A day in the life of a one-off volunteer at the Great North Run

Did you know we offer the opportunity to volunteer on a one-off basis?

While we appreciate those who volunteer with us regularly, we understand that sometimes it can be hard to commit to a full-time role.

Whether you can spare a full day or just a handful of hours, every minute of your donated time helps to support our life-saving service.

From marshalling to bucket collections, cheering to fundraising, we have a large array of one-off opportunities you can get involved in.

One of the big events that we require volunteers for every year is the Great North Run.

Every September we have hundreds of runners taking on the 13.1-mile route from Newcastle to South Shields to raise money for GNAAS.

We want to make sure all our runners feel supported and looked after, so that’s why we recruit volunteers to cheer them on as they run past, and also to greet them at the end of the finish line.

To give you an idea of what it’s like to volunteer at the world’s biggest half marathon, here’s a typical breakdown of the day.


GNAAS staff arrive at the charity village for the Great North Run and drive the van containing all the items for the event to the designated marquee for the charity. They unload all the items from the van, including refreshments, flags and a photo backdrop.


Once the van is fully unloaded, it is moved to the car park, and staff begin setting up for the day. This includes putting out chairs inside and outside the marquee (weather dependent) and filling up the water tanks to make teas and coffees, as it takes a long time for the water to boil.


Volunteers arrive for the day and assist GNAAS staff with unpacking refreshments, including water, cereal bars, fruit and crisps, and laying them out on tables. Flags are put up outside so runners can identify the GNAAS marquee, and a backdrop of our helicopter is also hung up so there are opportunities for runners to get a finishers photo with their medal, while showing their support for GNAAS at the same time.


The first masses wave begins at 11am, while other waves will begin the race after this, according to the time they have been allotted.


The first runners to finish the Great North Run arrive at the marquee. Volunteers and staff greet them and offer refreshments. Usually, we have at least one massage therapist to massage the runners and help ease their aching muscles. One of the volunteers will manage the massage requests and provide runners with a form to fill in prior to their massage.


The marquee becomes increasingly busy with runners and their family and friends. GNAAS staff and volunteers continue to greet everyone and offer refreshments and the opportunity of a massage. One or two people will make teas and coffees for everyone who requests a hot drink, and if the water tanks get empty, they will be carried to the nearby water station by two volunteers and refilled.


At this point, most of the runners supporting GNAAS should have visited the marquee and it will be a lot quieter. Staff and volunteers start packing up the refreshments and other items which need to be put back in the van. The chairs are folded up ready to be collected, but a few are left out just in case there are any runners that are yet to arrive in the charity village.


All the runners supporting GNAAS have finished the Great North Run and those who intended to visit the charity village have all been to the marquee and since left.

The van is fully packed up and staff await confirmation from Great North Run organisers that they can leave the charity village and drive off site. Volunteers leave the village and make their way home after a busy but fulfilling day.

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