Volunteering at the Squamish 50

Ever since I became more involved with trail running, I’ve become more aware of some fantastic ultra-marathon races in the local area including the Knee Knacker that starts at Horseshoe Bay and travels along the Baden Powell to Deep Cove.The Knee Knacker is roughly 47km and considered a tough ultra-marathon with a total elevation gain over 3000m and advanced terrain. Another race that I became quite familiar with while listening to the Ginger Runner’s live shows is the Squamish 50/50. At first, I only knew of it as a 50-mile race and then a 50 km race the day after. Earlier this year I also discovered it had a 23km race too that I was quite interested in trying. Due to its popularity, it was unfortunately sold out, so I have my eyes on next year!

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Taking part in more events I’ve seen how close the community is and how many people put their free time into making these events what they are. I’m always thankful for all the volunteers who direct you the right way, keep you safe and provide you with the support you need to finish. I always make an effort to thank everyone I pass, and I’ve certainly been interested in putting my free time into a race that I’m not signed up for. Knowing that I wasn’t able to race at the Squamish 50, I decided it would be a great opportunity to be a volunteer on race day.

I managed to get an afternoon position at the top of Mtn of Phlegm, which is a fitting name for a mountain with a very tough climb to the top! This point marked the last of the uphill for an extremely tough course and 4km left to the finish line. My job was simply to direct people down the correct trail rather than over a cliff!

I saw so many different characters full of pain and joy as they reached the top. There were runners with bloody knees, broken toes and ripped off toenails.  I got to speak to a few runners that stopped for a moment and got a small insight into why some of them decided to tackle such a beast. Emotions were high, and a few tears of happiness were shed for the accomplishment that was in sight.

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The 50km and 23km races were taking place on the day I was there, and both passed through this section. I didn’t see many of the 23km racers as they had mostly all finish by the time I arrived. The majority of the runners I saw were middle of the pack and first-time ultra runners taking part in the 50km. A handful of racers had also done the 50-mile race the day before, which was amazing to witness. They looked so sharp despite having run 126km over 24hrs!

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The experience was very eye-opening and motivational by how much inner strength and perseverance that some of the runners had to dig out to get that far. It’s amazing to see what the body can do with enough fitness, mental strength, and determination. The Squamish 50 races are certainly extraordinary, with extremely tough trails to navigate thanks to the local race director, Garry Robbins. I would love to do a 50km race, but this one wouldn’t be my first! Next year I’m going to try the 23km distance and see how tough that one is!

I loved the experience and will intend to volunteer more at upcoming races.

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