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  • Writer's pictureTom McAra

Event Volunteering - Jon Entwistle

Volunteers at the Illuminator Night Trail Race
Jon (far left) with the finish line team at the 2018 Illuminator at about 0100hrs!

(Editor) Jon Entwistle is a highly accomplished cyclist and qualified British Cycling coach. He has a PhD in aerodynamics and has put that to good use by specialising in road time trial (TT) racing. Jon has been a 5x Scottish TT champion and record holder (10, 25, 50, 100 miles and BAR). He also won a bronze medal at the World Amateur TT finals. Both Jon's children are keen athletes (running and cycling) and have featured on the BBC Adventure Show whilst racing at the 24hr Strathpuffer Mountain Bike Race. As a family they frequently volunteer at Firetrail events and other local races. Here are Jon's reflections on volunteering:

I'm a great believer in balance, give and take, quid pro quo. I also try to practise what I preach and lead by example. That’s why I volunteer. Without volunteers, events simply wouldn't happen and surely the world would be a duller place if people didn't do stuff like events, races and challenges, right?

Events allow us to challenge ourselves, to discover things we never knew existed, race against ourselves, or maybe to validate what we already knew.

And that's from a volunteer's perspective as well as a participant's. A lot of my own performances as a racer have come from the mindset of a volunteer. I've always thanked the marshals during my races and not after. It shows you care and appreciate the important role that they are playing.

Volunteering isn't dull or a chore, quite the opposite. I've happily volunteered my free time to quite a few events and found myself in thought-provoking, strange and heart-warming situations - from standing on a corner with a flag on a wet Wednesday road race, to timekeeping a British series time trial in the middle of Glencoe even though you’re good enough to win the race, or to supervising your daughter on a damp and dark November night playing human space invaders to keep her energy up as she hands out medals at the Illuminator finish line. Whatever the circumstance or situation, volunteering is an experience that reminds me it's better to contribute to something rather than simply doing nothing.

It's also rewarding in many other ways too, the obvious one being it's a good feeling to give something back - but the main reason I enjoy volunteering is because the participants provide me with the motivation, inspiration and hunger to set my own future targets, get fitter and muse over new objectives. Sometimes missing out provides you with extra mojo going forwards. The fear of missing out (FOMO!) makes me want to race.

Sure, the Illuminator is a long night and over the three years I've volunteered at the event there has been the odd bit of freezing rain and cold feet, but we've also had amazing blood moons and the clearest starry night ever (2017) - plus there's always good coffee and decent tunes and that helps to keep the morale up! The Illuminator volunteer team are a fun bunch of like-minded people. You don't need to be an athlete, a racer, or have a set of skills like Bear Grylls, you just need to want to be involved in a great event and support your mate or family member. And without volunteers, events wouldn't take place, people from all walks of life wouldn't come together, no sense of community, no blood, sweat, tears, elation, disappointment, determination.

Quite simply, volunteering is a positive feedback loop. Give it a go and see for yourself. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

Jon Entwistle

To find out more about volunteering and what you can earn as a reward check out our Volunteer Page

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