“For as far back as I can
remember, I’ve run. I never owned a bike growing up, and my family never owed a
car, so everywhere I went, I ran, walked or took public transportation. It just
seemed more fun to run rather than walk to get to places – unless I couldn’t be
sweaty upon arrival, which mandated a walk or ride. I grew to love running,
though none of it was ever organized or a race.
Timing is sometimes
everything in life, and I happened to move to California just about the time
that the running boom of the ‘70s started. I was in an environment that
encouraged running, and life had never been sweeter or more rewarding for me. I
had a passion that I could exercise every day, with or without others, and I
didn’t need money, a lot of gear or transportation to get to it.
Running gave me purpose
when other aspects of life gave me cause for concern. Ultrarunning in
particular gave me a true sense of community. Some of the friendships I made
road running remain steadfast to this day, but there was never the community
that I’ve always felt and experienced since transitioning to the trails and
ultrarunnning in 1980.
There’s the often-used
expression of “it takes a village,” and that’s never truer than when it comes
to ultrarunning and putting on events. The bloom is off the rose if all your
training runs are done alone, so you need training companions from time to
time. None of us run races without the support of race management and a legion
of volunteers – and then there’s the good graces of significant others, and the
assistance of family and friends, that help make the voyage possible. It takes
a village, a tribe, a community to make ultra races possible.
As the year starts to wrap
itself into shape, most of us have already targeted our big races. In doing so,
you’ve no doubt pondered whether you’ll run solo or have the benefit of a pacer
and crew, and you’re considering transportation and accommodations and working
out a general game plan. This could be one of those defining moments in your life,
and you want things to be as right as they can be, but you don’t exist in a
There’s an expression used
by a friend of mine nicknamed Dapper Don, borrowed from a tune by the Black
Eyed Peas: “one tribe, y’all.” That phrase was never more fitting than
when it comes to the ultra community, but not everyone who dons a pair of trail
running shoes and comes to the races is necessarily a part of that community.
Some are just passing through. Still others are in for the long haul, and when
the flare of the moment has worn off and the dust clears, years down the road,
they’ll still be out there, pitching in, to both compete and assist in the
advancing of the cause.
Along with everything else
that you’re planning for this racing season, plan on giving back to the
community in some major way. Plan to pace or crew a friend, but also plan on
working a race or two that you know you won’t run just to give back some of
what you’ve received. I know there are some who simply have no time or interest
in giving in that fashion. They’re only interested in running their races, and
that’s okay; that doesn’t invalidate their participation. That said, there’s
someone out there like me, for whom running is all that they have. You can make
their day or their year with the help that you render.
A tribe is generally
supportive of its members, and everyone should do what they can to help advance
the cause of the group, and not just benefit from the good graces brought on by
the whole. If you’re reading this far back in the UltraRunning rag,
you’re no doubt cut from a different bolt of cloth. So if you haven’t already
done so, make plans for your volunteerism this year. Maybe I’ll see you there.
If not, be prepared; you may be a subject for a rant of mine later this year. One
ERROL “THE ROCKET” JONES