By HPRS Staff Columnist Christopher Mellott
I was listening to the Water Cooler on Facebook live with Sherpa John when he said something that really stuck with me. He said “If you have the time train then you have time to volunteer”. I thought about all the volunteers who had cheered me on, told me how strong I looked even though I knew I looked like a drunk baby giraffe coming into the aid station. I thought about all the people who had given their time so that I as a runner could succeed. I thought about how many hours go into a race. Volunteers are not done when they complete the race. They stay and cheer until the last person comes in.
What John shared stuck with me. I told myself I would volunteer and give time back to the ultra community. On October 27th 2018 I got my opportunity. I volunteered for the Chocolate Chip Cookie 50K. I had ran the race last year and I knew it was a small race that had few volunteers.
As a volunteer I got to see the adrenaline pumping at check in. Many runners preparing to hurdle themselves into the unknown. I got to see the nervousness and the excitement as runners picked up their bibs and warmed up. It was exciting to be on the other side of the table.
After I worked check in for an hour I made my way towards an aid station where I got to see runners come in around mile 22. The excitement, the nervousness of the morning had burned away and at the aid station and strength and perseverance had shone through.
I volunteered for eight hours. On a normal day I would have spent those eight hours with sleeping in, some running and video games. I would love to say I would have used that time to do a long run but honestly most of the time would have been spent on the couch.
As runners came through the finish line I got to see the resilience and grit. I got to watch as runners shared a pure unadulterated joy as they finished.
I had an absolute blast! I got to help other achieve their goals after so many volunteers helped me during my races. I have time to train and I have time to volunteer. Give back to our community and give back to other runners because you don’t know the next time a volunteer will help save your race.
From Sherpa John:
It’s true.. if you have the time to train, you have the time to volunteer. If you have the time to race, you have the time to volunteer. Races don’t just pop-up on their own, and race directors.. where the race is for profit, or for non-profit, need a lot of help. Over the years I have seen many of us race directors struggle with finding enough volunteers to make a race happen. Race directors are spending valuable race income on ad-space for volunteerism, instead of better aid stations or swag. I’ve even seen some race directors threaten to cancel an event unless enough volunteers step up to the plate (I don’t recommend this RD friends..).
I get it. It sounds a lot like work when you’re rather be running. You already spend your brownie points, and time away credits, on training and races. You can’t also spend what little free time you have on standing around and cutting up fruit. But you should. I’d like to challenge every runner to schedule a volunteer day into their training and race schedule in to 2019. Just one day, out of 365, to you giving back. To contributing. It could be at a race or doing trail work.
Speaking of trail work, we need to come to grips with the fact that trails don’t just appear, and they don’t take care of themselves either. Having trails to enjoy is a privilege, and not a right. We should do more to give back to our local trails by increasing our presence at trail work days. The mountain biking community puts us to shame in the sheer amount of hours they put in to trail work in our area. It’s also why they get trails designated specifically for their use only. It’s not land managers playing favorites, it’s solely because they put in the work and advocate for their user group.
Volunteering with HPRS benefits you and your community… we have a variety of roles that need to be filled for each and every race. If you volunteer to do course marking, course sweeping, aid station captaining, or medical support.. you’ll earn an automatic complimentary race entry to a future race of your choice. If you volunteer in any other support role, you’ll earn credits for the hours you’ve worked that can be applied to comp and discounted race entries. Volunteer more than 32 hours of time in 2019, and you’ll earn your very own Adversity Army T-Shirt. Finally, volunteer at one of our trail work days and you’ll also earn an automatic complimentary race entry to a future race.
Please consider giving back to those same runners who have given their time to you in your athletic pursuits. It takes a village. Volunteering at HPRS is a lot of fun, and you’ll feel even more like a member of the family along the way. The Sawmill Trail Runs was the first race where we filled every single volunteer slot. I was actually turning volunteers away. I cannot even begin to describe that fulfilling and warm feeling to you. I also want to invite you to join our volunteer community FaceBook Page “HPRS Volunteers – #Adversity Army” by CLICKING HERE.