Normally for these types of races, the race report is filled with struggles and moments of despair where a decision has to be made to keep going or not. Risk injury or chase glory. However, this race wasn’t like that for me at all. Everything went perfectly, including the weather. Yes, my left leg swelled and was extremely painful from about mile 70 on, but I had so much time left, that I was able to comfortably finish my second 100 miler under the cutoff. Success.
So, if this race report isn’t about the race, what is it about? It’s about the people, and my observations from the day. I would be remiss if I didn’t start with the Race Director, his staff, and all of the volunteers. They were amazing, and the event was absolutely top notch. Honestly, I cannot think of one thing that wasn’t done extremely well. I am so grateful for that and thank them from the bottom of my heart. But this isn’t about how well the event was run either. It’s about how the ultra-running community is an example of the best traits in human beings.
These events pull the best out of people, because they are vulnerable and struggling, and the crews and volunteers are there for the sole purpose to help the runners overcome their personal demons. Everywhere I looked, I saw strangers acting compassionately and selflessly, because they new that the runners needed it. Race, religion, political affiliation, etc. didn’t matter. No one asked questions about why. If someone saw that a runner was in need of help, they helped. And believe me, being one of the runners, I can tell you that all of that compassion and support made a huge difference. My success is as much their success, because I couldn’t have done it without them.
I know that I am not alone on this observation, as I saw a post on social media from the Allison Woods Halloween Hobble 100 miler, where a runner wrote “I thought about how easy life would be if we treated each other this way all of the time.” It’s just one sentence, but it really says it all. Life can be tough for a lot of reasons. Some are definitely self-inflicted, but others are not. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. It’s unfortunate, but it also happens to be true. And, I am as a guilty as the next person here, we can all get a bit judgmental. We see someone who is suffering and make all sorts of assumptions about why they are in the situation they are in, without knowing their story or acknowledging our own story. We forget about the times that we needed help.
Well, ultra-marathons have a way of reminding us of what it’s like to really suffer, and how a supportive hand can turn things around in a split second. Believe me, when you are suffering, and it’s dark and cold with no end in sight, you suddenly don’t care who’s hand it is. Once we melt away our differences and focus on a common goal, we are suddenly family. Bonds are created and lifelong friendships are made. Our differences no longer matter. Life becomes… easier.
If we could somehow transfer the way our community interacts on race day to the way our world interacts with each other every day, imagine how amazing life could be. I’m not putting my head in the sand, I understand that there are so many issues in the world that are not close to a resolution, but I can change me. I can own my circle of interactions. There is hope in my heart because I have seen it. Volunteer at an ultra-marathon, and I promise, you will see it too.