcome. Oh, I know what you are thinking, the answer is no. You can't use a free race credit on Spartan Race Elite or Competitive waves. The race credits are based on certain times. Other races have their own rules, so choose based on your preferences.
Volunteering may not be for everyone, but the race companies are doing the best they can to make the benefits worth your time. I have saved well over $1,500.00 by not having to pay for races. More importantly, the race companies seek volunteers. They basically blast an all call for volunteers at the end of the day for anyone looking to get a refund or a future race credit. I would also suggest inquiring at the volunteer tent. Sure, it looks like I'm hopping around to races being cheap, but let me make myself clear, I love this stuff. Each race provides something different. My suggestion is to give volunteering a try, have fun with it. If you really start to develop a passion for OCR, then allocate your money to the right places, so you can enjoy your race experience. I prefer volunteering at my local races, so I can get a free race credit to run races farther away. Do I pay for races? Absolutely. I'm just willing to get “volunteer” muddy for more race action.
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