Paul Ekgren volunteers as a junior race series coordinator for triathletes in the North West region.
“My role is to coordinate a series of events of all disciplines to run throughout the year for the North West juniors. This means working with clubs and commercial companies who stage the events for us all under Triathlon England ruling and distances,” said Ekgren.
“I originally started out as an average runner, 18-minute 5km, 38-minute 10km, 1hr 28min half marathon and a 3hr 31min marathon, all with a heart problem, having been stopped competing three times. I used to run road, cross country and fell races and a small amount of track events.”
Ekgren was persuaded to give swim, bike, run a try in 1994 and attended Tatton Park for a sprint distance race organised by Manchester Triathlon Club.
“I swam the 500m pool swim breaststroke and really struggled, used a borrowed mountain bike with a bucked back wheel for the 20km ride and I was glad to get off it. I set off on the 5km run which was the longest 5km ever, with jelly legs,” said Ekgren.
“12 months on I bought a road bike and started riding, trained freestyle for the swim and kept running. I began to improve and caught the triathlon bug and went on to do many triathlons of all distances. My times began to fall, and I kept doing many events running, cycle time-trials, swim only events, duathlon and triathlons.”
Since then, Ekgren has often acted as a volunteer, working on organising companies’ crews, staging races and as a Triathlon England Local Technical Official (LTO).
“It's a busy, challenging role with ups and downs but overall a privilege to do and great to meet a lot of parents and children and get to know them. Watching them progress and their faces during events is so uplifting and makes me proud to be associated with the region and themselves,” he said.
“I try to attend most events where I can and try to assist the promoting club and answering questions and getting to know parents and the athletes. I don’t always get things right and make mistakes, but my aim is to give as many children as possible every opportunity to take part, compete and have fun making new friends as they go.”
On the importance of volunteers, Ekgren said: “Volunteers are invaluable in all sports and events and without them events would not happen. Life has changed for all dramatically since Covid and a mammoth volunteer effort has emerged with the vaccine programme which again I have been part of.
“My view is when I raced, I expected someone to be there and feel, now I can’t race anymore, I try and give something back to the sports I loved. I enjoy most volunteer roles and for the vast majority of the time I have had a great and fulfilling experience. I have volunteered on some major events and met some amazing people.
“I’ve met royalty numerous times and had the honour of escorting Hamish Carter from NZ to doping control after his 3rd place in the triathlon at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.”
Ekgren also volunteered at the ITU Grand Final in Chicago, working on age group events and meeting some of the elite athletes. On top of this, he has worked at AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds twice, saying: “I have learnt to assist and help people where I can and answer any queries, most time it’s fun and fulfilling and occasionally little stressful and confrontational, but on the whole a worthwhile experience.”
Ekgren continued: “I would recommend volunteering to others on many levels. You get the opportunity to meet new people, add new skills to yourself, encourage or assist others and have fun and make new friends.
“Volunteers are invaluable in all life and without these amazing people, many sports and life events would not happen. Just look what we have done since Covid hit. Sport was my life until had to cut it short which I will admit was devasting but now I am still involved and giving back in a sport I loved.”
Volunteers’ Week took place this year from 1-7 June, promoting and recognising the work of volunteers and opportunities to volunteer. Click on the button below to find opportunities for volunteering at events across the region.