How to be a great course marshall?
October 28, 2010 5:47 AM   Subscribe

How can I make being a course marshall for a 5K run fun, entertaining and/or motivating?

My 13 year old daughter and I will be volunteering as course marshalls for a 1st time 5k race. There will be about 300 runners raising money for a 2 year old child's new foundation. So many will be family, friends, coworkers of the family who started it.

Our basic job is to be at a certain point on the course to keep people on track and provide encouragement. What can we do to make it motivating or fun for the runners since a large number of them are not hard-core runners but doing this for a great cause? Any ideas of things to shout other than "great job, keep it up"?
posted by maxg94 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have a water table. People who aren't runners will want water. Make it so they don't have to stop in order to get it if they don't want to.
posted by theichibun at 5:55 AM on October 28, 2010

I think you have the right idea by saying, "great job, keep it up!" You don't need to put on a puppet show since they should be running right by you.

Depending where you are on the course it might be helpful to say something relevant to the race, like, "almost halfway there" "water up ahead" "almost at the finish line" etc...
posted by zephyr_words at 6:01 AM on October 28, 2010

This comes pretty naturally when you're doing it. Just show a lot of enthusiasm, and don't worry about repeating yourself, as your're always talking to a new person.
posted by OmieWise at 6:12 AM on October 28, 2010

Oh, oh, please don't say "almost there". It's a huge pet peeve of many, many runners, no matter what distance. Unless I am tripping over the finish line, I'm not almost there.

I would say "great job", "looking good", "stay strong", stuff like that. If the race director has you at a water table, make eye contact with the runner you are giving water to, so they know you see them, and don't have to stop.

And thank the runners for coming out and running for the foundation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:15 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Music is great- track down an old boom box or something else that is battery powered.
Wear a funny hat! Dance if you feel like it!
Cowbells are entertaining.

As for what to say- great job, keep it up is fine. You will think of other things when you are there, in context. As it is a fun run in close vicinity to Halloween, I would expect at least a few folks in costume, which could provide some good cheer fodder- 'don't get passed by the giant chicken!" etc.

Also, make yourself a big arrow sign. There will probably be at least a few high schoolers that have just finished cross-country season and will be flying. Having a non-verbal cue as to where to go is really nice for them and also just in general. This is especially true if there aren't any other course markings other than your physical presence, which is not uncommon for small races.

This is a 5k in November, so in reality no one needs water, and there will probably be an actual water station anyways. Don't worry about doing that.

Have fun!
posted by rockindata at 6:35 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

A bullhorn in one hand, and handing out water with the other.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 6:48 AM on October 28, 2010

Huge foam hands for offering high-fives.
posted by hydatius at 6:58 AM on October 28, 2010

There are specific water people at certain points, so I don't have to worry about that. I won't know where on the course (beginning, end, middle) we will be until we arrive there. Maybe we will have a choice?! We do think there will be costumes as the kid event includes a costume contest after the run (including face painting, moon bounce etc). It is a family friendly event.

Music - boom box sounds fun, but any particular songs? Loving ideas so far!
posted by maxg94 at 7:12 AM on October 28, 2010

maybe this?
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:50 AM on October 28, 2010

Agreed with rockindata! We bring music to races all of the time, I enjoy as both a volunteer and a competitor.

We've also dressed up in costumes at races - competitors love them and we have more fun!
posted by golden at 9:19 AM on October 28, 2010

Thanks for some great ideas. We went with dressing up (penguin costume), big arrow sign (which was good because we both ended up in a confusing loop section of the course), and yelling all sorts of fun things to the runners. We ended up knowing a lot of the people in the race, so we could often customize what we cheered.

My slightly embarassing yell to a 20ish couple "I almost didn't recognize you with your clothes on" was followed by a quick "Since I only see you at the pool in your bathing suit each summer" after I realized how it sounded as other runners started laughing!

It was a great day!
posted by maxg94 at 6:23 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

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