A Volunteer Comparison: Build Days at Bonefrog, Spartan and Savage

A few years ago, I wrote a comparison of what it was like to volunteer for several of the “big name” OCR events. It caused quite a storm in the OCR community because I put the limelight on races such as Spartan and the way we were treated at the Miami event in 2015, which was less than amazing. I ended up writing an “apology” if you will to Spartan, but I can say that I was honest in my assessment of the races and my experiences there. A lot of time has passed since then, however, so I thought I’d do another post about my recent volunteer experiences.

The Shifts:

Spartan: We were asked to be there at 7:30 am, which is much earlier than other races request their volunteers be on site. I didn’t mind, as waking up early is not an issue to me, and the venue was only 45 minutes from my house, but I do feel that we spent the first hour standing around not doing much, so they probably could have backed that up to 8:30 and we would have been on time to start work.

Savage + Bonefrog: Consistent with most OCR’s in the area, build day shifts are 9-5. I like this timing much better. While it’s true that we did get out of Spartan earlier than 6:30, it just feels like a really long shift.

Jobs Done:

Spartan: We were split into several smaller groups and each of us went with one of the employees to help them finish whatever task they were working on. It was Friday, so the day before the first event. There were a few areas that needed to be worked on. I ended up helping mark the kids course and work on set up in the kids “festival area.” It was a decent day. The work wasn’t too difficult (mainly just setting up the ‘lanes’ for the kids to run in with caution tape) and setting up some tables for the medals and t shirts. We had a good group of people we were working with so that made the time pass by. We helped build a few of the obstacles, which was fun. All in all they kept us pretty busy throughout the day.

Savage: I have to be honest, of all the volunteer shifts, this was the one I enjoyed the least. It had nothing to do with Savage or their staff, it was just the stuff they had us do. First we had to sort signs (which was pretty boring), then we ended up taking some nails out of wooden boards and determining which ones could be salvaged and which ones were unusable (which I felt was tedious and boring) and then setting up the festival area (which included opening and setting up about 50 tables in the bag check area; that made my hands really sore). I typically like volunteering and don’t mind hard work, but most of the tasks we did today were simply not enjoyable. Luckily we were working with some good crew (people I knew from MudRunFun) so that made the day better.

Bonefrog: Of all the build days I enjoyed this one the most so far. Not only did we get to paint and help set up obstacles all day (I really enjoy painting and setting up obstacles), but they let us play on the obstacles once they were built and the crew was pretty “hands-off” with us. It was a very chill day and we were within walking distance of everything- our food, the bathrooms, shaded areas, so if we wanted to take a break or chill for a few minutes it wasn’t an issue.

Lunch:

Let me preface this by saying if you know me, this is a huge issue for me. I really appreciate good food when I’m taking my entire day to come work for you, so it’s actually a pretty big deal to me when volunteering.

Spartan: In my initial post, I complained about the food Spartan provided to their volunteers on race day. Unlike many of the other races, Spartan does not order nice lunches (at least they didn’t when I volunteered for them in 2015) and they instead give us food my mom could make better. However, they redeemed themselves during build week in this category as Heather, the head volunteer coordinator, cooked us all tacos, which were really good. So they did good.

Savage: If I remember correctly, we got Moe’s for lunch. Which I’m totally 100% on board with. Last time I volunteered they had Subway sandwiches, so that was good too.

Bonefrog: You pack your own lunch, lunch is not provided for you. I’m 50/50 on this one. While I am good with it since they let us know in advance of the actual build day (so we had time to stop and grab some stuff from the grocery store), I still feel that if I’m giving up my time to come volunteer, the least you could do is buy me lunch. Granted we are also getting a discounted or free race code, but I don’t think it would be that troublesome to provide lunch for your volunteers. Especially because volunteers can sometimes come from far away areas and stay in the area specifically to volunteer and race, so they may not always have access to be able to cook food before they come, which means they have to shell out their own cash to purchase themselves a brown bag lunch.

Extras Offered:

Spartan: Out of all the races, Spartan tops the cake in this area. Not only do you get your free race code from them, but you also get a $50 merchandise credit, a t shirt and free parking on race day. If you volunteer during the race itself, they give you a free sweatshirt. I love extras and they really lay it on thick!

Savage: You get a race code, t shirt and free parking. Definitely on the good side. Plus Savage’s codes are 100% free. Some races give you a code but still require you to pay for insurance and processing fees so it adds up to anywhere between $20-$50 depending on which event you are doing. The only way you pay anything extra for Savage is if you want to upgrade your code to the Pro wave.

Bonefrog: Full day volunteers get a race code for the challenge (6 mile race) and that’s it. We were not offered a shirt. I’m going to ask if we can park for free on race day. Honestly after working all day I think we should at least get something additional.

Discount Offered:

Spartan: Spartan offers full day volunteers a free race code for any Spartan Race in the US. The only thing you pay is the $14 insurance fee. I think this is cool because you can volunteer at any race and either use the code that same weekend or have it emailed to you and register for another one you want. Since the prices of Sprint-Beast vary, its good that they allow you to use it on any non elite race.

Savage: Free, free, free. Did I mention free? This is the best in my opinion because there are zero fees associated with redeeming a Savage Race code.

Bonefrog: For a half day you get a free entry into the Sprint, a full day gets you a Challenge entry, and two full days gets you a Tier 1 entry. If you volunteer for one day and want to upgrade you can do so for a nominal fee. After all was said and done, to upgrade my Challenge entry to a Tier 1 entry cost $46 with insurance, upgrade fee, and processing fees. This is definitely better than the $129 advertised on the website, but like I said, I think something else should go with this. If you do the math of the cost of the Challenge ($99) minus the upgrade fees ($46) you come out to about $6.60 per hour of work…I think they could offer something additional to sweeten the deal.

Overall Experience:

Spartan: Fun, but a long day. The perks you get are definitely worth the time you set aside to volunteer though. Spartan isn’t my favorite OCR, but when I’m feigning for a mud run/obstacle race I enjoy doing them and I’d volunteer for build day again.

Savage: The work could have been more “fun” (even though I know the point isn’t to have fun), but it wasn’t a bad day. And I’d volunteer any time for a free Savage race. I absolutely love this race and have a blast each time I do it.

Bonefrog: Again, I think more perks would make it more worth it for me. But out of all of them, I enjoyed working with this race the most and it wasn’t a bad day at all. It would just be nice if they threw a little extra in there.

Have you ever volunteered for a race? Do you have a preference? Do you think you should get more than a free or discounted race, or would you be happy with just that? 

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