Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm Out of the Race Business

This weekend will be the finish of the 2010 Illinois Trail Ultra Grand Slam.  The fourth race in the series, Farmdale 30/50 miler, will be Saturday morning in East Peoria, IL.  I'll be running the 30 miler, then hanging out to award prizes.  This will be my last time coordinating the Grand Slam.  In fact, after this weekend, I'm out of the "racing business" all together (not really a "business"--all of my activities have been purely voluntary and unpaid).  No more Grand Slam, no more Clinton Lake 30 Miler, no more Buffalo Trace 7-Day Stage Race.  I love all of these events, but I'm becoming tired of the way they slowly chip away at you and require constant energy and worry.  Maybe it's my personality, but I worry about putting on good races.  I pay attention to details.  I care about runners.  At this point in my life, I feel I've volunteered enough...time to dedicate energy to my actual personal running and racing...and to my lovely human wife and rodent children (yes, I have rodents as pets). 

How did all of this start?  I can still remember running with a group on a Thursday evening at the Lake of the Woods trail near my home.  It was about 10 years ago.  Tom and Kim, two local runners that were on the Second Wind Running Club board, told me there would be a mid-term vacancy on the board...would I be interested?  Being my humble self, or trying to avoid extra work, I told them "I'm probably not the best person for this position. There must be more experienced runners."  Tom and Kim elaborated on how the club functions and what the board does.  It all seemed reasonable. They said, we each "do as little or as much as we want."  No pressure.  OK, within a month, I was a new board member.  I met lots of new friends and the work was fun.

Then, about a year later, I was elected president of the club.  When I retired as club president after 2 years, I started and directed the Buffalo Trace Trail Race (5 miler with a 2-mile walk).  It's not easy starting a new race.  Much easier taking over an existing one.  Anyway, Buffalo Trace was fun and it made me feel great to give back to the trail running community.  There were a few changes within the club's officers and board that led me to resign from Buffalo Trace...but I eventually came back and started the Clinton Lake 30-Mile Trail Run.  Again, not an easy task getting permission and support for the event...but it was worth it. I directed Clinton Lake for 4 years and then happily retired and passed on the race to new club directors.  While directing the Clinton Lake ultra, I got an idea to start a series of Illinois-based ultra marathons.  I was always a fan of the "real" Ultra Grand Slam (Vermont 100, Leadville 100, Western States 100, Wasatch 100).  Why not start up a smaller, local grand slam?  I contacted the other RDs (McNaughton Park, Rock Cut Hobo, and Farmdale) and they were supportive.  The Illinois Trail Ultra Grand Slam was born in 2008!  Now that I've retired from CL30, it seems natural to retire from the iTUGS too.  It may still exist next year, but it'll be without me.  Maybe it'll be better.  Or it may transform into a different race series.  I hope some kind of ultra series continues in 2011.  Illinois has some great ultra marathons...why not link them together? 

So, I was a running club board member, president, started & directed two trail races, then forged and coordinated the Illinois Grand Slam.  That sounds like enough "giving back"...right?  Not yet?  OK, how about if I throw in the Buffalo Trace 7-Day Stage Race? I know, it's not "really" a race.  Just an informal event dreamed up by a crazy ultra runner (me).  All true.  I created a web page, advertised, tracked runner progress, and awarded prizes...all for no fee.  It was pretty cool.  Unfortunately, it interfered with "life."  Taking several vacation days from work to follow my own selfish running dreams seemed a bit egotistical and arrogant.  Everyone needs to be self-centered at times.  Maybe one year would have been reasonable and understandable, but 3 years?  Enough was enough.  I came to my senses.  This year was the last 7-day stage race organized and run by me.  So, as of this coming weekend, I will be "retired" from all race directing.

I started all of these events to try and give back to the running community.  I've received so much from my running and racing that I figured I needed to give back.  I have volunteered at a lot of races, from 5Ks to 100 milers.  As stated above, I have been on my local running club's board of directors...and even served as the president.  Still, I felt the need to go a "step beyond" and actually start and direct a few events.  I've now gotten that out of my system. No, my debt to the running community is not paid off, but I'm closer to going in the black than I was 10 years ago.  I feel good about my contributions to trail running and racing.  Hopefully more people know, use, and value the trails that "my races" were run on.  I'll be back as a regular volunteer helping at aid stations, finish lines, course intersections, and pre-race registrations and check-ins. All laudable activities.  But I won't be starting or directing races anytime soon. 

Have you paid your debt to the running community?  Feel good about how much you have taken versus given back?  Need to volunteer a bit more?  Feeling guilty?  GO OUT AND VOLUNTEER!  You'll feel great and your local races need you.  If nothing else, JOIN A LOCAL RUNNING CLUB.  They need members and money to support their races and programs.  After joining, maybe you'll want to do more...and more...and more.  Be careful.  Volunteering can be addictive!  Remember to take care of yourself, your family, and your own running too.

PS:  I hope this post doesn't sound too much like tooting my own horn and patting myself on the back.  As I fade into the background, I need a little of that self-praise and I am proud of what I've done...but I'm not trying to put myself above others. None of my accomplishments or activities would have been achieved without tremendous support from club members, other volunteers, and fellow runners. That's my point. We are in this together.  Step up and volunteer.  Lead if you want.  Following is good too.


GTI said...

Don't think you're tooting your own horn at all, at least not in any way that is undeserved.

Thank you for all of it, Chris. Your efforts had an awful lot to do with my foray into Ultra running and trail running in Illinois.

I'll see you out there on the trail or at the aid station, on one side it of or the other.

Chris said...

Thanks! I will definitely still be running and volunteering. I love being out on the trails...even the roads aren't too bad. Our paths will cross again.

Kovas Palubinskas said...

It's amazing to me how much people give up of their time to be race directors, volunteers, etc. With 4 kids (1 a newborn) I'm not quite there yet, but reading stories such as yours keeps that dream alive. Thanks for all your hard work!

Chris said...

It is a bit easier when I don't have any kids. Eventually, you'll have more time...or you'll take the whole family to volunteer at a race!