As I look back on the previous year, the idiom “Hindsight is 20/20″ resonates throughout my mind. Typically, one would go on to talk about what went wrong and how imperfect things were. Furthermore, if it could be done again, different decisions would be made. Well, that’s not the case. In 2011, I wanted to run 50 races. Almost half were races in the Arkansas Grand Prix Series, but that didn’t make it any easier. It was an ambitious task that I couldn’t possibly do alone. Often times the help came from invaluable volunteers. Race directors, organizers, and participants know volunteers are crucial to the success of a race.
I had volunteered a few times at races in previous years, but 2012 was a good time for me to focus on giving back to the community that embraced and supported me. I wanted to pay it forward as much as possible by volunteering at as many races as I ran. Let me assure you that did not mean 50 more races. The title of this post has 20/20 in it for a reason.
Volunteering comes in a variety of forms. I was open to lending a hand in any and every way that I could. No matter if it was chip clipping, working registration, or becoming an impromptu pacer, I completed each task with sincerity. However, one side effect of volunteering is the urge to want to run the race. This happened many times. My 2013 schedule consisting of mostly trail races is a direct result of this.
The first trail race that I volunteered at was Sylamore 25k/50k. It was a special race, since my first article for Arkansas Outside was about what I observed that third Saturday in February. I never thought volunteering would also give me an outlet for one of my passions, writing. At 3 Days of Syllamo I got to know Ben Mansur after we spent many hours manning the aid station that was mile 5 and 45 on the 50-mile course. I was the point man hidden in the woods making sure every 50ker did both rabbit ears at the War Eagle Trail Runs. I wore a grass skirt while serving as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Go! Mile. I was able to help at the annual triathlon, Mightymite Triathlon, in the town I grew up in. But, it was the Sunset Endurance Run that challenged my resilience.
When it came to tolerating the cold and depriving myself of sleep, the spirit of volunteering and my love for the running community is what kept me there. Ultra events don’t only require a lengthy duration for the runners, but the volunteers, too. For future reference if you volunteer at an ultra, be prepared to put in some ultra time.
With all of the stories, happenings, and ups and downs, I wouldn’t take any of it back. People asked why I would choose not to run to volunteer. The answer is simple. If I help someone achieve a goal, I’m just as happy as they are. Who doesn’t like to see people succeed?
“Are you hurt or injured,” was a common question. It may have been easier had I been. As I watched the runners at the beginning of the races, I wanted to go to the car and change. Some races had ideal conditions. I repeatedly told myself that I would stick to my goal. If one person has made the choice to volunteer because of me, I would be pleased.
Spreading the spirit of volunteerism is something I pride myself in. If you’ve never volunteered at a race, I challenge you to. You just might have some fun. Cheer someone on! Not that vocal? There is no such thing as too much cowbell!
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