More than ever, after an event like this past weekend’s Black Canyon Ultras, I feel it is important to recognize the people who are behind our races. The people who are up before the sun, spending a majority of their weekends with very little sleep, and dedicated to working long hours – many of those hours are overnight or in the hot desert sun. These individuals are dedicated, adventurous, driven, creative and passionate. As a team we are focused and goofy and more like family than coworkers.
My heart was – and still is – so full after the weekend with our volunteers, permitting agencies, venues and staff helping us make changes at the last minute and saying “whatever you need to make this thing happen.” However, I want to highlight the roles of those people, our Aravaipa staff, who are at EVERY event, pretty much every-other weekend and many weekdays. Many of our runners don’t know the faces of those who spend their days setting up and breaking down our events because they’re gone before runners arrive and show up after they’re gone.
Many of our staff members came from our volunteer base or we knew them because they ran in our events. While it isn’t a prerequisite, every single staff member is also a runner. Passion begets passion. We train together. We race together. We work together.
I will say the largest differential with our staff is they care. No, I mean, they truly care. A single dissatisfied runner is a huge blow and one that every single person takes to heart. They stay late past their scheduled shifts, they come up with ideas to better the experience at our events, they wrap up busted fingers and scraped knees and keep at it. They stress over perfect course markings, they spend the nights before big events going over every little detail in their heads, and make plans while knowing those plans may change on the turn of a dime.
Snippets of our “staff story” start to paint the larger picture. One of my favorite is that of Christina Lazalde (Event Crew) finishing her first ultra, which she did at McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K. It was dark and a growing group of us were standing at the finish line, not doing a lick of work, watching every headlamp crest the hill. It was ridiculous as we attempted to decipher which headlamp might be hers based on pure assumption. We are just screaming and yelling “go Christina” off into the night in hopes it was her and she’d hear us. By the time she reached the finish line most of us were hoarse and just simply overwhelmed. Jill Bowen, our Event Crew Lead, had created her an award from the same Mexican Art location we purchase most of our podium awards. The tears, laughter and giggles are such a huge benefit of the ‘job’ that I’m not sure many of us expected.
Endurance Care, our trusty medical personnel, aren’t direct employees of Aravaipa Running but are a huge part of what we do. Lloyd (below, left) is at almost every Aravaipa race and when he heard that almost the entire team was headed to Sonoita, AZ to run Old Pueblo 50-mile together he instantly volunteered his time to come with us and be our “personal EMT.” At Mogollon Monster Lloyd also worked every second of the all-day, all-night shift at Washington Park and then headed to the finish line because he was so invested in the runners he didn’t want to miss anyone crossing the line. Logan (below, right) initiated with Aravaipa as a volunteer at Mogollon Monster with Lloyd and was instantly an “oh my gosh we need this guy on the Endurance Care team.”
For a long time Aravaipa operated with everyone working every hour of every race. Those same people set up the event and stayed to tear down the event. Pati Coury (Aid Station Operations) was one such individual. As Aravaipa has grown to 28 events per year we’ve had to, for all our sanity, create a better working environment including generating schedules and trying – as much as possible – to stick to them. Pati is probably the hardest “sell” on that concept. Getting her to leave an aid station and not stay up all night or live at Across the Years (ATY) for 6-days straight was neigh on impossible. In fact, it was impossible as I’m pretty sure she worked double every shift at ATY and was messaging us for updates for the few hours she was off site.
Fun Fact: Jubilee Paige was NOT happy the first time we handed her the microphone. No one would suspect that if they could see her on it now.
Learn more about who our event crew is, the job they do, and how they came to get started with Aravaipa Running on our “about”page (click button below)! We will have more in the #WhoWeAre series coming out over the course of 2017 and can’t wait to share more of our story with you.