Volunteer Shift Recap: runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon 2022

My husband Arthur and I had volunteered for a few runDisney events before helping out at water stop #5 for the 2022 Wine & Dine Half Marathon this November, but I hadn't done any write-ups before. So I thought I'd post a little summary of what runDisney is like from the perspective of a water stop volunteer. 

First, a little background: we've previously worked water stops at the 2019 Princess 10K and Half, the 2020 Marathon, and the 2020 Princess 10K and Half. This was our first post-pandemic volunteer gig. This was also the first runDisney race following changes with volunteer staffing and management, where Disney (or other hired) cast members have taken over a lot of the posts previously worked by volunteers (like at the Expo, and course pointing). Volunteer staffing management also shifted from runDisney to Track Shack. (This is my very basic understanding of the changes; I may have gotten some details wrong).

With the reduction of available positions for volunteers, shifts were harder to come by. I am part of a Facebook information group for runDisney volunteers and there were even more disappointed would-be volunteers for Wine & Dine weekend than usual. Arthur and I were lucky to get our one shift. We were initially assigned to work different water stops, but an email to Track Shack got us sorted out so we could work together.

Before showing up to the shift, volunteers need to pick up their credentials ahead of time. For us, that meant a mid-week visit to Track Shack in Orlando during the week prior to race weekend to pick up our badges and lanyards. Since Arthur's shift was changed to match mine after the badges were printed, he got a sticker placed on his badge to reflect his correct assignment. It's important to check that your badge credentials are correct before leaving pick-up.

Wake Up Call
Like runDisney runners, volunteers also face early wake-up calls to get everything ready for the race. We were to meet at the Wide World of Sports (WWOS) complex at 3AM in order to meet our bus. That meant leaving home shortly before 2AM! 

Check In - Site Arrival
Once we arrived at WWOS, we headed inside the main building to check in, where we showed our badges and ID.

There we also picked up our orange volunteer t-shirts (lightweight and soft, really nice this year!), safety vests (required for volunteers who are stationed on roadways), snack box (yes! volunteers get snack boxes, too!), and small bottles of water.

We ran to the restrooms to change into our shirts and then headed back outside.

Next it was time to pass through security, where our transparent bags were checked and we were wanded.

Although we arrived on time, we were surprised to be among the last to board our assigned bus! Soon we were on our way to mile 6.6, water stop #5, where a crazy mad rush of setting up tables and filling water cups would begin! 

Pre-Race Set Up
Setting up a water stop involves moving a lot of supplies around: tables, water bottles, sanitation equipment, cardboard garbage bins, rakes, cups and cup dividers, PowerAde mix, and more are all dropped off in a central location before the volunteers arrive. 

When we get to work, some volunteers move and set up tables, others use wagons to distribute packs of water, while others work on sanitizing the tables and setting up the cups, and another team works on mixing and distributing PowerAde. While we had some rain during set up (and the race), we were lucky that there was no wind. Wind poses a big challenge when setting up the cups! 

For this race, we didn't have enough time to set up all of the water and PowerAde cups that were on our plan; in the end we were missing a couple of layers of water or PowerAde cups by the time runners started coming through. Luckily, though the weather was warmer than ideal, the plan called for extra cups that were not needed in the end, so we could serve all runners who came through. 

In previous races, we've been done with our set up before the runners come through, leaving time for all of the volunteers to take a little break, drink some water and have a snack and/or visit the restroom before the real work begins. Before runners came through for the 2019 Princess half marathon, we were very close to a character stop and even had a chance to get our photo taken with the villains before handing out water to runners.

Our 2019 Princess half marathon volunteer spot was close to a character stop

Water Stop Volunteer
When you think of water stop volunteers, you might not think about the early wake up call, and all the pre-race work. You might only think about the volunteers standing before long tables full of cups, holding water in their palms for runners to take as they pass by. Seeing all of the athletes and handing out water is certainly the best part!

On Sunday, for this race, we were busy filling cups until well after the race began, and there was no time to take a breath until it was all over. Many volunteers continued to fill cups as the first wheelchair athletes and runners started to come through. Arthur and I started handing out water right away, and Arthur even handed out the first few cups before things really got moving. 

The early runners are fast, and come through sporadically. There are a lot of bike marshals with the early runners and wheeled athletes. After about a half hour, the pack becomes less loose and it can get a bit crowded handing out water. We were standing in a spotlight, with the runners back-lit, so it was really hard to see when someone would point to one of us for a cup (usually a great thing to do so the volunteer knows you're coming in for a grab). 

Once the sun started to come up, runners came in really thick and we had a blast making eye contact with the athletes, seeing all of the fun costumes, and watching the rest of the race field run by with lots of Disney joy.

After the Race
The runners came in the thickest right at the end. This time, we were just outside of Hollywood Studios, and probably just before a sweep point. Once the Balloon Ladies came through (effectively the pace-setters for the end of the race), there was a surprisingly large contingent of athletes walking behind them, with bike marshals encouraging everyone to catch up or risk being swept. We even saw a couple of golf carts taking runners to the next bus. And then it was all over! In the past, we volunteers had been tasked to do a bit of clean-up: taking down and stacking tables, clearing cups. But this time, all of that was taken care of by Disney castmembers, and we were really done. We finally had time for a quick restroom break -- and a photo! -- and then it was time to board the bus back to the WWOS for check out!

New this year, volunteers received their gift immediately after the shift. In the past, we'd get single day Disney World passes for each water stop shift. These would arrive in the mail some two months afterwards. This time, however, we recevied a single day, after 1PM Disney World pass as our gift. We also received a cute bento box as part of our thanks.

Next up, we're signed up to man a water stop during the 2023 Marathon Weekend full! We're looking forward to seeing the runners on Sunday, January 8th!


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