A few reasons to volunteer

If you’ve never volunteered at an ultramarathon before, you should do so as soon as possible. The reasons are many and splendid. 

In the simplest and perhaps most important sense, volunteering for eight hours is just as rewarding as running for eight hours. You’ll be glad you did it. It’ll suck at times, but, when all is said and done, you’ll look back and immediately want to do it again.

If that’s not enough, consider that many races offer special benefits, like extra lottery “points,” for volunteers from previous years’ events.  A handful of races go so far as to allow volunteers to skip a lottery entirely and gain automatic entry.  

Volunteering is also a great way to meet, and really get to know, new folks in the ultramarathon community.  Think about it this way:  It could be months — literally months — before you’ve spent a total of ten hours with someone new.  By volunteering with would-be strangers, you collapse this window from six months to one afternoon.  It’s amazing what you’ll learn about someone after spending five hours with them in a grueling situation.

My runner-up reason to volunteer?  You can get a first-hand preview of a distance PR by volunteering at that distance.  If you want to better understand the challenges of running all night during a 100-miler, well, you should volunteer at mile 78 of a 100-miler.  You’ll see it all: courage, carnage, heartbreak. You’ll be thoroughly convinced that it’s possible for an adult to shed tears over something as seemingly trivial as stale chips.  (I once curled into a ball because an aid station was out of gummy bears.) 

My favorite reason to volunteer? You DNS’ed at a race but still want to be a part of the magic.  Perhaps it was injury, perhaps it was illness — for whatever reason, you didn’t toe the starting line.  The next best thing you can do is help others have the perfect day.

You’ll be hugely glad you did. 

Colin OverlandComment