“Volunteers are not paid. Not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless”
I may have the punctuation wrong, but the sentiment is correct. This is the phrase printed on the back of the Burning River 100
volunteer shirt. Every time I see it, I get a little misty eyed. Having been on both sides of the equation, I can say with certainty, it is one of the most factual statements ever.
Yesterday I spent my day volunteering at the Burning River 100. Last year I also volunteered and it was a magical experience. Some of you may recall the energy and memories Gale and I found during our camp out at the Covered Bridge aid station. Part of me wanted to recreate that night, but as Grunt Girls passed on doing a station, I was left to my own devices in finding a place to help.
|Station #1: Me, Tap, Gale and Ed|
Through word of mouth and Facebook (as everything seems to happen these days) I found myself agreeing to be a part of the welcoming committee. The first station with live bodies, approximately 5 miles into the journey. Despite having to get up at 3:30 in order to arrive by 4:30 (I got lost and made it right before 5:00) to see everyone fresh and clean and hopeful was completely worth every moment of lost sleep. Each runner began their steps at 5:00 in the morning too, some made it to us shortly after, and others came through an hour or more after. Some may think this sounds slow, however keep in mind they are on a ONE HUNDRED MILE journey, speed is not the important factor.
It was odd for me to be awake, but the energy in the atmosphere kept me going. Playing high tempo music from the back of a car, looking around at everyone jumping and laughing, even laughing myself when I look over at the parking lot and see every car covered, not slightly decorated, but covered in various oval sticker proclaiming victory over treasured courses. Someone brought coffee, doughnuts and bagels, because they love us, and we all had a bit more to celebrate. The window of runners was fast compared to other stations, and luckily we did not have anyone ask to drop.
|Getting ready to leave Station #1|
After a very quick 2 hours it was time to say “good-bye” some were off to other stations, some back to bed, others to cheer on their friends or loved ones. I was assigned to another station, but not for another few hours. Since I needed to kill time, out came the phone, and I searched for a new destination. Earlier I heard someone say “Egbert is hurting for people” so I mapped a route and the next thing I knew I was walking up to total strangers asking if I could crash their little yellow shirted party. Everyone seemed more than happy to have me. This station had been run by the same family every year of the race, and unfortunately many people had to bail at the last minute due to family or work obligations and they were in need of people.
After we were set up I found myself assigned to intake (this also means I couldn’t take pics). Along with a lovely woman named Gale and her husband we were recording the runners as they entered and calling them into grand central station. OK I have no idea what we were calling them in to, but I left a lot of voice-mails and I can see from this year’s sheet I did NOT mess it up like last year! Working with Gale was wonderfully easy and fun, not to mention I learned she was on the Board of Directors for a company I would LOVE to work for one day. See, you never know where life will take you! And you never know who does what so watch your moth and actions!
|100 mile giraffe “Gnarly”.|
Fewer people made it to our station and a few dropped. We were 23.4 miles into the route, so to see people have to stop was heartbreaking. One girl apparently passed out on the course, and another guy was hit by a car and taken to the hospital. No one caught his # so we couldn’t drop him. Several hours later (I told you each station has a larger window) a guy comes running from the woods. He explains he was the one hit by the car and spent 2 hours in the hospital! Still, he went back to where it happened and did he make the cut off? Can he keep going? We all stood there more than slightly slack jawed before answering, yes, he was 30 minutes before the cut-off, and he went on his way, hospital bracelet, bandages and all.
Egbert was the most laid back station I have ever seen. We were in an open field and had tables upon tables of goodies. People brought their dogs to cheer on runners or to keep volunteers company. We snacked on leftovers and hung around in lawn chairs. The fog was slowly lifting and the mist over the tress and national park was breathtaking. A runner with a giraffe on his pack told me it was his racing buddy “Gnarly”. Who has made it through a 50K, but skipped the 50 mile in Florida because he was afraid of the ‘gators. One of my favorite moments was when Hope came through and I ran over to cheer. She looked at me, bright eyed and relaxed and asked “Do you need anything?” Seriously? Isn’t that what I should be asking HER?
While I was assigned to Boston Store at 10:00 my services were needed at Egbert. No one else could get the call system to work, and I know nothing is worse than the timing system being off or not being able to find your runner. People rely on the info to plan pick me ups. I stayed. I emailed Frank so he would understand. Egbert lasted for me from right before 8:00 to just after 12:00. As I left I couldn’t believe I was already 7 hours into my volunteering experience…and wasn’t headed home.
|Tom J looking good!|
The next thing I knew it was starting to cool down and I noticed it was nearly 6:00 at night. WOW 13 hours? Gale came to the station to help cheer on Tom J, along with Katie and her husband. I disappeared behind the building with them for a little while. Also, I needed to go to the bathroom. What I didn’t need was to find a thong in the bathroom. WHAT? Who is running 100 miles in a cotton thong? Not OK. And really, you can’t move it two inches to the left and up to make it into the trash can?
I wondered back over to the main part of the station, expecting to be told to leave already. Instead I was told I was such a trooper (or something) for helping so long and the day was almost finished. I was placed on “emergency reserve” haha and went to crash in my lawn chair. Sitting was too strange at that point though…so I stood and chatted a few more hours. When the pacers finally finished their loop (I wish I brought different shorts, I could have done the final loop with them! Yes, even after 15 hours on my feet, in the sun and up since 3:30 I wanted to go running…only 4.5 miles) the tiki torches were extinguished and we called it a night. Part of me felt guilty the last few minutes (maybe hour) I was less than involved with cleaning. My body just went into zombie mode and everything is a blur.
On the way back to my car, chair in bag over my shoulder, I couldn’t believe how wonderful of a day it had been. For something I was complaining about (having to get up early) I sure stayed involved and happy much longer. I was sad I couldn’t carry on to the next stop, but it was time for food and bed.
I took a bath (sweat + sunscreen + bug spray + who knows = eeeew skin) ate a sandwich and went to sleep! I was home for less than an hour. I woke up in the exact position I hit the bed in 11 hours later.
Today I checked the timing site and found Hope finished her first 100 miler (score) and my new hero (the car guy) did not make it. Nearly 300 people began this race, only a little over 100 completed it. Yikes. Much like Buckeye, you have to wonder if the heat were not a factor, how that number would change. Guess it’s part of what makes it so special when you cross the finish line.
CONGRATULATIONS to EVERYONE involved with the epic event! Here’s to many more successful years!