Do Your Homework

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Do everything that you humanly can to get up on the game before you take on the course. Recently, I participated in a very popular 50k, and as one would expect, the usual accolades, comments and a few complaints came rolling in after the fact. One guy emailed that he’d showed up for the race 24 hours after the fact, thinking that the race was that morning. When he came to the realization that he’d had the wrong date, he decided to make the best of the very sobering awakening and he ran the course anyway, unassisted.

I applauded him for his determination: he sucked it up and made lemonade out of his lemon. What I took issue with was his inquiry about a potential partial refund because he’d missed the official start. I thought I’d heard everything. Now I think I have. Come on now… it was his mistake.

We all make mistakes. I have no problems with that. I’ve even been late for the start of a race a time or two myself (although not a full day late!). The only person that I had issues with or questioned was myself.

My rant today is not about this tone-deaf refund request. It’s about the mindset. Here’s another example—a race director is in the process of concluding a long and comprehensive pre-race spiel to the assembled masses, and just before releasing the group he or she asks: “Are there any questions?”

A few hands go up in the air and someone chimes in with the first question, prompting everyone else to wait with baited breath to hear the queries and the subsequent answers. It may be something that we need to know but failed to ask. But what we really want is to get out of there so that we can get on with the getting on.

But now everyone is roped into sitting and listening to some boring question, like “what should I do if I can’t pick up a pacer at the aid station when I need one?”

Really… that’s the question that you’re having us all wait for?

None of us mind sitting through intelligent, thought provoking questions being posed and answered. But don’t take up our limited and precious time left before lift off with nonsense just because you want to hear yourself speak, draw attention to yourself or again, you didn’t do your homework.

Do your homework first. Have I stressed that point enough?

Go online and soak up all of the available information concerning the how, when, where and what about the race. Consult with your friends who have run the event. Then, if you have pertinent questions that can’t or haven’t been answered by the race’s website, feel free to interrogate the RD and or his staff to your heart’s content, or until they can’t take it anymore and give you your entry fee back.

Too often, runners are showing up for ultra events with sketchy knowledge about what they’re about to embark upon. Okay, so you’ve gone to the UltraRunning calendar and selected the 50 miler or 100 that you’re interested in, you’ve gone to UltraSignup and formally registered. You’re doing what you think is the necessary training, and you’ve read some of the information on the race’s website—but did you devour it all?

That section that you glossed over could cost you your race: but what’s worse for us, the question that you’re begging to have answered was covered by the website.

At every 100-mile pre-race briefing that I’ve attended over the years, there’s almost always someone who comes up with a query that makes me want to strangle them. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a little more intolerant of some things than I used to be, but I’ve always been annoyed by these antics.

For those of you who show up a day late for a race, get lost on the course because you don’t know what signs to follow, don’t have a drop bag at a particular site, didn’t arrange for a ticket for that all-important bus ride back to the start or whatever your particular issue may be: all that I can say is that if you’d done the right thing, you might not have had that hiccup and we wouldn’t have had to entertain your faux pas. Ultrarunning is a big girls and boys sport. Management has an obligation to its participants, but ultimately this is about being as self reliant as one can be, doing the necessary research and then sucking up the rest and trying to get it done.

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About Author

Errol "Rocket" Jones is a veteran ultrarunner of 34 years, having participated in over 200 ultras dating back to 1981. Jones completed ultrarunning’s Grand Slam in 1998 and is a 3-time finisher of Badwater. He is also Co-Race Director of the Bear 100 and the Quad Dipsea, and serves as indentured servant at the Miwok and Lake Sonoma ultras.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you! The more popular the sport, the more of these I encounter. When I started, you brought a map and a compass, you hoped someone can help you at the aid station but you were grateful if there was some water left, and you were proud when you finished and someone gave you a high five. The races now are a LUXURY ! I enjoy that directors put incredible effort into the preparations, that volunteers take the time to learn a few tricks and how to help everyone – THANK YOU ALL FOR THAT! To the rest of the bunch, please consider that it’s YOU who made the choice to enter, and it’s YOU who is responsible for YOU ! It’s trail ultra running, not your gym ! Oh yeah, and next time I hear someone asking if they can run to my light because they missed the part about it being dark at 5 am start line in December woods… I say, see you at the finish buddy!… NOT!