Lend a Hand

Lend a hand, your voices too! 

There are almost too many things to love about running, and trail running especially. Just being outdoors is high on that list. And you probably should include the camaraderie and community, the inevitably spectacular scenery, and even the inherent challenges of running on uneven, rocky terrain. The list does go on. But, without a doubt, one of the best parts of trail running is its pure simplicity. You lace ‘em up, and you go. Simple. Pure. Sure, it gets more complicated when you start piling on the equipment: the hydration vest, the bars and chews, the trekking poles, the extra clothing. But when you get right down to it, you need very little to enjoy a jaunt on the trails.

It may be simple, but like most things in life, it’s not free. That realization struck me this morning, as I ran into a hard-working crew carving a new segment of trail at one of my favorite local open space parks. They were hard at it, just the three of them, with a powerful little Bobcat, shovels, picks, and rakes. According to their leader, a local COMBA member, the existing trail was eroding faster than expected or desired – too much exposure, too steep a grade, too many users – and the newly designed trail will dramatically slow down the impacts of weather, riders, and runners. 

So, yeah, as good as trail running is, it really is, or should be, about more than self and scenery; it should also be about stepping up and lending both a hand and a voice to be sure we continue to enjoy the privilege of being out there. We run in so many special places where others have “paved” the way for us. We should be thankful for the hard work that preceded us up and down the trail, and we should find ways to return the favor.

With that in mind, I signed up to join the next volunteer day to work on that trail I run so often. A little sweat equity for all the hours I’ve spent appreciating what that trail has given me. A chance to meet some new folks, get a few blisters on my hands for a change, and feel like I truly earned that next run.

If you’re looking for ways to give back, which many of us are, volunteering for trail work is a good call. If you have felt that tinge of guilt as you run by a hardworking trail crew; join one if you can – it’s time well spent, on a multitude of levels. Volunteering at events is another: checking in runners, being a course marshal or timer, or even working at an aid station. As an event director, I can vouch for the fact that volunteers are really an event’s greatest assets. However you can, join the fray. It’ll likely be fun, it definitely matters, and it’s very much worth it.