Ironman is in need of organizations willing to volunteer this month in Chattanooga.
There are openings for at least four groups as well as people willing to volunteer alone, with friends or with their families, according to Ironman Chattanooga Volunteer Director Brooke Satterfield.
Groups range greatly in size from five to six volunteers to as many as 150 or 200. They often come from local companies, schools, church groups and other organizations.
"We are super lucky here where we do have community support," Ironman Chattanooga Volunteer Director Brooke Satterfield said. "We have support in Chattanooga with a lot of school groups and in North Georgia, as well. We're super lucky. Even if we have some group not come back, there's another group willing to step in."
For more information or to volunteer, email Brooke Satterfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ironman.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer/?id=34464
The biggest needs for the Sept. 29 race are at athlete check-in on Thursday and the Friday of race week; bike and gear check-in on Saturday; and early morning and late-night shifts on race Sunday.
The Chattanooga race is one of the most popular Ironman events in the world and sees a high number of registrants. May's Ironman 70.3, the half-distance event, was the most participated in non-world championship Ironman event in North American history — adding to the city's history of breaking records for the grueling triathlon. The race had about 3,800 registrants (although fewer lined up on race day).
The city has placed highly in the annual Athlete's Choice awards since its inception in 2014. It has set several records for participation and serves as a gold standard for other cities, according to race officials.
However, that popularity puts an added need for continued volunteer turnout.
"As we have more athletes, we have to go up on volunteers. It increases the volume we have working," said Satterfield, who is also the volunteer director for Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga and Chattanooga Marathon.
The city set an Ironman record in 2015 when more than 4,700 volunteers helped at the event. The race typically requires more than 3,000 volunteers for September's full race and 1,500-2,000 for May's 70.3.
Many volunteers come from community groups who receive Ironman Foundation grants for their work.
Interested groups register on the Ironman website and answer questions about who they are, what they do and how they would use an Ironman Foundation grant. Satterfield goes through each applicant and assigns money to organizations based on how many volunteers they have, the length they volunteer and the difficulty of their work. Grants typically range between $500 and $700 but fluctuate.
Each volunteer station is overseen by "captains" who lead the groups and report directly to Satterfield.
"They're basically an extension of me during race week and race day. I'm only one human, so the captains are really helping recruit from their own groups and become point of contact when things become crazy and busy," Satterfield said.
One such captain is Girls Preparatory School teacher Trish King.
The sixth grade geography teacher was at first reluctant but agreed to help when another GPS staff member asked. She volunteered to sign-in racers for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga in 2017.
"I got to connect with people, and it was amazing," King said. "I took on more responsibilities each year."
King now manages Ironman's professional homestay program in Chattanooga, which helps the professional racers find homes to stay in while they're in town; works at the IronKids race; and leads the first aide station during the run leg of the triathlon.
The teacher was so moved that she began competing in triathlons herself. She's started with sprint-distance races and is working her way up to a 70.3.
"Seeing these athletes and registering them and hearing their stories you see how their kids talk about how proud they are of their parents," King said. "For so many people, this is on their bucket list. I just decided that I was going to do it."