While I was running the brutal course yesterday, wondering why it was that I’d signed up for such a ridiculous race, I knew who I’d be thanking.
David and Sara, the couple who put this race on, and all the volunteers who set up, mark, and monitor the course are nothing short of amazing. They are all upbeat, happy, and encouraging along the way.
Unlike traditional marathons with thousands of volunteers and fanfare, ultra marathons take place in the middle of the woods and have few participants. The organizers and volunteers bust their collective humps to help a handful of crazies run up and down hills all day.
They deserve more than we could ever give them. This letter will go out in the mail on Monday, but I thought I’d post it now.
Dear David + Sara:
I wanted to send you – and all the volunteers – a letter expressing my heartfelt thanks for putting on such a great event. This is my second year running (and first finishing) the OPSF 50/50. This year – as with last year – I found everyone I spoke with to be genuinely kind and helpful. That is no small feat considering how much work goes into setting one of these events up, and how long the volunteers are asked to sit outside while the rest of the crazies run up and down hills all day.
Each time I’d catch a glimpse of one of the canopies, I’d get a little burst of energy knowing there’d be bananas, water, and pleasant conversation. While most people may not understand how important that is when you’re running long distances, I certainly do (and I suspect the other runners would agree). Even as the weather was turning the course into mud soup, the vibe on the trails was positive and that made all the difference for me.
I’ve helped put on some big events so I can imagine that there are moments when the job may seem thankless, and when the time spent setting up the race may outweigh the benefits of hosting the race. But I hope that isn’t the case because even though I’m new to the long distance, ultra running scene, I can tell you that I appreciate everything about the race.
Like other long-distance runners, I found myself doing these events quite by accident. I didn’t set out to run ultras; I just ended up here. Now it’s part of my lifestyle. And that lifestyle depends upon dedicated people who are willing to carve time out of their lives so that we can take a run in the woods.
Please pass along my appreciation to everyone who helped put this event on, and I look forward to seeing you all next year. (As I type this I’m shaking my head because while I was mud surfing yesterday I swore I wouldn’t come back. I’m pretty sure I’m coming back, though.)
Thank you for everything.