Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


Missing volunteer was a rare breed

Western Cape Athletics administrator Allen Barnes suddenly disappeared last week amidst allegations of 'irregularities'. But he's actually one of the good guys.


No matter what time you get to the start of a marathon race, someone else will be there. Hours before a 6am start, organisers and volunteers are working in the dark, setting up the start and finish, dropping off equipment for refreshment stations and settling down at cold metal tables to sell entries for the event. When runners arrive, they see only the finished product which is required for their journey to begin, but for those who have ensured the race takes place, one early morning is simply the tip of the iceberg following months of preparation. By the time…

Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism

Access PREMIUM news, competitions
and exclusive benefits

SUBSCRIBE
Already a member? SIGN IN HERE

No matter what time you get to the start of a marathon race, someone else will be there.

Hours before a 6am start, organisers and volunteers are working in the dark, setting up the start and finish, dropping off equipment for refreshment stations and settling down at cold metal tables to sell entries for the event.

When runners arrive, they see only the finished product which is required for their journey to begin, but for those who have ensured the race takes place, one early morning is simply the tip of the iceberg following months of preparation.

By the time the sun comes up and the runners are on their way, organisers are already preparing for prizegiving, and when the runners are done and start hobbling to their cars, volunteers are beginning the arduous challenge of packing everything away and cleaning the mess left behind.

It’s not clear what drives these people, but without them, nothing in amateur sport would ever happen.

They are the first people to stick up their hands when there is a task to complete, the first to volunteer for a committee and the first to arrive for an event.

They are also the last to leave.

Working in the background, they are rarely recognised for everything they do, yet something within them seems to keep the motor running.

When people say ‘well, someone has to do it’, these are the people who get it done.

Without volunteers willing to sacrifice their time, the world would be filled with runners who had no race to run.

They are the backbone of South African athletics, as they are no doubt in other sports across the board.

So it was shocking to learn this week that Western Cape Athletics administrator Allen Barnes had vanished overnight.

Conspiracy theories began to emerge on social media, as the details of his disappearance came to light, involving an early morning casino visit, a car abandoned at an international airport, and allegedly some missing money.

I don’t know what happened to Barnes, but I do know he was one of the good ones.

He could be seen hammering stakes into the ground in the rain before a race, or setting up tables in the mud.

He was one of the first to arrive and the last to leave, and stuck his hand up when help was needed.

Perhaps he went rogue and skipped the country with some cash.

That would certainly be easier to learn than discovering he has been hurt in some way.

It would be best, however, if Barnes returned to his family in one piece.

People like him are few and far between, and if he isn’t found, he will be sorely missed.

Not just by the individuals who knew him, but by thousands of amateur runners he has never even met.

For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Read more on these topics

athletics Sport columnists

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits