Candidate Statement: Rob Colenso

My first 50-miler was the VHTRC’s own Bull Run Run 50 back in 2009, but when I tell the story of how I became part of the big, crazy and wonderful Happy Trails family, I talk instead about the first time I went out to Dickey Ridge in the Shenandoahs with a small group from the club.

Rob ColensoWe saw a bobcat (well, Michele did, anyway). We goofed off and gossiped. We hiked the climbs and bombed the downhills. And somehow I got talked into running MMT as my first 100-miler. It was a quintessential VHTRC group run – the kind that comes together at the last minute over a few messages back and forth on the VHTRC e-mail list. The kind that makes the club truly special. 

We start out in the sport by running as many races as we can, but eventually the Fear of Missing Out gives way to something more nuanced, and we start doing other things for ultrarunning instead. Pacing a friend (or a total stranger) at a 100-miler. Crewing at some backwoods 50. Or standing around a table at a 50K in the Massanuttens waiting for the next group of runners to come through in search of a bit of food and some words of encouragement.

Now, as the next round of board elections approaches, it’s time for me to give back to the club in still another way, by (hopefully) becoming a member of the board and helping to guide the VHTRC toward what looks to be an even brighter future.

A little over two decades after the club’s first official 50K, the VHTRC has grown from a few dozen to more than 500 members. But even as trail running has changed dramatically in recent years, the core characteristics that make the club truly special have stayed the same. As I declare my candidacy for the board, I want to highlight seven areas that I believe the club leadership should focus on:

• Social media. Increasingly, new trail runners discover the VHTRC, and current members stay connected, through our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. Accordingly, it will be important for the club to think about how our social media presence and club website interact and how we can best use both to share club news and information.

• Volunteers. Recruiting and wrangling volunteers for club races and gatherings is one of the most thankless jobs in ultrarunning. The club should explore options such as developing a volunteer database and other tools to help volunteer wranglers in the recruitment and coordination process.

• Club equipment. The club owns a lot of gear, some of which is expensive, and all of which is hard to track. We need to improve our system for storage, issuance and management of club equipment so that we don’t need to waste club money replacing gear that’s sitting idle in someone’s garage unreturned.

• Training runs and programs. When new trail runners discover our club, it’s often as they’re searching for training runs or programs. To build on our informal series of training runs that are often posted on the club website, we should think about whether we want to publish training plans, or even go so far as to run a coordinated training program (perhaps leveraging the RRCA-certified running coaches who are among our club membership). 

• Trail work. We have a core group of club members who are happy to fire up the chainsaws and do trail maintenance, but there is always more work to be done. We can continue to build on the solid relationships we have with the organizations that provide the trail networks we love by helping them to keep those trails in good shape.

• Supporting premier club events. Regardless of whatever new activities the club might undertake, it will be critical for us to continue to support the VHTRC’s three premier events – BRR 50, MMT 100 and the Women’s Half Marathon. Each has rightly earned an overwhelmingly positive reputation in the ultra community and the board must provide the support those race directors need to ensure these events continue to thrive.

• Maintaining club heritage. The VHTRC is truly special. Anyone who’s ever seen a giant Blue Train show up at an ultra somewhere between the Massanuttens and the Cascades knows this. We’re big, well organized, talent rich – and most of all deeply strange in all the ways that make trail running a joy to experience. We must do all we can to share the story of the club with those new to the ranks and ensure that even as we grow and change with the times, that the core of what makes the VHTRC a unique and wonderful corner of the ultra community remains.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. I would be proud to represent the club as a VHTRC board member.