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Awakening the Tribe Within

The sun was now hidden behind the mountains to the West and temperatures were dropping like a big stone tossed off the edge of a cliff as I prepared myself to start pacing at mile 60.5 of the Leadville 100, Twin Lakes aid station. Twin Lakes is a hot spot for friends, family, and fans of the sport to welcome and support runners before and after the double Hope Pass grunt for those fortunate enough to make the mid-race cut-off.

Over my left shoulder I overhear people talking about pacing.

“I can pace him in.”, said a youthful male.

“Are you sure you want to do that? Let me talk to your mom.”

A few minutes later. “OK, you can do it if you want. Jim will love it.”

From my observations I don’t think these people knew each other before this day or this moment. Yet one person willing to help another.

Feeling a bit excited and anxious, I was wrestling with my sky blue The North Face shell like a dog chasing his tail. Round and round I went.

Should I wear it?

Tie it around my waist?

Tie it to my Nathan pack?

I eventually decided to tie it to my pack. It wasn’t going well as I tried to weave it in and out of the webbing at the base of the pack.

A fellow spectator/supporter (and one I didn’t know) steps up next to me and says, “here, do this.”

She grabs my jacket performing some magical folds and rolls like someone methodically preparing a parachute and then slides it underneath the pack bladder hose towards the top of the pack.

“There you go.”

“Thank you.”

People helping people. A community, a tribe. A place where we embrace our similarities and accept our differences. A place where me dissolves into we.

Have you noticed it at your local races?

Volunteers working harder than their “day job” for people they mostly don’t know. Becoming cooks, servers, medics, counselors, and the cheer team.


For who? For what? For why?

Crews and friends supporting their runner and others throughout the day and night-time hours. Little sleep and living off coffee and a Snickers bar while cleaning and taping up a nasty pair of mile 80 feet, helping remove a dangling toenail, handing someone a water bottle, or simply being that supportive face that reaffirms you can do this, without actually saying a word.

For who? For what? For why?

This is a community. To feel a sense of connection. To be able to see our similarities and let that be enough. To be involved. To sense that your piece in this life puzzle matters.

Trail and ultra events provide these moments to surround yourself within the mystery and beauty of a community. A community that sees possibilities, shows compassion and care for one another, is welcoming, one that wants to build up versus tear down.

This vibe is not one we often experience outside of the trail tribe. Often differences are primarily focused on versus similarities. Separation versus integration. Us versus them. Limiting and controlling versus empowering and supportive.

Where did community go?

Involvement in our trail/ultra community can help show this duality and provide an opportunity to reawaken and broaden the community within ourselves for the non-trail running aspects of our lives.

To celebrate our similarities and honor our differences.

To consider challenges as opportunities to solve together.

To show compassion and care for one another.

To build up versus tear down.

This is our tribe within.

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

6 Responses to “Awakening the Tribe Within”

  1. on 12 Jun 2014 at 12:52 pm Julie

    One of the many things I love about trail running is the people. It seems to draw such a diverse group of people, yet they all come together and become the same when on the trails. All there to help and support each other. Good stuff! Great article, Dave!

  2. on 13 Jun 2014 at 5:37 am Steven

    Dave, I really like everything you are saying here and it is so true. It’s easy to lose our sense of community today. I have a few groups where I try to nurture that and am glad that trailrunning is one of them. Why is it so strong in this group? Maybe the sheer difficulty of some of these events helps us realize something – that we really can’t do it alone, that we need the community.

  3. on 13 Jun 2014 at 8:23 am Brett

    This reminds me of the scene in the Ski Lodge a couple weeks ago at Jemez. Every runner, crew member, volunteer, etc was helping anyone who needed it, passing around blankets and jackets, hot beverages, etc.

  4. on 13 Jun 2014 at 9:51 am David Hanenburg

    Julie – Agree. And thank you for being a part of our tribe!

  5. on 13 Jun 2014 at 10:05 am David Hanenburg

    Steven – There is definitely something to hardship or perceived hardship that can bring people together and melt away the noise/distractions.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. on 13 Jun 2014 at 10:11 am David Hanenburg

    Brett – Very true. Jemez is a great example of the beauty of community.