Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Volunteering at races

Are you a runner? Do you run races? Have you ever volunteered for a race? If you answered yes to either or both of the first questions, and no to the third, get your butt to a race and volunteer! There are so many reasons to do it. It's tons of fun, it's rewarding, and it's a good way to give back to people that have volunteered for races you're in. Races take a lot of volunteers. If you've been taking advantage of all of those hours of volunteer work and haven't done it yourself, it's time.

This weekend I volunteered at Post Oak. The station I worked at had 5 people in the morning, and one more joined us after she finished her race. We were at the aid station around 8:30, and I think I left around 5 and was the first to leave. So at that aid station alone 6 people gave up a day of their lives to help runners. Did we have loads of fun while we did it? Of course. Still, we were part of a large group of people that made it possible for the runners to run that day. Lots of runners thanked us for being out there. I really felt like we should thank them because they made it possible for us to have so much fun. I get how they feel though. When I'm running a race, especially a really long one, I am so thankful for the volunteers that are out there as they're the reason I'm able to do it.

At ultras, most aid stations are staffed with other ultrarunners. If you're having some kind of issue there's a good chance someone there has had the same issue and they can help you. That can be invaluable. I was nauseous and cramping at a race once and the electrolyte tablets the aid station had were ones that make me sick. One of the volunteers went to his own car and got out his personal stash and gave me some. That was way above and beyond the call of duty. In a 100 mile race, volunteers will likely be there well over 24 hours, will prepare food in their own kitchens ahead of time, and will basically sacrifice an entire weekend to help you run. There's a chance that doing that meant that had to scratch another race off of their calendar because their time spent on running is limited and they just can't do it all. They might have sacrificed training miles for their own race. I've done both of those things. It's worth it though. Seeing runners persevere through pain, fatigue, cramps, vomiting, etc makes it all worth it. It's inspiring. You also learn so much. By volunteering at a couple of different 100 mile races, I learned a lot before my own. Even talking to crews can be very helpful. If they have crewed at a lot of races they know the issues that plague runners and they know how to fix them. Even if they have never ran a step in their life, a lot of crew members can tell you how to fix any problem that comes your way.

If you have time to run and time to do races, and time to do all of the other things in life you want to do, you also have time to volunteer. You have to make it. It's the right thing to do. Don't keep taking advantage of volunteers without doing some of it yourself. This is also not a one and done type of thing. Keep volunteering. I'm not saying you have to give up a weekend every month. Get out there one or two times a year though. Even if you go for a few hours, it'll help. The runners will appreciate you, the race directors will appreciate you and you'll have fun. You can't lose!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You're so lucky

Do you know how sick I am of hearing that phrase? Especially when it concerns running. It seems there are an awful lot of people that for various reasons think running is easy to me, because something about my situation is different than theirs. I am just done with it. First, stop comparing your life to mine, because unless you're living it you have no clue. Second, stop making assumptions based on what you think you see.

Let me list for you the reasons I'm lucky, so running comes so easy to me.

1. I have older kids.
Yep. I do. My kids aren't little anymore. They can be left alone while I run. That is awesome. However, I never get through a run without a phone call, facetime, text, etc. I have to stop in the middle and answer them. Sunday I had to cut my run short because one was sick. I have to schedule my runs around school activities, sports, music, whatever. While having older kids is easier in some ways, it's harder in others. Really, I have a 14 year old and an 11 year old and so far I haven't ever though "omg! This age is sooo easy!" Also, I paid my dues thank you very much. I had little kids once. I didn't get to do things I wanted to do and I had to stay home with them and miss out on stuff. What you're doing right now with your little kids? I did that. You might not have known me then, but that doesn't mean I didn't go through that.

2. I don't work full time
This one is also true. I don't. I only work 30 hours per week. I will admit that this is a huge advantage for me. I do still work though. I can't just take off any time I want and go to all the races I want, and I can't just go run whenever I want. This one is a pretty big advantage for me and I will say that I am lucky. It might not be quite the only reason I'm able to run so many miles though as people seem to think.

3. You live in Kansas
Who ever thought this would be an advantage in life? If you ask several people I know though it sure is. I mean, I don't know if you're aware, but Kansas is completely flat. It's just wheat fields as far as the eye can see. You can run for miles and miles without ever encountering a hill. It's lovely. Wait, what? People actually think that? It would appear they do! It is true that I don't run mountains. Thank goodness. I do see the occasional incline though. Sometimes I even (gasp!) run hill repeats. The hills where I live tend to not be very steep. They're long and rolling and constant. I do have a couple of easy routes I can run that are virtually flat. I'll go ahead and admit that I do that quite often because I'm lazy. Most of my runs though are pretty hilly. I also assume that if you live in an area with steep hills or mountains or whatever, that's what you learned to run on, so that's your normal. Would I struggle there? Probably. I have a feeling though that if the types of hills I run aren't what you're used to then you might struggle a little bit here as well. This is my normal. It's still hard, but it's what I'm used to.

I've also been told recently that I'm lucky I live in Kansas because of the weather. You are clearly not from this state if you think our weather is any kind of advantage. I run despite the weather. Obviously I don't deal with blizzard after blizzard like the east coast has this year. I also don't have rain every single day like the west coast. I'm not in the desert. However, because I live in Kansas, sometimes I deal with all of that in one week. Hell, sometimes I deal with it all in the same day!

Those are all things that I've not heard just once. Multiple people tell me on a regular basis how lucky I am and how easy running must be. The point I'm trying to make here is...stop. Stop doing that. It minimizes how hard I work and how much I've accomplished. I am tremendously lucky to have a supportive husband, a job that makes scheduling easier, and kids that can mostly take care of themselves while I run. Running is still really hard though, even if you have all the time in the world. When you run 50-70 miles per week, as I do toward the end of a training plan for a long race, you're going to have scheduling conflicts. Sometimes it might be your husband or one of your kids looking at you and saying "when are you going to stop running and spend time with me?" It's pretty hard to say no to that.

The moral of my little story is to just be happy with yourself and what you're accomplishing and stop worrying about what other people are doing. If you aren't running as much as them, don't assume it's because running is easier for them. Be proud of what you're doing without having to make someone else feel bad.

I would like to add that this is NOT directed toward anyone in particular, it's just something that has been bugging me based on many little comments made by many people.

Oh, and P.S......I'm training for another 100!