Below is a column that appeared in Foster's Sunday Citizen yesterday. Couldn't have said it better myself.Andy Schachat: Running not a team sport? Think again
Sunday, March 30, 2008
As we begin another year of road races I feel compelled to comment on a recent story involving a couple of high school runners. That's because the message I want to convey from the story symbolizes my attitude about the sport. I also hope it serves as an inspirational message for the upcoming season of races.
In Vermont there is a rule that allows high school athletes from one school to compete for another if the original does not have a program in a particular sport. However, there is a catch: the rule only applies to team sports, not individual sports. Two young runners hoped to get an exception to the rule so they could join another school's cross country team. The two young men were denied their request and won't be able to run cross country in high school.
What does that have to do with us? What kind of "inspirational message" am I trying to convey? The notion that running is not a team sport.
Yes, I know that technically running is not a team sport but, if you are a runner, answer this question: doesn't the camaraderie, support, and spirit of the sport feel like you are part of a team? For those of you who played team sports, doesn't the feeling you get from being in a running club or joining dozens of others at races seem like it did when you played basketball, football, baseball, or hockey?
Running is not a team sport? In running, there is definitely strength in numbers. How many times have your training runs gone a lot smoother and felt a lot better when you ran with others? There is a reason why running clubs host weekly training runs and why club members get up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning to meet their fellow runners for one of those runs.
Every runner you know can tell you dozens of stories about training with others as part of the preparation for a big race.
How about the grueling track workouts? Those repeat quarter, half, and full miles, circling the track while busting a gut. I have tried track workout by myself and believe me, it isn't even close, the difference between solo track workouts and workouts with others.
The races themselves often offer a team spirit, especially during long races. Again, I defer to the stories of the running community. Runners can readily recall the many times a marathon or half-marathon effort was much easier with a partner running side by side.
Shorter distances can also create a team atmosphere. I will never forget one of my first races, the Bunker Hill 8K in Charlestown, Mass. In the second half of the race I wound up running side by side with a runner who was struggling. Then, in the last half-mile I slowed up and fell back. He turned to me and said, "get up here." If it wasn't for him I would have faded down the stretch. On that day, for that moment, we were teammates.
Then there are the intangibles that exist in a sport where everyone supports everyone else.
That famous line in the movie, "there is no crying in baseball" is replaced by "there is no booing in running." Ever see a faster runner taunt a slower runner? Attend a running club meeting, listen to the mutual support everyone offers each other, and you will find yourself wanting to go on a training run when the meeting is dismissed. Believe me, there is an infectious energy that comes from the group mentaility the sport of running offers.Interesting thing to consider when comparing the team sports to running. In team sports some of the team members are playing while the rest of the team is on the bench or sidelines and in most cases it is over half the team that is watching. Not in running. Everyone who shows up gets to participate.
I used to be an avid basketball player. That all changed when I started running and the biggest factor that kept me running and away from the hardwood was the camaraderie I felt from the local running community. It far exceeded anything I had experienced from my local basketball leagues.
So, what is my point? As we kick off the 2008 road race season take time to appreciate the "team" atmosphere of the sport. If you are new to running, take advantage of this atmosphere and soak it all in. You won't be sorry. It will make the upcoming months a much more rewarding and richer experience for you.
Memo to the young Vermont runners: you are welcome anytime.
Andy Schachat writes about running for Foster's Sunday Citizen and Daily Democrat. You can contact Andy at 608 Cocheco Court, Dover, N.H. or email at email@example.com.