Wednesday, August 1

I quit

Last month I mentioned that I volunteered to help lead a marathon training program.

All summer long, I've been logging long runs to make sure my legs are ready. I would wake up at 5am to run 14 miles in the heat when I could have slept in and gone kayaking. I attended the first volunteer meeting and left feeling elated.

I was psyched (if a bit scared)!
I would to DO THIS. I would give up 17 weeks of my life to help other people cross that finish line.

Fast forward to July. The final, detailed volunteer briefing and first run drew near, and I realized I needed to be in San Diego for work that week.

Damned day job!

So three weeks before the kickoff, I emailed the (paid) program coordinator to explain my snafu. I offered to come in on any other day/time to learn the ropes on pacing plan, meeting place, routes, etc...

In response: crickets chirping.

Undeterred, I sent a second message outlining my schedule problem, providing evidence that I am both a seasoned running group leader and a dedicated volunteer, and again requesting a makeup meeting.

In response: Absolutely! I'll set up a meeting...

Unfortunately no meeting materialized.

So again (starting to get discouraged) I sent a third reminder that I really needed to get the volunteer training before the program started.

Again I received a note saying "Sure thing. I'll schedule a meeting." But then I heard nothing more...

Until yesterday...
I opened my inbox to find a "Why weren't you at the first meeting?" note from the program coordinator.

My blood pressure spiked.

This must be a joke, right?
I contacted this person repeatedly to explain my schedule situation. I received responses (albeit incomplete ones), so I know my emails didn't get lost in the ether.

This person can't really be implying that I'm the flake?
The program involves fewer than a dozen volunteers and the coordinator is paid to keep track of things like this. This is not a problem of my emails getting lost in the masses.

When my frustration level subsided to a low simmer, I sat back and took a long hard look at my reasons to continue with this program vs. reasons to bow out. The list looked something like this:

To run:
  • sense of accomplishment for completing another 26.2
  • giving back to the running community
  • following through on my word to volunteer
  • not throwing in the towel just because of a few unanswered emails

Not to run:
  • lack of organization and follow-through on the part of the paid organizers
  • serious differences in training philosophy (learned after materials were distributed via email last week)
  • the training schedule would prevent me from running in any other races until December
  • and... if I bow out, I can spend 17 weeks training based on my schedule and pace needs, not someone else's

I know that last one sounds selfish, but it's not a small thing. I was willing to give up hours every weekend for the running. But we hadn't even run yet, and already I was getting the runaround. (In addition to email miscommunication, earlier meetings were cancelled or rescheduled day-of-meeting). I'm not willing to sacrifice both my training and my sanity.

As I sat there and stared at my list, I realized that I feared quitting mostly because I don't want to be labeled a quitter - by you, dear blog reader, or by the organizers. And that made my decision much easier.

I wrote a very polite note saying, in short:


This may well go down as the least motivational post in Yes, folks history... and for that, I apologize. But the moment I clicked "send," I felt relief.
I have no regrets.
And I'm going to enjoy sleeping in this weekend.

How do you decide when to soldier on and when to pull the plug?
Have you ever spent hours obsessing over a seemingly simple decision?


  1. Good call. No sense in pushing yourself into a frustrating situation. Maybe another race, another organizer will be a better fit for you.

  2. It would shave been an amazing challenge personally but if there is no organisation from the top then the stress that goes along with that cannot be justified, running is for enjoyment not to add stress! Good decision.

  3. It takes a lot of courage to pull out of something like that when you feel indebted, but sometimes the benefits just don't outweigh the costs. And seriously, shame on them for their poor communication skills! I mean, what the heck?!

  4. Excellent call, missus. No point volunteering for something that's going to make you tear your hair out- if they're this badly organized now, think how bad it would be nearer the event! :)


Penny for your thoughts?