It’s a word I’ve been connected with since I started playing t-ball at age 4. It’s a source of friendship, of pride, of working together towards a common goal. I have vivid memories of being part of a team growing up, acting as a unit. They’re some of my most cherished thoughts when I reflect on my life as an athlete.
This past weekend, every one of those memories was eclipsed.
I had no idea it was going to happen. If you asked me on Friday morning or Friday night, even, Saturday was going to be a typical day of adventures in running. A new undertaking, but something in line with what the past 7 months have been since I was invited to join the Run With Us race team. I was wrong.
On Saturday morning, we woke up in the camper at 3am, packed up, grabbed our runner at his Airbnb, and drove down to the start line. Before I knew it, the gun sounded and the field was off. Our runner and two of the other people I have spent the most time with during 2019 started their most epic 100-mile journey just like that. I got choked up as I saw them, as well as a handful of my other teammates and friends, take off. Thinking about it now has the same result.
Crewing someone during a 100-mile race is basically doing everything in your power to help your runner keep going. You go aid station to aid station getting their fuel and hydration set for when they arrive, making sure they’re geared up for the next stretch, working out aches and pains, sharing positive words. There is nothing out of scope for being on a runner’s crew. It’s work. Fun but work.
Four of us spent the first half of the day crewing, laughing, and taking pictures. My brain was completely focused until we were driving somewhere between miles 33 and 37. That’s when I broke.
That’s when we saw the three of them, somehow having caught up to each other and running in a single file just like every other training run. For a few moments, we were all next to each other, runners running and crew driving alongside. The past few months flashed before my eyes. Miles and miles and miles and jokes and chats and tacos and trips and carpools and Run With Us excursions and group chats and text after text after text. The van was in an uproar, “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Every second after that, my heart was full.
Unsurprisingly, the feeling only deepened during my portion of pacing.
Being a part of someone else’s race experience – and adjacent to others’ – is incomparable. Every cheer is an effort to help boost a runner in some way – maybe to remind them they’re awesome, maybe to assure them they’ve got it together, maybe to let them know they’re not alone.
Friendship, pride, and working towards a common goal take on a whole new meaning when it’s not for you and when it’s not about winning. When your goal is solely to help others achieve their immediate goal, everything feels amplified.
So it happened. Last weekend at AC, Team became more than it ever was.