2021 SSTR 12.5K Sweepers; Greg, Maria and Mike – Photo Credit Kevin Langton

Thursday May 27, 2021

TO: Superior Spring Trail Race Volunteers

‘Professional’. Maybe a word you don’t normally associate with your role as a volunteer at races. Starting with trail marking on Tuesday, then moving into setup on Wednesday and throughout the rest of event ‘weekend’, I kept razzing Travis, telling him how ‘professional’ of a job he was doing.  “You marked that intersection very professionally” or, “That is how a professional would load the trailer”. I am not sure if you all caught it, but on Sunday we woke up to some grim and tragic news… a 100KM trail running race in China reported a staggering and unprecedented 21 deaths. The early word is that runners died (on-course) of exposure after a storm containing hail, freezing rain and high winds rolled through the mountains.  While trail and ultrarunning comes with some inherent and unavoidable risks and weather in the mountains can be unpredictable, given the scope of this tragedy it is likely that there was a breakdown in risk mitigation, emergency preparedness and generally at the race operations level.  While I do not know a group that has more fun or engages in more banter and sophomoric humor than us, I also don’t know a group of more highly skilled, thorough or thoughtful individuals working races.  This year, as a result of Covid and in the absence of some of our usual tasks, we have found ourselves without the need for as many volunteers and at times haven’t been as “busy” as normal (or as busy as some of us would like to be). While many of the race accoutrements have fallen to the wayside this year, our most important mission, creating a safety net for our participants, remains unchanged; i.e. advanced communication leading up to an event, a well planned and marked course, providing water / hydration, runner tracking and radio communications, having experienced sweeps, accurate timing (which allows us to account for every runner at the end of the day), competent medical volunteers and so forth.  With most of us being experienced outdoors people, runners and ultrarunners who are familiar with the North Shore and the Superior Hiking Trail, it can be easy to take for granted how monumental it is for some of our participants to get out and run in such “wild and remote” places.  As a result we have the responsibility to not only create a fun experience for those individuals, but to remain cognizant of the challenges and risks that are present when runners with varying degrees of experience are out pushing themselves over challenging terrain that may be unfamiliar to them.  It is your experience, expertise and professionalism that allow these participants, your fellow runners, to have such unique and life-enriching experiences, while doing so as safely as possible. I encourage you to internalize and remind yourselves of this often.

On a lighter note, I know at some point things will go back to (just about) normal and there will not be the need for four day races – but man, the couple that we have done have been fun.  Getting to spend some extra time with all of you has been a blast.  I know we all do a lot of stuff; professionally, personally, recreationally, etc., but I can honestly say, some of my favorite times and best memories originate with and revolve around working these races.  Thanks for doing it with me, I love and appreciate each and everyone of you.  I hope to see many of you at Afton this Summer and at Superior this Fall – in the meantime, don’t be strangers.


John Storkamp
Race Director
Superior Trail Race