They also serve who stand and dispense Hammer Gels.A lot of people thanked me for volunteering, and while I appreciated their praise, it felt oddly unearned. Truth is I love volunteering at races. It’s fun screaming your head off to cheer for the runners after you refill their water bottles and dispense the s-caps. It’s fun to see them smile through their exhaustion when you do so. The five hours of volunteer work at the aid station was easy. The two hours spent running the trail was hard—very hard. I’d never run hills like that before in my life; heck, the reason I took up running in the first place was because this area is a topographic wasteland of flatness. Well, except for this one trail around this lake. Those lousy ice-age glaciers just couldn’t resist leaving something for us to remember them by, could they.
Until now I have never understood how certain hard-core runners crave beer after a long run. The very idea made me nauseous, and there could hardly be anything less appealing after several hours of strenuous sweating. Well, after ten miles of mud, hills, and muddy hills, I have never wanted a beer so badly in my life. When I got back to the start/finish, I got one. It was without a doubt the finest bottle of beer ever crafted anywhere in the world at any point in time.As I sat in the brilliant sunshine enjoying my perfect beer, feeling pleased with everything and everyone and especially pleased with myself, I started thinking about the trail ultra I’ve got coming up in a few months. It will be my first ultra, and the elevation change will be a good 50% greater than that of the trail I had just run.
This was tough. That will be tougher. I am scared.The medal I got for the race I sort of ran is a simple tear-drop-shaped pendant of clay on a string. This humble prize is, as I said at the start of this post, my favorite race medal so far. It reminds me why I do what I do. When you become a distance runner, it’s hard not to get caught up in your own hype. You start believing you really are badass because you run these ridiculous distances in crazy terrain. The thing is, I get to choose to do these scary, tough things, and since it is my choice, the medal I get for doing them isn’t really about bravery or strength. Likewise, the reward I get for volunteering isn’t about sacrifice and virtue. I do these things because I believe they can be done and they should be done—and yes, because I enjoy doing them. Also because there just might be beer afterward.