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.”
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.