On Friday, we worked the medical part of race check-in. I got to meet some new people, say hi to old friends, but the thing I noticed the most was the number of first timers and new faces who were doing the race.
After the medical check-ins were complete, we headed home to get a good night of sleep, knowing that we'd be awake a long time after we woke up on Saturday.
We got to the Camp 10 Bear aid station at about noon on Saturday. Runners hit this station at mile 47 and again at mile 70 or so. So, it's a busy, busy aid station. We immediately jumped into the fray, trying to help as many runners as possible. At first, the focus was on runners hitting the aid station for the first time, as a few returning elite runners showed up on occasion. Eventually, by early evening, the runners were all past mile 47, and we had a break until the masses returned to mile 70. During this lull, some of the volunteers ended their shift, leaving us a bit short for a while. I was re-assigned to be the chef for the station, although it was a pretty easy gig. I handled it just fine, except for occasionally burning a grilled cheese sandwich on the grill.
At this point, I'm going to make some statements that might be controversial, but they might not matter if no one actually reads this blog. The sport of ultrarunning seems to really be changing. The crews of the runners assumed that the aid station food was for them, as well as the pacers and runners. One woman asked my wife if she could take a certain food for herself, as a crew member. My wife replied that the food was intended for runners and pacers. The woman clearly didn't like the answer, and as soon as my wife turned her back, the woman simply took what she wanted. We had people inside the aid station all day, taking food from wherever they wanted. We had a huge number of runners complain that we didn't have what they wanted. One person let us know that not having a vegetarian broth was not acceptable. A few others let us know that not having coffee was not OK. Another person complained that our fruit supply was inadequate for the vegans. We didn't stock the aid station. We were merely volunteering, giving up our weekend to help runners finish a race. But, it sure seemed like we were being blamed for perceived slights.
When I run 100s, I find out what the aid stations will supply, and if I need something else, it goes in a drop bag or my crew brings it for me. It's dangerous to assume that an aid station will supply something critical to your race success.
At one point, so much food had been taken by crew and spectators that my wife drove to a nearby store to re-stock our station.
Demands were common. Thank yous were almost unheard. I got fewer thank yous in 18 hours of aid station work than I hand out while running a 100.
The entire mentality seemed to be one of entitlement; the race was responsible for feeding the masses and satisfying every whim. I found this very disappointing, to be honest. In all the years I've worked at this race, I've never seen this prevailing attitude before.
A week ago, I ran a new marathon here in Vermont. The marathon drew runners from all over the country. The race had 21 aid stations - for a marathon! However, running near the back of the pack, I was shocked at the litter on the course. How could people just throw their trash on the ground when there were so many aid stations.
Is this what running has come to? A sport of high race prices, where runners feel entitled to anything and everything? Litter doesn't matter. Volunteers don't matter; they are servants for the runners. I don't mind being that servant, but I don't accept being treated rudely by runners, pacers or crew persons.
After my wife and I had worked over 10 hours at Camp 10 Bear, we moved to Bill's aid station at mile 89 or so. We were scheduled to work there through the close of that aid station at 6:45 a.m. The runners here were tired and the crews were tired, so the rudeness was reduced. However, runners did seem incapable of using a trash can. They would pick food and drinks off the table, use some or all of what they picked, and then just leave the mess on the table or the floor for others to clean up. They were also very demanding of the medical personnel.
Finally, about 5:30 a.m., I'd had enough and I decided to try to sneak in a nap. Minutes after I laid down, a good friend of mine, with ten prior finishes at the race, came into the aid station. I heard my wife offer him my pacing services and he said he'd love the company. The heat the previous day had taken a toll on him, and he's essentially been walking since mile 57. We had plenty of time to finish if we simply walked the remaining 11.4 miles without wasting too much time. And, that is what we did, getting Joe to the finish line at 29:40 for his 11th finish. I was glad to be part of his race. Joe has incredible longevity in the sport and is someone I respect a lot.
I was amazed when we passed the final aid station - an unmanned station. Not 30 yards from the station, which had a garbage bag, I found a Gu wrapper on the ground. Again, I fail to understand why the littering is OK. It just makes no sense.
After Joe finished, rather than staying for the awards, as we usually do, we headed home. Even though my pacing was at an easy pace, after the marathon the previous weekend and being on my feet for almost 18 hours at aid stations, I was beat. So, my wife and I headed home, and by noon, I was showered and in bed for a well-deserved nap.
I will continue to participate at the VT100 in the future, as an athlete, a pacer or a volunteer. But, if the trends I saw this weekend continue, I'm not sure how many more years I'll participate. I'm glad we helped out and I enjoyed time with friends, but some other parts of the weekend were really disappointing.