vole stare toad race…..hour 137 update
the runners are taking sweet revenge on the staff this year.
as of check-in this morning runners were distributed every 3-5 miles
all the way from the finish back to culleoka.
here is how they are working the home stretch.
(they think we dont know!)
the tracker shows a runner entering the gate
another runner is just turning up sand mountain…
the runner entering the gate calls the clarion
and tells them to release the next runner
heading to the rock.
the first runner finishes
and takes their place on the thrown
to regale us with tales from the open road
after the runner gets done with story telling
we deliver them to the parking lot
where they retrieve their car and head for the clarion to sleep…
on the way out they pass the next runner
just entering the gate
the runner that left the clarion before is turning up sand mountain
and the runner entering the gate is calling the clarion
to release another runner on the final push to the rock…
at this rate we will not sleep for another 4 days.,
the most frequent;y asked questions of vol staters?
what do you get if you finish?
the answer:
a sticker…
it isnt even a fancy sticker.
just a white football with "314" on it.
but it is much more than just a sticker.
it marks you as a member of a unique family.
it signifies that you boarded that ferry.
that you walked and ran an irrational distance
finally arriving at the rock powered only by your own two feet.
it signifies days and nights of hardship
of pain and laughter
of seeing things that others will never see
and experiencing thing
others will never experience.
it signifies sleeping on concrete
eating at gas stations
broiling in the sun
running thru the witching hour
and thru the rush hour.
it says things about blistered water balloon feet
and sunburned skin
it marks you as one of "them walkers".
and when you come across another "314"
it is an exciting moment.
you know that you share with them
an experience that few have had.
no matter your age
no matter your respective backgrounds
this is not a stranger.
you have a common bond
"i did it in 2007"
"i did it in 2023"
you are family.
even if we arent getting much sleep
these days are precious to us up on the rock.
we get to see the faces.
the glow of those who have found in themselves
something they did not know was there.
and something in others
that they never expected.
the vol state is not really about the amazing athletes who win
it isnt about the gallant warriors
who escape the everyday world
to battle oprah for 10 days.
it is about every person who finds their way thru the corn
and reaches the rock a different person than the one who stepped on that ferry a lifetime ago.
out there in the heat and electrical storms
across endless miles
and over countless hills
the vol staters find something in themselves.
and they find something in others.
the tales from the open road can be funny
they can be tragic
they can be dramatic
but they are also about each other.
the runners who have formed teams on the road
come in together like friends who have been together since birth.
they look at each other as they tell their shared stories
they finish each others sentences.
strangers who got on the ferry
arrive at the rock as brothers and sisters who know each other like no one else can
they have laughed together
they have cried together
and they have seen each other stripped of all pretense.
the heat of sun-melted asphalt has bonded them for life.
they come in at different times
and talk of when they were together
when they were separated by circumstances.
when they passed
and when they got passed.
up and down the line the runners’ experiences are shared experiences.
they mourn when one of their number fails
and rejoice when one succeeds.
man is not, by nature
a solitary animal.
we are made to truly care about one another
and at the vol state we find our best selves.
and the family has come to extend beyond the runners
samir and the family clarion
who do so much to help the vol staters
just because they care.
the people along the course who set out coolers
that so often are life savers for some vol stater’s journey.
the ones who take days and even weeks of vacation
to spend stocking a tent on some lonely stretch of road.
to provide a place for the pilgrims to rest and refuel
for the long and difficult miles ahead.
all of us are brought together by this shared experience
whether our part is to run as a king
to escape everyday life and embark on our spirit journey
to drive a meat wagon
or to stop at the end of the driveway on the way to work
and leave a small cooler of love with a sign.
the message is short
but it says so much…
to those who know what it means.
it cannot be bought.
it must be earned.

Categories: Vols2023