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Volunteering at the Runners Bag Drop – what’s involved?

Thinking about volunteering with the Run 4 Wales Bag Drop team this year? We’ve written this handy guide to tell you more about the role, what happens on event day and even a little bit of insider info!  

This article is part of our Day in the Life series, going behind the scenes at R4W events, so you know what to expect when volunteering as an Extra Miler. You can also check out A day in the life of a R4W volunteer. 

As an Extra Miler, you can choose what role you do on event day. We have over ten volunteer roles available with four key event roles. These are helping on the finish line, supporting a water station, being a course marshal or chatting with the runners in the bag drop tent. You’ll find descriptions of all volunteering roles on our webpage with full details of what’s involved.  

Don’t forget you can enter our 2024 Extra Miler Role Challenge – volunteer in the four key event roles at different events and we’ll send you a tasty Welsh foods giftpack at the end of the year.   

If you’re planning to volunteer with friends, then just make sure you sign up to the same volunteering role on the Rosterfy volunteer system to ensure you are together on event day. Groups can also sign up to volunteer – email our Volunteer Manager Tor for more information.  

“Volunteers are a tribute to the event and make it so memorable. Well done all!” Cardiff Half Marathon 2023 Runner 

So, what is the runners bag drop? At all R4W events, runners are able to leave a kit bag while they tackle the course. They drop off a bag pre-race and collect it once they have crossed the finish line. The bag drop is usually housed in a large marquee near the start-finish area, in the event village. It is sub-divided into bays, each of which are labelled with a number range (usually in 500s, for example 1- 500, 501 – 1000, etc) which represent the runner numbers. All runners have a race number (sent to them with a race pack before the race), which they attach to the front of their clothing before running. Their runner number tells them where to queue to drop off their bag.  

Volunteers look after a bay each (sometimes in pairs). But don’t worry, there won’t be 500 bags in your bay! We count all bags at an event to know how many are dropped off and we find that around 30% of runners tend to use the bag drop. That’s around 1,000 bags for a 10K race and 6,000 bags for the Cardiff Half Marathon!  

“It’s best to be as organised as possible in your allocated bag drop section but the other Extra Milers around you lend a hand as we operate as one busy but happy team” Cath, Bag Drop Extra Miler 

Runners attach a tear-off strip on the bottom of their runner number to their bag, then queue to hand it over to the Extra Miler in their bay. The bag drop is quite busy for 45 – 60 minutes pre-race, when runners are arriving at the race. The starting pens open around 30 minutes before the race start and runners will begin to make their way to the start line around this time.  

Before the bag drop opens to runners, the R4W Supervisor will give an arrival briefing to the volunteer team, explaining the role and any health and safety information. They’ll explain that each bay can be organised into 5 rows, with a number range of 100 in each row. It’s easiest to put the bags straight into the correct row (although to speed up pre-race queues, exact numerical order isn’t necessary to begin with). So a bag with 99 on it will go in row 1, whereas a bag with 206 on it will go in row 3. Once the race has started and there are no queues, volunteers can organise each row into numerical order, then when runners return their bag can be located quickly.  

“The Extra Milers are fantastic volunteers – so cheerful and I’m very grateful for them giving up their time” Newport Marathon 2023 Runner  

Cath, who has been volunteering for many years with R4W usually with the bag drop team, says: “It’s a vital but sometimes unseen part of the event. You get a chance to talk to the runners before and after their run and even get to know some of the regulars.” 

She told us that one very savvy female runner always covers her black bag with a fluorescent cover so it stands out. This is particularly important as so many runners bring identical looking black rucksacks! Other volunteers have told us that they ask runners to attach the baggage tag to the very top of their bag, so the number can be read easily. It is very important to minimise queuing time post-race, so that runners do not get cold after their run. 

Lorna, who started volunteering with R4W in 2023, says her top tip is surprising runners by knowing their name (clue – it’s pinned to their running top on their race number!).  Our popular Bag Drop Supervisor Zarqa uses the same tactics and is now well known among runners for her light-hearted dialogue with runners on the megaphone at the bag drop.  

Lorna says she often chooses the bag drop volunteer role as she loves chatting with runners and making sure they have everything they need pre-race.   

“I don’t run but it’s a great feeling to be part of such an amazing event. I’ve met some great characters when volunteering at the bag drop, both runners and volunteers” Lorna, Bag Drop Extra Miler 

We hope we’ve given you a little insight into event day volunteering at the bag drop. Volunteering sign-up for Newport Marathon Festival on Sunday 28th April has now started and you can view the event dates for the rest of 2024 here.   

You can also follow our Facebook page or X (formerly Twitter) channel for all the latest event updates. Volunteer sign-up generally starts 6 weeks before each event.  

If you have any questions about volunteering with R4W or if you are part of a group who would like to volunteer at an event, just send an email to our friendly volunteer team 

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