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Featured Submission: Volunteering at Marathons

Posted June 5th, 2009 by Peter · 8 Comments

In this submission by Shaun S. (not to be confused with our staff writer Shaun Yeoh), we see a different side of Asian Service. Volunteering at Marathons is very Asian. With all the community-service hungry college applicants, you shouldn’t be surprised if you see that 3/5 of the staff at a Marathon is Asian. Well, here goes! 


It’s well established that White people enjoy running marathons. (Marathons are large milestones in White peoples’ lives). However, they are large events to coordinate and run.  This is where Asians come in: volunteering to register people, seting up stations, cleaning up the trash runners throw on the ground, and the most sought after job — handing out cups of water or gatorade to runners as they go by.

On the surface, this may look like a microcosm of colonialism, with Asians serving White people for no pay.  However, closer inspection will reveal that the Asians volunteering are part of a club or community service organization that sees the marathon as an opportunity to serve.  Nevermindgedc0529web1that the marathon ‘community’ consists of people who buy expensive shoes every other month, go to pricey marathon training clinics and have sufficient free time to go running all the time — there’s community service hours to be earned and college resumes to pad.

Since there is little time to talk and so many participants, there isn’t much you can say to them that will leave a lasting impact.  ”Thank you” will suffice.  ”You are what makes this event” will leave them glowing until a runner fumbles the water cup into them.  Really, the best you can hope for is that an Asian person will talk in casual conversation about volunteering at a run.  You should then talk about your experience in one, and how the water station volunteers looked like an oasis.  It will not sound disingenuous to use the words “hero,” “saint” or “Jesus.”

- Szechwan

Thanks for the submission, Shaun! Stay tuned for Saturday’s post as well.

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Tags: Activities · Environment · Featured Topic · Hobbies · People · Work

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Zorbs // Jun 5, 2009 at 7:28 am

    This Chinese person likes running marathons, and while I haven’t noticed a larger than usual number of Asian volunteers, it would be nice if more volunteers had some inkling of what the runners are experiencing.

  • 2 Kvietgrl // Jun 5, 2009 at 11:15 am

    please share, zorbs. how’s it like running marathons?

  • 3 Kvietgrl // Jun 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Nice article btw Shaun S! =) hope you’ll write more.

  • 4 Dave Ku // Jun 8, 2009 at 6:27 am

    I volunteer at marathons to hand out gatorade. Too bad no one knows that I pee in it.

    I also prepare the food the night before for the marathon’s pasta dinner. I take a dump in the sauce.

  • 5 Shaun // Jun 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Shaun here. I also enjoy running marathons, and a few runs back, I started to notice how many Asian volunteers there are (over here — a lot). I used to volunteer at runs myself, and every volunteer group fought to hand out water because it was the most interactive. Though everyone thanked us, it seemed that we weren’t really needed, and could be replaced with a table. Still, it counted as hours. Hence this piece.

    Kvietgrl, running a marathon is generally fun and painful. You get all the attention and affection of a B-list celebrity, with none of the paparazzi stalking you. The pain depends on how hard you’re going. If I’m pushing for time or to finish, something is going to hurt that I’m going to have to ignore. If I’m pacing someone who’s a good deal slower, then it’s almost like cruising. Glad you liked.

  • 6 Chinamerican // Aug 22, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I totally volunteered at the NYC Marathon in HS. It was a good way to get all my volunteering done for the quarter in a day.

  • 7 got-rice // Oct 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    OMG, this is hella true. I used to volunteer for the LA Marathon Expo for a couple, and there were groups of Asians (usually service groups). Like me, they enjoyed the perks of getting a free Subway lunch, and trying to horde the T-SHIRTS and the goodie bags given to the runners, not to mention the other freebies given by vendors at the expo.

    Also, Asians love “Ride N Drive” events, especially those by Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

  • 8 huu // Jul 13, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Chanel Purses that dot the collection, they’re very taste-specific, but I could see some of the more subdued version working quite well with summery white linen or various bright colors for contrast. From Chanel Outlet

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