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The Importance and Impact of Volunteering

By: Ryan Scelza and Shelby Whittet

On June 29th Paul Coats sent our club an email that encouraged us to help out at a couple upcoming running events.  Through that message, I explored the Vermont 100 for the first time and was excited to sign up to volunteer.  As I arrived on that sunny July afternoon I quickly learned how big of an event it was and how interesting, supportive, and awesome the trail running community is.  For those who are unaware, the Vermont 100 is a nationally acclaimed event that happens right in our backyard in beautiful West Windsor.  Upon clicking on their website, the event is described most succinctly as: “450 Runners. 70 Horses. 17,000 Vertical Feet. 30 Hours.”  It offers both 100 mile and 100K options, and yes, also allows horses!  The two other most important pieces of information about the race are that it takes 500+ volunteers to make it successful, and that they raise thousands of dollars for Vermont Adaptative, which makes outdoor sports and other activities accessible for people of all ages with cognitive, developmental, physical and emotional disabilities.

I enjoyed my involvement so much that I felt a strong desire to share with our group just how important and rewarding volunteering at races can truly be.  In the 13 hours I was there (5pm-6am) I helped the Race Director’s husband (and current course record holder) organize garb from past years and load their van, was the grill master for 3+ hours, which is comical as I am a vegetarian and haven’t cooked a real hamburger in forever, helped direct people and horses to their appropriate finish lines, and then helped give out the coveted belt buckles and horseshoes to all of the proud finishers.  As the night turned into day on Sunday morning, watching new finishers cross the finish line remained exciting, however my eyes and body were glad my shift was over and that it was finally time to go home.  My exhaustion could not compare to what the runners were feeling, but I left feeling proud of my contributions and appreciative of the dozens of new friends I had made. 

Fellow UVRC Member Shelby Whittet was at the Stage Road Aid Station, which I understand UVRC has organized a group for in the past.  Her experience was different than mine in that she was helping racers during the race, but similar in the fact that she absolutely loved it.  Shelby shared, The Stage Road Aid Station came in at mile 30. Runners started on Saturday at 4 a.m., and started coming through the Aid station where I volunteered around 9:30 or so. Considering how early they started it was incredible to see how much energy and enthusiasm the runners had coming into the station. While the Star Wars theme was a fun one, I don’t think that had much to do with the energy runners and their crews brought to Stage Road.

As a volunteer, it was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to connect with other volunteers, runners, and their crews. Everyone who came through was very grateful for the support. A few of the runners without crews, in particular, made sure to stop and thank each volunteer for our time, and expertly crafted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

It was a lot of fun to give back! The opportunity to cheer on runners and riders (I’m also an equestrian so seeing the horses trot through was a treat each time) who came through was really rewarding. It was also great to meet other people in the running community from near and far. The third runner who came through the station was on his second 100 miler having just finished one in Spain the previous weekend. His family called him “Superman” and really, I couldn’t agree more."

Throughout the event, Carolyn Stoker, the Volunteer Coordinator, did a great job in finding a variety of fun tasks for everyone to be a part of and try out, and after the race she couldn’t say enough about how important volunteers are to its success.  She added, “Especially this year, due to COVID, volunteers have been more challenging to find and makes me forever grateful to the incredible people who donate their time, energy, and enthusiasm to this event.” 

I was also fortunate to see one of our own UVRC members cross the finish line for the 100K – Chris Ritland, at 14h 56m!  Congrats, Chris!  Connecting with Chris in the weeks that followed, he emphasized his own appreciation for the volunteers, along with the support and wide variety of foods available at the aid stations.  The 100 mile course features 25 aid stations, giving the runners plenty of opportunities to hydrate, but also highlights just how much effort is required to keep them staffed and ensure they can provide help and assistance when it’s needed.

As I looked ahead to future races I then learned of the Vermont 50, which is a similar but smaller race in Brownsville.  Subtract the horses, add bikes, along with a variety of different lengths: 50K run, 50M run, 50M relay, 50M bike.  I recently signed up to volunteer there later this year, and connected with the Race Director, Mike Silverman, who also organizes the CBHM.  Mike reiterated just how strong the sense of community in these races is, and accurately described how great it feels to get absorbed into it.  We talked about the history of both VT 50 & 100 races, the overlap with the people, committees, and fundraising, but most importantly, he simply stated, “Nothing happens without the volunteers.”  He welcomes any and all of us to join their team on September 25 – check out all of the different ways you can volunteer here

The UVRC does a great job in offering opportunities to connect with one another through our TNT workouts and pizza nights, Saturday morning runs, our new Slack channel, and the running series, and it will be exciting to increase our representation at these and other local races that would love our help.  RJ noted in a recent email that we are looking to build out our volunteer committee, so please consider joining!  If you have any interest, let the team know at   

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