I finally submitted my service form to be signed for volunteering at Hardrock 100 in July. Yes, it took me a while, but with several lottery applications coming due in early November, I thought I'd "get ahead of the curve" and get that box checked off sooner than later.
Gone are the days of nonchalantly deciding to enter a race and sending an application in a couple weeks before the event. This approach only leads to frustration and angst. And you can forget worrying about training, because that's the easy part. With the advent of lotteries and the requirement to do volunteer service, getting into a 100 mile race takes real planning!
Actually, I'm really happy I chose to go to Hardrock to volunteer this year. I didn't go because I had to, I just wanted to immerse myself in the race culture. It was worth every minute. I learned some important intel about how to run that course. It was also a lot of fun. In fact, I don't think I've had a bad experience volunteering at a race or doing trail work. Whether swinging a McLoed on the PCT or the Angeles Crest Trail, cooking breakfast burritos at the HR finish line, or handing medals out at the finish of a marathon, there is something special about giving back to the sport.
I think the service requirement is a huge plus for ultra running. It weeds out the less than serious, and contributes to multiple good causes - be it staging races, supporting runners, maintaining trails and the like.
The requirement to give back, to volunteer at a local race or help maintain the trails, is something special about this sport. I believe it is what sets ultra running apart from the highly charged, spandex burdened endurance crowd.
Keep it real runners!