Outdoor Gifts: Pass Them On

Me, hiking not running, though I may not look much faster in the actual ultra.

On September 25 I’m running the 50K (that's 31 miles) race portion of the Vermont 50. It's my first ultra-marathon.

So far, the top two responses from the general population to this announcement have been "Why?" (Answer: Because I want to, and for some reason I think it will be kind of fun, though maybe the warped kind I'll only recognize in hindsight.) And, "Are you crazy?" (Answer: I don’t think so, but would I know if I was?)

Despite those initial responses, encouraging and supportive statements usually follow (To be fair, my spouse never asked "why?" and immediately became my biggest supporter). A few listeners even get a gleam of interest in their eyes and start talking training.

After being knocked on my keister with pneumonia for nearly two months earlier this year, I’m excited (and a little nervous) for the challenge of my first ultra. Coming back from coughing up blood and being unable to run a half mile, to training for 31 trail miles is significant on its own. I'm now itchy for the actual event.

I entered the race for personal reasons, but after registration learned that the Vermont 50 also is a benefit for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports, which gives kids and adults with disabilities the opportunity to downhill and cross-country ski, snowboard, hike, climb, camp, paddle, cycle, sail, and much more.

For more than 20 years Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports has empowered individuals with disabilities and promoted independence and equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational activities. It serves 1,300 kids and adults with disabilities annually, thanks to hundreds of volunteers who help them get out there on more than 3,000 outings year round, plus the generosity of donors.

I believe that time spent in the natural world and pursuing outdoor recreation is essential for physical and mental health. I also believe that everyone should have regular access to the outdoors, that it should be a right, not a luxury. So, through the generous support of family and friends I've raised more than $1,100 so far for Vermont Adaptive.

Vermont Adaptive is not alone in its mission. Numerous organizations strive to provide outdoor access to kids and adults of all means, backgrounds, and abilities. Paradox Sports provides inspiration, opportunities, and adaptive equipment for human-powered outdoor sports to the disabled community. Big City Mountaineers takes under-resourced urban teens on weeklong wilderness mentoring expeditions (Disclosure: I raised funds for BCM last year through a Summit for Someone climb). The Sierra Club works to give every child in America an outdoor experience through its Building Bridges to the Outdoors project. These are just a few examples of worthy programs.

We all benefit from our time outdoors, gaining things like peace of mind, strength of body and mind, inspiration, purpose, community, fun, passion. Sharing those outdoor gifts with others can be as simple as taking a kid hiking or paddling, or it can mean getting involved with an outdoor organization you believe in.

Vermont Adaptive's motto is Immerse yourself in adventure where there are no boundaries. Words to remember whether you’re taking a powder run, paddling a lake, or running your first ultra.

What have you gained from the outdoors, and how would you like to pass it on?

Filed under: People & Organizations


1,711 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
September 14, 2011 at 2:54 p.m. (EDT)

I get alot of the same thing from my friends in regards to the whole "why are you going that far; are you insane?" in regards to my extended solo backcountry trips(especially in winter.) I pretty much give them the same general response that you did. I personally don't think I am insane but I am sure there are a few out there that would say otherwise.

We have the Laurel Highlands Ultra 50K here on the LHHT. 


This thread actually has me more interested in the aspect of who this race benefits so I am looking into it. 

I have had a few people tell me that I should enter being I am an active runner. Then again I know that trail like the back of my hand and I like my ankles way too much but who knows what the future may bring.

In regards to what I have gained from the outdoors? 

  • Peace and quiet. Its nice to escape from day to day life(especially being that I live in a city.) It gives me the opportunity to let go of my day to day life and let my mind breathe a bit.
  • Friendships that will last a lifetime. I have met many people over the years that I have been in the backcountry. Some I have met while on trail and it led to some very good friendships. I am one of those people that always has the time to stop and chat. If ya ever pass me stop and say hi. :)
  • It has given me the opportunity to see just how much drive and resiliency I have. I have been stuck in a few rough situations. Self-reliance is an awesome trait to possess. Having the ability to adapt and overcome in bad situations is something that gives one confidence that can carry over to day to day life. Not to mention its a good trait to have in one's career field.

I could go on and on with this but I think this is a basic gist of where I am going. I do know one thing for sure I will never stop...

Quick little story. I am moving my 21yr old sister up here with me and the wife from Florida to help get her on a positive path in life(college, etc.)

I just don't want her to be one of those people that looks back on life and goes "I could have done this and done that; where did the years go?"

She wants to go to college in the worst way but her situation in Florida made that a dream at best. My wife and I are going to do everything we can to make that a reality for her.

Now this is the 1st time we will ever meet face to face. She is 21. We knew of each others existence but that was it. No full names, etc.

Guess what she wants to do and never had a chance? Backpack with her big brother. She has done the campground thing but never anything on this level. I am definitely going to be humping the brunt of the gear. I figure it will be best to break her in easy.

Its gonna be odd not being solo for a change but getting her out there and letting her have a chance for this type of experience means alot to me. It definitely means alot to her. She asks me about our trip all the time. She can't wait and honestly neither can I....

I suppose this is one of the ways I plan on "passing it on."

Oh by the way... Good luck on your ultra Alicia. I wish ya nothing short of the best experience possible.

38 reviewer rep
395 forum posts
September 15, 2011 at 3:12 a.m. (EDT)

"Why?"  because its the only way to quiet the voices telling me it'll be fun.

"Are you crazy?"  No... the voices tell me Im not.

Seriously tho, GOOD LUCK to ya Alicia! Sounds like a good challenge for a good cause. 

848 reviewer rep
3,897 forum posts
September 15, 2011 at 10:49 a.m. (EDT)

Rick, good luck getting your sister oriented in your home and outdoors. That sounds like a big change for both of you, though one with a lot of positive potential. I hope she has fun backpacking and hiking with you.

azrhino, thanks for the well wishes. I appreciate it!

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