Friday, April 25, 2008

Required Volunteerism?

Ok, just a short rant today. I just found out that another of the races I was considering this year requires volunteerism as part of the entry process. I know, volunteers are the life-blood of many ultras but does requiring entrants to volunteer really help with this? Or does it just make more red-tape for the RDs who must find something (preferably 6 hours exactly!) for the volunteer to do. And I should say (because I really am a good person!) that I am currently doing volunteer work at a local state park trail system near me but there is no way I would go in and ask them to fill out a form for me so I can run some race. I want to help out with the trails; I'm not doing it so I can enter a race.

The two biggest offenders of this policy in my opinion are:

WS100, which is a for-profit operation and has the highest race entry fee of any 100 mile race. Of course they want free labor; it helps with the bottom line! I think I might start requiring my customers to no only pay for their furniture, but come to my (or another furniture shop) and do 6 hours of hand sanding.

Tahoe Rim 100. This is supposedly the "National Championship" of trail 100s this year, and they want 12 hours in addition to your entry fee for the privilege of racing for the title. Can you think of any other sport that would do this at their National Championship?


GZ said...


Good stuff. Are these races requiring volunteerism to their race or just to any activity anywhere?

I guess I could see some requirement for the race (although if you are charging enough, then that is debatable) - to float the race, but not forcing a requirement outside of it ... hope that makes sense.


Joe Kulak said...


12 hrs. is undoubtedly excessive. As the majority of the ultrarunenrs I know who participate in 100's are involved annually with charitable events, trail work, etc. I often find the race requirement a bit redundant. I understand the rationale but I truly wonder if there has been any impact, increased awareness or additional benefit.

Paul DeWitt said...

GZ - the races that require volunteerism have varying policies, but most require that the work be done at any trail ultra or on any public land. They encourage you to do it on the trails that the race uses, but for out of town people it can be anywhere.

Joe - we should get a charity credit just for letting you wear that CRUD shirt!

Derek Griffiths said...


While I don't know if I agree with requiring volunteer work to get into an ultra, i will say that it has definitly help us get volunteers for the Greenland 50K!

Here is why I think WS does it. Let me know what you think. So the entry is done totally on a lottery system. With more and more people trying to get into those coveted spots, by requiring volunteer hours, do you think they cut down on the people that sign up?


brownie said...

I hear what you're saying. They should at least knock off a few bucks on the rego fee if you gotta put in all those hours. Most trail/ultra guys I know put in a ton of volunteer hours regardless, we don't always wanna hafta keep track of every hour we do.

Dave Mackey said...

Nice to see your blog, Paul. I am not much of a blogger, but I started one and havent touched it since March!
I agree with your statements on volunteering; "required volunteerism" is an oxymoron. My theory on service is that it needs to come from the heart and not be mandatory. Coercion into service can be good but mandatory isnt necessary. Maybe coercion into getting people excited about giving back is what some race directors'/boards of directors intentions are, rather than profit motivation.

Paul DeWitt said...

Dave - thanks for stopping by. I'm going to check out your blog as well. Congratulations on a great race at Miwok last week; that time is just amazing!
- paul

I am a runner. "We are what we repeatedly do" said...

I think the oxymoron of required volunteerism is dumb as well. How about give back to the sport clause instead. work and aid station put on a fat ass, direct a race, play a role in the local running club. coach someone, pace someone, mark trail, be a sweep. But the above is hard to quantify and authenticate. In general be a giver as well as taker in life....but drop the trail work "volunteering clause.

Come to my race on the last weekend of the year and you get 40 miles of marked course, 5 aid stations, pizza at the finish around a nice camp fire, no work/volunteer requirement and all for the price of 0$ yep zero. (Boyers Furnace in the Massanutten mtns)