Volunteering at a race is a great experience, I might go as far as to suggest a running race. The athletes tend to be moving slower (albeit my performance on Saturday was rather pedestrian), slow enough to make eye contact and share a smile. Slow enough to hear them say "thank you" when you hand them a drink. Running races also tend towards the mass participation and away from the "elite". Sure there were fast runners at the Marathon, scary fast in fact, but there were also plenty of people out there to beat their personal best and to have fun.
I might also add that running races tend to be less sartorially restrictive than bike races,allowing for the opportunity to rock a highly desirable leather coat/ plastic sabre combination whilst hydrating the athletes and representing a cool non profit.
Volunteering also reminded me that sport can lead us to be really selfish, to sacrifice the needs of others for our own created "need" to train harder, go faster, eat better or whatever it is. We bury our heads in the sand and construct a world where we think that it really matters how fast we can cover 40km compared to other underweight manlets with shaved legs. This self centeredness reaches its apogee in the athletes who are more than happy to compete but not to help others do the same.
This weekend was a great reminder to me that sport is first and foremost play (Homo Ludens anyone?) and that play is first and foremost fun. We have to take it somewhat seriously, we have to practice so we can take part in our sport and it is fun to improve and see results but we shouldn't forget that we're in sport, first and foremost because it's fun. This weekend helped remind me that the balance between play fun and fast is one which often gets ignored and inevitably one ends up neither going fast nor having fun.
Being an athlete gives you so many opportunities to help others, to expand people's worlds and to share the pleasure that you get from your sport with others. But first you have to take a step back from the tunnel that too many of us tumble down where all that matters is our UCI points or 5k time. Quite apart from anything else i went out and slayed some vo2max work today, i'm pretty sure Oprah won't call me out for feelgood doping but cycling could do with a few more guys dressed as pirates and few less real thieving scumbags this month!