It could be argued that ultrarunning is a single man/woman sport. One runs it on it’s own effort and one gets what you put into the race. I have always debated this statement and after sitting in the sidelines (waiting to support two runners and run with one) in yesterday’s Bull Run Run 50 Miler in Clifton, VA, I totally will be cheesy and say there is no “I” in team.
Both Mishka S. and Zsusanna C. ran the 50 miler through the picturesque landscape of Hemlock Overlook Regional Park and I was there to support their amazing running capabilities as a crew with ANYTHING they desired. Even way before the 0630 official start time on Saturday morning.
As I sat in the sidelines I studied many aspects of the race which as a runner your totally oblivious since your number one concern is to … well … run. For starters the volunteers are part of your team whether you like it or not. The volunteers at this race where truly one of a kind showing great southern hospitality and devotion for the sport! This devotion carried suit throughout the entire race. I recall standing at the headquarters waiting patiently for my two runners and the volunteers where eager to assist a runner any runner way before one actually showed up. The headquarters was located 16 miles into the race and the leading pack reached it very very fast! The volunteers outnumbered the runners 8:1 and many of them wanted to do something. That says a lot about the running culture of the Virginia Happy Trails Ultra Club. As soon as the rest of the pack began to come in for food/fluids/medical aid/etc. the volunteers really had their hands full but never relinquished their spirit to provide quality personal assistance.
Secondly, the time spent in an aid station is time wasted. I saw many runners get in and right off into the trails. I tend to linger around and it’s time wasted whiter you feel it so or not. The runners I saw literally refilled, grabbed food, shoved it into their mouths and off into the wilderness. I was truly impressed.
Third, the family and friends which supported many of these runners shaved off a tremendous amount of time from the runners overall time. This totally complements my second observation since the runner was able to focus on just running and not how many calories to consume or what to drink to remain constantly hydrated. Case in point…Nancy Kleinrock. Great runner, period. Her ability to get in and out of the aid station truly awed me as she was greatly supported by her husband Steve. I chatted with Steve a lot before Nancy approached the aid stations at miles 18, 28, and 37. Steve and I met in last years Virgil Crest Ultra and we chatted up a storm about many topics. When his wife was approaching the aid stations he was there and he knew EXACTLY what to provide for her. This shaved Nancy valuable overall time. This occurred plenty of times with a lot of runners as the majority of them had people supporting them. I also applied the same tactic to support both Mishka and Zsuzsanna.
Lastly, not really, have respect for your common ultrarunner. I witnessed truly encouraging sportsmanship throughout the entire race. I personally did not run the 50 miles but was VERY VERY eager to run the damn course. I knew if I did I would potentially hurt myself as I just came off the NJ100 on March 19th. Zsuzsanna got ahold of one of the race directors and basically got me the approval, thanks to Quatro, to run parts of the race to crew/support Mishka. Loved it because I got to see the course…which is by the way a great course with challenging hills, great scenery, mixed terrains (woods, dirt, mud, rocky) so you will get a very good workout and enjoy every part of it. As for the sportsmanship, like any other ultra event, runners would chat it up to keep themselves motivated. I also helped out around the aid stations and provided personal feedback on what to eat and drink to maintain strength throughout the course. And these attributes where shared throughout the course by all runners.
Ah yes last…I promise. I also witnessed men and women in their late 60’s and 70’s kicking ass! I met one fellow which was an inspiration at the age of 67 or 68. He fell and possibly broke a rib around mile 24ish. He continued and finished the race! He will continue to run these, he said, instead of withering away on the coach watching TV. Thats how I wanna roll at that age. And he obviously didn’t have a beer belly…awesome shit!
Well…I Hope to participate in next years event as a runner!