“It isn’t about running” – What the Vermont 100 Means to Me
Erika Stillson is a constant light at the Vermont 100, volunteering endless hours to make sure that all of our aid stations are fully stocked day and night. She also happens to live at “Bills,” the family farm our runners pass through at ~ mile 51 and 89 of our 100k and 100m events. Erika, along with her dad, Bill, and countless others, are what make the Vermont 100 pure magic, and we thank her for sharing her story below. We hope you love it as much as we do!
Family. Community. Volunteering. Summer.
“The other day I received a note asking me if I’d write a little post about what the Vermont 100 means to me, so I sat down and thought about it. After working with this event in one form or another for the past 31 years, it occurred to me that I really know relatively few athletes in the event. Interesting, because without a doubt, when someone says ‘What is the Vermont 100?’ the first thought is of an amazing feat by elite athletes to support opportunities for other equally amazing athletes.
But what is the Vermont 100 to me? Well, it isn’t about running.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I do not mean to diminish in any way the journey or successes of these awe-inspiring runners, horses and riders, it’s just that my Vermont 100 isn’t about a race at all. It’s about a group of like-minded individuals getting together, stringing 980 chemlights, then finding other people to hang said chemlights throughout the last 45 miles of the course on a Saturday evening in mid July, rain or shine, road or trail. It’s about a small town (my small town) opening its arms to hundreds of people, showing them just what a little community can do. It’s everyone I can think of crazy enough to turn on their ovens to bake a couple hundred pounds of potatoes or 72 dozen chocolate chip cookies in the summer heat. Or, going way back, mac and cheese and brownies for the pre-race dinner on Friday night. It’s getting up at 4am on Saturday and not going to sleep again until Sunday night.
My Vermont 100 is driving around the back roads with my dad towing us on the bed of an old horse trailer, picking up aid stations and unmarking the course. It’s driving almost all 100 miles in ‘Old Blue,’ our almost-famous pickup truck that worked the first 15 or so races with us, and that old horse trailer, just ‘checking on things.’ And I know that my summer would be missing something without this event.
My Vermont 100 is hours and hours of things that no one likes to think about, that maybe no one really wants to do, but for some reason, at some point in my life seemed like a great adventure.
I worked an unmanned aid station for the first race because I realllllly wanted to do something. So, my parents let their 15-year-old daughter drive down to the aid station and hang out there by myself with a flashlight until midnight, pouring Coke into paper cups. I’ll never forget how happy those runners were to see my flashlight that night.
I moved on to the med station the next year and learned how to lance a blister, perhaps not my thing, but thanks for the knowledge. I worked volunteer parking for a handler station, I babysat Laura Farrell’s boys so she could be out working. I purchased, packed, and delivered the aid station food, took a break from that, then went back and did it again.
I’ve worked registration, the race start, and the finish line. I’ve worked aid stations, I’ve set them up and torn them down. I’ve cleaned up after the race, I’ve marked and unmarked sections of the course. I’ve learned that it’s easier to hang chemlights before it gets dark, but it’s more fun (for me, at least) to do it after.
My Vermont 100 was once heading out to find our puppy who left from our aid station with a runner before little Tuck got too tired to keep running and was lost in the woods. And now I just do a little behind the scenes organizing, and, as I like to call it ‘the fun stuff.’ And, of course, I get to help clean out our barn to make room for the aid station.
I started working on this event to be with my family.
My dad has been involved with the Vermont 100 from the very first year and I have been following his lead and have used the event for some great father-daughter time over the years (you all know Bill of Bill’s barn, am I right? I call him Dad. Great guy, am I right? I know I’m right).
And since I have started working on this event my family has grown. I am happy to count the amazing committee (past and present) that puts this all together as my family. We’ve been through thick and thin, through losses and joys and we’ve stood side by side through them all. Just like a family does.
I’ve seen members of my community stand up in meetings and speak for this race, even though they have no ties to it beyond the fact that it happens in their town. Their voices have ensured that our race keeps its home in the hills of Brownsville.
Our community supports us.
I have called on people who have no ties to running, no ties to Vermont Adaptive and they have come. They have come in droves, and they have stayed. They are the stars of my Vermont 100. You don’t know them and you don’t see them, but without them, we’d be lost.
Oh, the heat. The humidity. The thunderstorms. The microbursts.
To quote Farmer’s, ‘We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.’ Ain’t it the truth? The Vermont 100 will always test you, and not just you the athlete. You, the volunteer at an aid station in the blazing sun, in the pouring rain and thunderstorms, or in the dark of night. You, the restock volunteer trying to keep up with requests for ice or blankets, ramen or watermelon. You, the overnight restock crews looking out for horses in the foggy night as you drive from one station to the next with ice, blankets, and, of course, gummy bears.
My Vermont 100, I’m sure, is different from everyone else’s Vermont 100, but that’s just one more thing that makes it fun. That makes it special. That makes it mine.”
A Bit More about Erika
Erika Stillson is an avid skier, trail runner and yoga instructor. She is thrilled to be back living on her family farm in Windsor, Vermont, where Spring finds her in the sugarhouse and Summer in the gardens. She has a small studio at the farm, which gives her the ability to share two of her favorite things: Yoga and the peace she finds on the farm. Follow her adventures at Oxbow Farm.
Want to help?
Learn more about Volunteering at the Vermont 100.