Checking in on the Gift of 2%

On this late October day, my Strava account tells me that I’ve spent roughly 480 hours of the time that has so far passed in calendar year 2019 running. This adds up to about 6.7% of the year thus far. Put differently, it amounts to 20 of the 296-and-change days that have ticked by or when averaged by day is 1 hour and 36 minutes each day. My, ahem, running total is so far on par with last year, where I spent 6.5% of 2018 running. (Side note, that last fact is not only fascinating but totally not planned.) When I add up this time and tangibly see on the face of a calculator just how much of my life I dedicate to running, I feel like a lucky lady. I am so grateful to have the resources of time, money, health, community, and landscapes that collectively give me room to roam.

Earlier this year, I published an article called “The Gift of 2%” where I challenged myself and others to dedicate 2% of our year in running to giving back to our sport. In that article, I argued that we trail runners and ultrarunners are who we are because of our running, and our running is what it is because of the natural places and communities through which and with which we run. I committed to gifting 2% of my 2018 in running–that’s 11 hours and 35 minutes total and I divided that time equally among nature and community–back. In comments to the article, 31 more people committed in excess of 360.5 hours of their time. (Some people joined the gifting challenge but didn’t designate a time quantity.)

Almost 10 months of 2019 have now passed and it seems a good time to check in on our collective gifting. In 2019 so far, I’ve volunteered 12 hours at two different trail races in my Moab, Utah hometown. I was assigned by the race directors to both races’ finish lines, where I got to hand out medals, awards, and hugs. It was so fun! As discussed in my early year article, I planned to (and eventually did) run the 2019 Bear 100 Mile, which requires you to complete eight hours of volunteer work to participate in the race. I am not counting those hours toward my total because they are transactional. In doing them, I get something in return. After subtracting those eight hours, I have completed just four hours of my 11:35 goal.

Oops, I’m behind! I still need to complete about two hours of volunteer service for my community and the full five hours and 48 minutes of service to the natural landscapes through which I run. Fortunately, in a few weeks, I am scheduled to volunteer for several days at another trail race, so I should well exceed my community-gifting goal. But I don’t have a plan for volunteering for nature yet, and with only a couple months left in the year, I need one!

I probably share this personal conundrum with many trail runners and ultrarunners. Our sport offers easy access to volunteering for our community. A majority of trail races and ultramarathons are volunteer driven. And volunteering at a race is a fun opportunity to socialize with our friends without having to put our bodies through the agony of the race itself. ;-) Our link to serving the natural places which sustain our running is perhaps less natural and fluid. A lot of us must be more intentional in seeking out ways in which we can give back to the places through which we adventure.

What am I personally doing about this and how will I make my gift of 2% goal? In the last week, I’ve reached out to several regional organizations to see about upcoming volunteer opportunities, everything from animal and plant surveying to trails maintenance and building, and from natural-resource education to land-advocacy awareness. I don’t have a time, place, or activity to which I’m committed yet, but I hope that will come soon.

Now, how about you? If you are one of the 31 people who committed to this challenge back in January, how do things stand for you? Leave a comment to update us all on the progress of your gifting goal. If you have some hours to go, like me, do you have a plan for how you will achieve your goal? And, if you’re just joining us, there’s still plenty of time to join the challenge in some way! With all that running does for us, surely all of us should–and can–do something for it. Leave a comment to update us all on your progress in the challenge, to join the challenge and make your own commitment, or to share your thoughts on volunteerism in trail running and ultrarunning. I’ll be back again, after we pass into the new year, for a final check-in, and I hope to see you here, too.

Meghan Hicks

is the Managing Editor of iRunFar and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.