When I first started racing well over a decade ago, I always wondered who were the volunteers on the sideline handing out water and snacks. I wondered if they knew the pain I was in at mile 22 of a marathon or that I was so thankful I stayed upright on the bike during the water bottle exchange during a duathlon or had eaten dirt on the technical section the trail.  During the event, when I was putting it all out, it didn’t dawn on me that the people volunteering, cheering, and shouting encouraging words were people who knew exactly what it felt like to be where I was. They knew that feeling of being in the pain cave and the feeling of crossing a finish line when you were not sure you could or crushing a personal record. It is because they have been there that the right words at the right time are said.


Sweeping the Rogue Gorge 50k with Stacy and Becky


My first time as a volunteer was at a trail race was in February 2019 at NW Trail Runs Fort Ebey Kettle Runs Half and Full marathon on Whidbey Island. For volunteering, we received a free entry into the 10K that was held the next day.  It seemed like a good gig, drive up to the San Juan Islands, volunteer and race the next day. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect conditions to run a race. When we arrived at the assigned trailhead, NW Trails had already placed the supplies at our aid station.  I was amazed at all the goodies! We set up the aid station. I got to work making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, placed water out, and waited for the first runners. Runners came through; some grabbed food and water while others ran through with a wave and a smile.  The marathon course was two loops of the half marathon.  When runners pass through an aid station twice, it is a great way to assess how well the trail has treated them the first time around.  During the second loop, we saw a woman pushing herself up the hill to the aid station. When she heard the cheering and cowbell (a good sign of aid station), she picked up her feet, began running, and as she entered the aid station, she threw her arms around Shane and said, “I have been waiting to see you!” We then learned of her struggles on the last lap.  She had lost her confidence as her legs tired and words of self-doubt set in. It is a mindset that has knocked on my door a time or two before.  Food, hydration, and a few encouraging words, and she were on her way in a much better physical, emotional, and mental state than entering 6 minutes earlier.  It wasn’t until then that I understood the power of volunteering.


Shane at the NW Trails Fort Ebey Kettles Trail Half and Full Marathon Aid Station


I initially planned on making a list of reasons to volunteer. Give back to the community, support trail runners, make friends, scout out an event, etc. but then realize why I would give you all the reasons when the folks volunteering can share their reasons. So here they are, reasons volunteers volunteer.  If you would like to volunteer at a race with Northwest Dirt Churners, check our events page.


Getting ready to serve runners at the Frog Lake Mt. Hood 50 mile aid station


Inspirational Stories

“I was volunteering at Oakridge Triple Summit when I met a woman who has lost her home to the Oregon wildfires, and yet, here she was volunteering and cheering runners one.  When I asked what led her to volunteer, she said she was inspired by a friend who ran trails.  She and her friends started a trail running group in their local community to begin training for the 2021 Triple Summit.  She took this to learn more about the training running community “~Liz

The Good Vibes!

“Those feel-good vibes from being super inspired by people’s grit and determination plus no pressure (of your own) all the fun…and Oreos,” Becky

Race Directors Appreciate You!

“Not gonna lie-I like free swag” ~Stacy

“Also, the swag is a nice perk, and getting invited to an exclusive end of season party makes me feel special”~ Edwin

Race Directors cannot be everywhere on race day volunteering gives you the insight to provide “suggestions for improvement on certain races “~Summer


Brooks Caldera 5 $139.95


Support Friends New and Old

“Cheer on and support my friends!!! First and foremost. Meet new people. See the people I stalk on Strava in person (they always look much smaller in person). All the photos. Give “suggestions” for improvement to the race directors on certain races. It is a good excuse for a rest day”~Summer

“To meet other crazy people”~ Linda B

“Making new connections, hearing people’s stories…and I like the sense of camaraderie, helping out other runners. It feels like an honest days work”~ Edwin

Give Back to the Trail Running Community

“To give back to the runner community, participate in the joyous celebrations of human endurance that trail running events tend to be! Also, as an appreciation for volunteers who volunteer when I run (running community is somewhat unique, it depends solely on volunteers to pull off large events!)”~Deepa.

“Some of my fondest race memories have been chatting with volunteers at aid stations. In some instances, a 1-minute interaction means the difference between me quitting and staying in the race.  I want to pay that forward one day”. ~Linda

“I volunteer because the trail community has given me so much, and I enjoy being a part of it, so I want to give the love back” ~Launa.

Empathize: We Too Know Suffering

“I know how it feels to run with complete joy, and I also recognize when someone is suffering. I absolutely love lifting and encouraging someone to keep going and to believe in themselves!” ~Liana

Garner Personal Inspiration

“It is inspiring to see others take on challenges and complete them. Also, COWBELLS!!”~Scottie.

“To learn about the race dynamics such as how a race is executed, issues that runners encounter, what are the course challenges; the opportunity to meet people and develop friendships; and the experience the race energy without the pressure of performance” ~Alexa

Rest day

“When I was in recovery {injury} I volunteered to stay connected to my peeps. Mostly it’s to give back to the sport I love” ~Anne

“it is a good excuse for a rest day!”~Summer


Shane having fun giving the Wy’east Wonder 50k racers “More Cowbell!”