There are plenty of ways to race. Fast, slow, easy, hard. You can race in support of a friend, in support of a charity, to prove your indestructible, to reach a PR, or just as a training run. I think I’ve raced for all of those reasons. This year when I made my resolutions, I resolved to race at least three races in a different way. Not to run them at all – I wanted to volunteer instead and give back to the running community that has given me so much.
Running has been something incredible for me and I really want other people to experience it the way I do. I volunteered to mentor/coach the No Boundaries 5K program again starting in March. I’m encouraging my mom to find joy in running. I am giving up a race I want to do (Rock and Roll Virginia Beach) to volunteer again for the Fleet Feet 15K. I’m making the effort to donate a little more and give a bit more whenever I sign up for a charity race.
Last night was my first night volunteering for a race this year. I spent a couple hours helping refuel and encourage the AMAZING men/women who were running the Beast of Burden Winter 100miler/50miler/24 hour race. Who knew making grilled cheese was such a profound experience? Let me just say that there is nothing more inspiring then watching someone come in to get warm and refuel and then WILLINGLY go back out in the cold to run 50 more miles. The course was a 25 mile loop, so 50 milers had to complete 2 and 100 milers had 4 loops to do. I was moved at the show of support some of these runners had. Not just from volunteers or the stellar race director. Family members and friends were there helping them get dry and warm and then tearfully kissing them goodbye to go back out in the January cold. The one guy and his pacing crew was amazing to watch. He was turning blue and shivering while we heated his clothes in front of the heaters. A few minutes later he was warm and kissing his best gal and dashing back out into the snow. My friend Mike even willingly gave up his new Petzel headlamp to the man who holds the course record and was on pace to win and set a new course record [Valmir Nunes of Brazil]. Apparently this man was known for being unemotional and seemed very moved as we cheered him back onto the course. I found out later that I was handing grilled cheese sandwiches and soup to a man who holds the course record for the Badwater Ultramarathon, “the world’s toughest foot race”. Talk about a brush with glory.
If you ever feel like running isn’t worth it, or you end up with that “What is the point?” feeling go volunteer for a race. Sometimes we aren’t racing against other people. We are racing against ourselves. You can see in the eyes of the people racing why they are there. It doesn’t have to be an ultra, even at a local 5 or 10K you can still see the passion. It’s about testing your limits and doing what you never thought you could. The accomplishment of doing something that you have never thought of doing before. You can feel it when you are doing it, but sometimes it is more inspring to see it on the faces of other people.
So volunteer for a race……and don’t think I’m crazy when I sign up for an ultra in the next few years 🙂 I think they inspired me!