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Volunteers are heart of the race

June 21, 2022 - Art Smith
If you have ever raced in the News and Sentinel Half Marathon or Two-Mile Race you know how great a group of volunteers we have.

Many people have told us over the years how much they enjoy doing the races. That enjoyment is largely based on how great the volunteers in Parkersburg really are. The race is run on the efforts of close to 1,000 volunteers. I can’t name them all here. But I will describe some of the things they do to make sure the races go off smoothly.

The bulk of the volunteer efforts start a few weeks before the event. I have had the privilege of watching them do their thing for the last two decades. It took me a while, but I finally learned that the best thing to do was to thank them for helping, and to stay out of their way and let them do their thing.

Here are some of the “things” that they do.

Prep the race bags. Every racer who takes part in the races get a nice draw string bag that is provided by Mountain River Physical Therapy. Each bag has to be stuffed with a variety of materials prior to the event. This includes the four pins that will hold the race number on their shirt on race morning. We set up a production line of sorts and the bags are handed from one person to another as different items are put in the bag. My job is to remember to get them pizza when they are done.

Paint the finish line. This is painted the Monday night before the race by volunteers who show up with knee pads and paint rollers to refresh the 10×40 foot sign from the year before. It normally takes about 2 hours and 4 gallons of paint to restore it. The last time it was painted was 2019, so this year may take longer. I have a giant stencil if the old one is too worn by August to find our way. I tend to take photos of people painting while offering un-requested advice.

Packet Pick-up. When you go to get your race materials the Friday before the race a volunteer will help you sort things out. Many of them are data entry professionals for Highmark West Virginia. They know their job well.

Pasta dinner volunteers. Volunteers cook and serve hundreds of pounds of pasta the night before the race.

They also scoop ice cream, make salads, bake cookies and wait on hungry racers, many are health care professionals from WVU Medicine — Camden Clark Medical Center.

On the race course. From the starting line to the finish line, it’s the volunteers who make the race, well, run. There would be no race without them. You will see a huge number of them at more than a dozen waterstops, and blocking the dozens of intersections on the course.

Some will be on bikes patrolling the course to ensure everyone’s safety between waterstops. They will be there for you at the finish line to put a medal around your neck and offer you a cold towel and something to drink and they will be there to offer you medical help if your race didn’t end exactly as you had planned.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of the race. It’s their faces that come in direct contact with the racers, and it is they who have left such a great impression with those visiting Parkersburg year after year. They give up a Saturday morning for little more than a cotton t-shirt. For that I am extremely grateful.

Art Smith is co-director the News and Sentinel races and is online manager for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. He can be reached at His column about the races appears each weekend.


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