Start and Finish Area Volunteers on How the New York City Marathon has Moved Them
The TCS New York City Marathon brings 50,000 runners through 26.2 miles of city streets, and guiding them through the five boroughs are more than 10,000 race-day volunteers.
In Staten Island, volunteers at the start area help ensure that runners get their race day off on the best note possible, and 26.2 miles later, in Manhattan’s Central Park, volunteers are ready to celebrate and support runners at the finish line. In both locations, those who volunteer cherish being a part of such a wonderful event, and are sure to do the same once again this November 3.
But don’t take our word for it—hear from former Marathon volunteers who have served at the start area and at the finish, in their own words, about why you should volunteer at this year’s TCS New York City Marathon.
WHY YOU SHOULD VOLUNTEER AT THE START
Remi Chian was inspired to begin volunteering after watching the race in 2011, witnessing firsthand the work volunteers do, and being, as he put it, “[A]mazed by the volunteers working the fluid station at Mile 7.”
From that first experience in Brooklyn, he decided to sign up to volunteer as soon as possible. In 2013, he volunteered at the start area and immediately felt a strong sense of community with the other runners.
“I had just started running myself, but it proved to be a common language with many who traveled for the event and spoke little or no English,” he said. “From that moment on, I became determined to provide the most positive experience wherever and whenever I could. I became hooked on the volunteering aspect of the race, and the rest is history.”
Volunteer Thomas Joyce also fondly recalled the sense of community with the runners as well as with his fellow volunteers.
“Many of the volunteers come back each year so we get to catch up on Marathon day,” he said.
He added, “The Wave 1 runners have many of the same runners each year and they remember you one year to the next. You have a one-day friendship that lasts.”
Volunteer Thomas Biederman, meanwhile, had a rather strategic reason for choosing to volunteer at the Marathon start line. “I ran my first (and only) NYC Marathon in 2015, and the year before, I volunteered at the start in order to get an understanding of what is going on there,” he said. “This helped me tremendously in the year after, when I was a runner, because I knew how it all worked, how it looked, and what to expect.
“Whenever I volunteer with the [New York] Road Runners, I tell my volunteers this: If you want to run the Marathon for the first time, you owe it to yourself to volunteer at the start the year before. Nothing will prepare you better than being there without a bib.”
And for Biederman, the start area is easily the most rewarding place to volunteer.
“We make sure that our runners get off that bridge with the best attitude possible by making the start experience as flawless and enjoyable as it can be. That is just the best thing ever,” he says, before adding, “And the sun’s rise over the Verrazzano Bridge never gets old.”
WHY YOU SHOULD VOLUNTEER AT THE FINISH
As the culmination of months and months of training for tens of thousands of runners, the emotions at the finish line are something special for volunteers to behold.
“Thousands of hugs, high fives, smiles, people crying from finally accomplishing a dream. The energy was just amazing,” said volunteer Tony Vicente. “It’s a day you will never forget.”
Fellow finish volunteer Janelle Hartman noted, “I like the amazing energy at the finish and helping runners get through the very last part of their journey. They are full of so many emotions and feelings: Happy, excited, tired, hurting, lost, confused.” Hartman has volunteered at the finish line for five years and intends to volunteer there again this year. “It’s a special feeling to be one of the first people to say, ‘Congratulations! You did that! You finished a marathon!’”
Hartman also said that she takes a special pride in seeing the last of the marathoners cross the finish line—and that friends of hers who finished after 7 p.m. helped inspire her to complete the marathon last year.
“Even if you aren't a runner, you can not help being moved by seeing and being a part of helping people reach their goal of finishing a marathon,” she said. “You get to see that marathoners come in all ages, races, genders, and sizes.”
And while he volunteered at the start area initially, Chian has also volunteered at the finish, and even run the Marathon, which gives him a special perspective on volunteering at the finish line. He said he is drawn to keep volunteering “To make it as positive and memorable as I can, knowing that our roles could possibly be reversed some day. I would like to be greeted in the same manner when I decide to undertake this challenge in the future once again.”
And of course, his experience volunteering at the finish moved Chian as well. As he put it, there is “No greater reward than watching those runners, thousands of strangers, and if we are lucky, some friends, cross that finish.”
He is motivated to stay involved with the race—whether as a runner or as a volunteer—for “The opportunity to welcome one and all with a warm smile, cheerful greeting, or high five. To draw inspiration in witnessing the resilience and determination of those finally reaching their destination regardless of who they are or how long it has taken them. To prepare oneself to be excited, inspired, and moved by what the human spirit can accomplish.”