Posted by: pointlenana | July 3, 2015

The Community – Western States Part 7

I have a theory!  People who know this stuff will probably go “Doh, of course”.  But I don’t know this stuff so I’ll go ahead and reinvent a wheel.

One thing I love about trail events, possibly THE thing I love, is they are inclusive and welcoming of everyone.  We cheer for the elites, and the elites cheer us back.  People hang out after their own race, often until everyone finishes.  Rob Krar is on the course coaching Gunhild in, 15 hours after Rob has finished.  Scott Jurek stays at the track watching until everyone finishes.  Ann Trason volunteers all three days at the training runs.  People race one day, volunteer for a related race the next day, and see the volunteers from the previous day racing.

Road events sometimes have this, but it is often BYOC (bring your own community) and any given race doesn’t have one community, but several sub-communities that are distinct.  It may be the size – trail races are usually small, road events usually aren’t.  But trail events always feel different to me.  Boston 2014 came close to that feeling – the city and runners all came together.  That’s the only road one I can think of though.

A couple days before the race, there was a welcome ceremony at Emigrant Pass.  I almost skipped it – I didn’t want to hike up the hill for a 3rd time just 2 days before the race, and the tram up was very spendy.  But things worked out and Janet and I were up at Emigrant Pass at noon when the ceremony started.  Mo Livermore talked warmly about where we were, why the trail existed, and what we were looking at.  She also said that from the beginning of the race, they had considered all participants – runners, pacers, volunteers, etc. – to be part of the Western States family.  Even us first timers are now family.

Charlie Quinn pointed me at this great YouTube video in which Shannon Yewell Weil explains how the race got started and grew to be well-known.  Shannon also talks about the emphasis on family.  The interesting thing is that she also talks about MoShan.  When the race was getting off the ground, Mo Livermore and Shannon were together so much and did so much of the work, that people referred to them as a single being.

So here’s the theory:  I have MoShan to thank for the culture that I appreciate so much.

Western States is the oldest 100 mile race.  Two of the people who were key in getting it started cared about making it feel like family for participants.  Most likely anyone who started a new event had some familiarity with WS and just assumed that “family-like” is how it was done, and the culture spread from there.

I wish I had figured this out while I was there so I could ask and say thank you.  However…  After my race, I saw Mo Livermore and told her my race had gone magically.  I gave her some detail on what I meant by magical, and there were at least some echoes of the family thing in what I said.  She congratulated me.  A few minutes later, Gunhild finished.  In the cheering/hugging crowd, I saw Mo again and said “wow!  talk about magical!”  She said “yeah, we arranged that just for you”.

Mo Livermore (on the left) and Tony Rossman at the welcome ceremony Thursday.

Mo Livermore (on the left) and Tony Rossman at the welcome ceremony Thursday.

UltraplodderNick has a much better image of the welcome ceremony in his blog post.  In his image, you can see most of my friend Tamara (in raspberry) just to Mo’s right, and I’m next to her in a blue shirt holding a green jacket.  (hey Nick!  we were standing near each other that morning – I recognize you.  It looks like you had a tough day out there, but at least you have a couple previous finishes to cushion this go.)


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