Spirit of a Volunteer
Two of the greatest words ever. They ring magic to a volunteer’s heart, for someone is acknowledging what the volunteer has done. Gratitude and compassion are two of life’s greatest gifts. They’re what fuel many, and inspire others to go beyond what they thought possible.
On Saturday, as the 18th Bull Run Run was concluding, a runner approached me and said, “well, it would be different if others understood what it’s like to be a volunteer.” He was referring to a challenging situation that many of us were experiencing— as we waited for Sophie to finish the final sweep.
Yes, there are many qualities that make up a quality volunteer, someone that race directors depend on, but I wonder if runners realize how much we volunteers receive while we’re giving.
And so, I’d like to share with you a few of the great moments experienced by this simple volunteer on a magnificent day when event records were rewritten, and so much more than I expected I was blessed to learn, see, and hear.
Moments that go beyond words, moments that teach, and moments that inspire:
- An unknown male runner bent over at the waist, softly crying as his wife rubbed his back. Thinking he was in pain, I offered to get medical stuff. He said he was amazed that he accomplished his goal and his tears were ones of joy.
- Another unknown male runner approached me at the timing / awards area and said that his running BRR was his anniversary present. One year ago he had cancer surgery. In the last 12 months he rattled off an impressive list of running accomplishments- including 2 marathons, JFK, and ending with the 18th running of the Bull Run Run.
- Brenda working endlessly, with compassion, calm, and the ever keen eye to ensure that all was done to help in every given moment- while wearing the coolest heart apron I’d ever seen.
- Beth patiently providing me with runner times that I had missed (whoops!) for team members.
- Charlie being the most efficient finisher awards person ever.
- Anstr providing the finisher award vols a shade—much improved from last year.
- Runners being handed flowers and wreaths by friends/family.
- An unknown male runner sprinting to the finish with a young boy inches behind him.
- Endless runners commenting about how the trail was in such great shape—I only wished that the words of gratitude could be stored and shared for Gary to hear.
- People of all varieties (vols, crew, runners, etc.) sharing bits of wisdom and insight helpful to another- perhaps more helpful than they knew.
- Tom Green, Frank Probst, and Tim Stanley completing their 18th Bull Run Runs.
- James Moore finishing his 10th Bull Run Run.
- Echoes of runners exiting the Hemlock AS oozing vocal joy when hearing that ice cream was 10 miles down the trail.
- Margie passing along kind words from various folks about the early morning breakfast coffee.
- Wolf Run Shoals vols transforming a patch of trail into a world of wonder.
- An unknown crew member asking in the most polite way if breakfast was available for crew. (You truly cannot know how much the polite manners are appreciated at 5:10 a.m. ‘til you work with middle schoolers.)
- The look on the Yinzer Attack (Second Wave) captain’s face when she realized that her team won the slowest award.
- Bags of shoes waiting for me to collect in the registration area (aka Maple) for the students of Parkside Middle School. (No words can thank you all enough for your kindness.)
Please know that each thank you that was shared with a volunteer is greatly appreciated. Please know, too, that I can only speak for myself, but believe the following to be true for many—I’m beyond grateful for being able to learn from you all, and to witness such wonderful human moments.
May the trails be kind to all, and may all journeys be just what you need with whom you need along for the ride.
Peace, Joy, and Magnificent Trails,