28 July 2010

Tomorrow We Howl

Months of preparation, planning, hair pulling, spitting, clawing (OK, perhaps that’s a bit overdramatic) gathering stuff, soliciting, publicizing, you name it – it’s done. Tomorrow we howl at the Second Annual Running With the Wolves 10K. As race director, I want nothing more than for tomorrow night to arrive with everyone in good health.

One of the key people on our race committee griped a bit at me today. I don’t blame that person one bit. We’re all fried. That person expressed frustration about not having the resources needed to get the job done the way it needed to be done. It was a very corporate comment; it’s something anyone who’s ever worked in a big company (and probably plenty who’ve worked in small companies) have heard themselves saying over and over. But it cuts to the heart of what it means to be a race director, or at least a volunteer race director at the club level with volunteer labor.

At the corporate level, we voice that complaint repeatedly, and if we’re lucky some level of management deems to apply money and solve the problem. Granted, I’ve rarely had such good fortune at the firms I’ve worked for, which could be related to the fact that most of them have gone belly up one way or another. I like to think it’s not me.

At the volunteer level, that fix simply can’t be done. You can’t fire a volunteer, let alone one who doesn’t volunteer. All you can do is ask for help. If you get it, you’re happy. If you don’t, you’re frustrated and have to work that much harder. Motivating people to do things for nothing is an art. I’m not certain I’m so good at that art. When our club launched this race last year, it was new, novel, unique, exciting, and the early planning days we loaded with energy. This time, probably more due to my lack of clear organization (always being a few days behind where I needed to be), it wasn’t so clear-cut. We struggled a bit. A few people carried big loads. My griper today, being one of those, earned the right to gripe, as that person’s help on this task was truly herculean.

But that’s all past. Last night nearly the full complement of race staff assembled for the pre-race meeting and bag stuffing party. The team materialized, the excitement arose rapidly. Tomorrow they and many more will pull the trigger and pull off a great race. They all have been to enough of them, they all know what to do. The frustrations are passed, the band is ready to play.

Pre-registrations already exceed our entire field for last year, and last year less than half pre-registered. Chatter from our web site has been running high. So many people being so excited in these final days makes it all worthwhile.

When we launched this race last year, a mid-week evening hot-summer-night fest, it happened to fall on the full moon, and the theme of howling at the moon like a bunch of wolves was born. We couldn’t quite nail the full moon exactly and still keep our Wednesday date, but we’re close enough to be true to our theme.

And so tomorrow we howl.

And if our runners actually read the stuff we put in their goodie bags, a few of them might even read this. For you, welcome, check back about every week for tales and ponderings. And if you haven’t already done so, get out there, join a club (maybe even my club), and pay one forward by helping make the next race like this happen. Trust me, all that frustration melts away really fast when you build it and they do come.

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