I look around sometimes and notice that a lot of the people that used to be a huge part of the trail running community don't come around to the group runs anymore. In fact, we hardly see any of them anymore. When i ask I usually hear something like "it just doesn't feel the same anymore" and I wonder what they mean by that.
When I first came to trail running I immediately fell in love with the culture and community. I was wowed by the fact that people cared more about me reaching my goals than measuring them against their own accomplishments. People didn't ask my finish times. At fatass events no one really cared who ran faster or further. I couldn't believe how quick seasoned veterans were to lend a hand, some advice, crew or pace me, or just ask me to go on a run with them. They genuinely welcomed me to the community and I felt like that really wanted me to succeed.
In those early days group runs were a place to make new friends, pass along the knowledge we learned and cultivate relationships. Spending all day on the trial with people and you feel a sense of closeness. You paced them overnight during their 100 miler. You crewed them. You saw them fail. You watched them triumph.
Maybe your life got busier or your priorities changed. You started just doing group runs just with your close group of friends. It was easier for this smaller group to just crew and pace each other. You focused on dominating your age group and getting into Western States while taking more intimate trips together. You didn't have time to slow down and help. You didn't reach out to the new trail runners. People just didn't understand that you can't give an entire day to working an aid station. You did your volunteer hours for the year already....other people can clean up the trails.
And then one day you came around and noticed how things had changed. All the old people were gone. It just didn't feel the same.
I think at some point we all come to discover that the trail and ultra "community" gives way more than it takes, but only to those that give back. Think about it this way....running 100 miles alone with no crew or pacer on inadequate training is hard. Compare that to having a great crew, inspirational pacer and knowing that you put in all the hard work... it makes it easier. It also allows others to play a role, learn, build a relationship with you and share in your accomplishment.
Are you leaving the world of trail and ultra running better than it was when you found it? Do you give more than you take? Did you pace or crew a stranger this year? Did you extend your hand to a newcomer and make some of those first hard long runs easier for them by giving them company? Did you work an aid station all day? Did you help put on a fatass? Volunteer for a local Race Director? Did you inspire a stranger by believing in them before they could believe in themself?
If you answered no to several of the above it might be time to look in the mirror and admit that it's not trail and ultra running, but you that's changed. Let's make it a goal in 2017 to give more than we take.
You meet a lot of amazing people out on the trials. One of them is you!