How To Volunteer At A Running Event: Marathons, 5Ks And More

Volunteering at any event is always an appreciated service.

From charity to events to running events, everyone involved is highly appreciated by the community and generally feels fulfilled after a day’s work. But how can you get involved?

How to Volunteer at a Running Event Marathons, 5Ks and more

Volunteers at running events take an array of roles. Whether it’s handing out water to runners, set-up and break-down crew, or photographers, there is a role for everyone.

You don’t have to be there to support a certain individual either, just looking to support the running community is more than enough! Find out how you can get involved below. 

Volunteer At Running Events 

With running events helping to raise over one billion dollars a year for various causes, you can see why being involved is such a big deal.

The Boston Marathon raised over 30 million US dollars in 2017 alone as each runner is estimated to have donated $10,000.

Helping out at events such as this or just your local 5K event can be a great way to give back to the running community and beyond. 

Not to mention that volunteering in events management, first aid and other areas can help you gain work experience for college applications.You’ll be able to work in a fast paced environment and enhance skills you already possess. 

Become A Guide Runner For Those With Disabilities

One way you can help at running events is to guide runners with disabilities. This would involve taking part in the race itself as you will be aiding someone with a disability throughout their journey.

Your main focus is to ensure your partner completes the race whilst having a good time! 

If this sounds like something you would excel at, there are opportunities at Achilles International who will assign you with a partner.

Or United in Stride organise for over 2000 blind athletes to run in major events such as The Boston Marathon. 

Set Up Your Own Station

We’ve all had an angel or a stranger on the sidelines hand us an ice pop, gummy bear, tissue, or banana to lift our spirits. Create your own quick snack or hydration station and act as that person for someone else.

If you live close to the course, it would be best to spray runners with your garden hose. Even science demonstrates that encouraging others can improve your running.

Any act of helping to boost running morale is appreciated. 

Sign Up 

For larger events such as Everlong Endurance 50K, there is a process to go through before you can begin helping out on the day. 

Signing up will involve a short form of your personal details and any emergency contact information to ensure your own safety during the event.

To create more effective volunteer groups you may be asked to provide you experience at volunteer events. Not to worry if this is your first time! There’s a sport for everyone. 

Within a few weeks of the event, you should anticipate hearing from a member of the race management team once you’ve registered.

You might not hear anything for, well, months if the race is months away. That’s alright. There will be some sort of communication that likely includes introductions, timelines, tasks, and expectations.

How to Volunteer at a Running Event Marathons, 5Ks and more (1)

The email might also be an invitation to a volunteer meeting, which many race directors believe is a good way to provide information and, more significantly, to invite suggestions and inquiries.

Responsibilities Of Volunteers 

Once you have signed up to the correct organisations for the race you wish to volunteer at, you can begin thinking about what tasks and responsibilities may fit you.

Or if you are volunteering at your local running event, you can choose what area you would like to support. 

Delivery & Storage Of Equipment

Volunteers of this department are accountable for making sure that all the equipment is delivered on time to the event and is safely kept over the week.

Course Check

On the day of the event, volunteers are sent out to check the entire course route. This is to make sure the course is safe to run on the day with no unexpected problems. 

Set Up

If you prefer doing a bit of heavy lifting, this might be the section for you. The Run Director receives preparation assistance from volunteers.

This could involve setting up the start/finish location with the finish funnel, positioning equipment around the course, and setting up signs and/or cones to mark the course.

Lead Bike

This volunteer leads the way and alerts other those not involved in the event that runners are approaching, the group cycles ahead of the front participants.

This helps keep runners on the right course as the bikes are dressed with bright colours for identification. 

All cyclists are highly encouraged to wear the necessary safety gear, particularly a properly fitted cycling helmet.


Photographers document running events in order to support in motivating others to exercise and redefining what it means to be active. This photography offers a way to document historical occurrences across time.

Depending on the organisation, photographers are required to follow a privacy agreement. Failure to follow these requirements could result in the volunteer being banned from the event. 

These are only a selection of the roles and responsibilities you could undertake at a running event. With many more roles which involve less or more responsibilities. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming part of a running event as a volunteer has never been simpler. Whether you decide to be involved in the race itself as a guide running for those with a disability or set up your own stall to pass out water.

Helping at a running event is a fulfilling way to spend your time. 

Although, for larger events which involve corporate sponsors such as The San Francisco Marathon, sign up is required.

This allows the volunteer committee to assign you to the right area where you will provide the best service. 

So, sign up and show up to support your local running events! Cheer on your fellow athletes in ways you have never considered before.

Meet new friends, experience something new and overall have a great time volunteering!

Richard Harris