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?