Hi, my name is Ren-Jay. I've been around cycling for 10 years now in various capacities. I first started riding for fun, did some touring and began racing when I was in high school. This year marks my second year on Rider's Council and my seventh year racing bikes. I am no longer eligible for the Little 500 because of the Amatuer Status rules, however I am still trying to give back to the Little 500 community by coaching and through my position on Rider's Council. In this post, I'd like to identify and explain some of the various roles one can take in the Little 500.
First off, you can join IUSF and contribute to the race either as a worker, or you can "gun" and try to become a member of Steering Committee. IUSF, as many of you know, is the organization that puts on the Little 500 and the race wouldn't exist without them. Within IUSF, Steering Committee is responsible for all of the organization behind the Little 500 and every year they do a great job attracting sponsors, marketing the race, and of course, making all the magic happen on race day. Below is a billboard drawn up by some of the marketing people on SC, it's just one example of how they spread the word about the Little 5.
Continuing with the "behind the scenes" people, each team is required to have a timer and counter on race day. The timer is the student representative of each team responsible for the official timing and scoring of each team. They are paired up with a volunteer from the IU Foundation and together they time each and every lap that their team completes. These timers are all stationed in the press box and with 2 people per team (one student and one IUF volunteer), the press box sure is crowded on race day! The counter is on an elevated platform around the scoreboard and flips a number card each lap so that the fans can keep track of what lap each team is on.
Next up we have the coaches. These are the men and women who organize, train, and of course, crack the whip for each team. This is arguably one of the most important roles in Little 5, as without a good program, it's hard to succeed. This is a role that I'm filling for the first time this year and thus far I've had a blast with it. I'm coaching my old team (Black Key Bulls) and also Alpha Xi Delta together with my fellow BKB alumnus Scott. Coaching is such an interesting job and while it has its highs and lows, it is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things that I've done in college.
Then there are the spectators. The race wouldn't have all the hype and excitement without them. They're loud, obnoxious, smelly (sometimes), excited, occasionally inebriated, and essential to the race-day atmosphere. Attendance at the Little 5 has repeatedly topped 20,000 spectators, which is probably the largest number of people at an intramural event in the country.
Finally, we have the riders. This is definitely the most exciting job in the Little 500 and of course, there would be no race without the riders. As a rider it's easy to get tunnel vision and focus only on your training, diet, sleep, and occasionally school. However, there's so much more to riding than that. For me personally the biggest take-away from riding Little 5 was the people I met and the friends I made. Of course you become like a family with your team, but you also develop a bond with the other riders you're at the track with day in and day out. Everyone is willing to share tools, water, sometimes warm clothing, and offer up a few words of encouragement and that creates a positive atmosphere which makes going to track practice much more enjoyable. Riding Little 500 is definitely one of the coolest things I've done in college and I would encourage everybody on campus to give it a shot.
These are some of the main roles in that one can fill in the Little 5. There are many more I didn't cover, such as IU-EMS workers, officials, sponsors, etc., but hopefully after reading this post you have a more complete view of what you can do within Little 5. I've been involved with this event as a timer, counter, coach, rider, member of Rider's Council for seven years now and I hope I can continue to stay involved because it's been one of the best experiences I've ever had. Even if I can't do any of those things in the future, I'll always go back to the role I first started with: being a Little 500 fan.