No “I” in team

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Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard the saying that there is no “I” in team, but it’s true. I love my running team I really do.

They are wonderful people who I love and adore. They are just  not consistent when it comes to running and that hurts the members of the team who are consistent and train hard.

I’ve never been the team captain who pushes my runners to be faster, better, or run as much as I do. I’ve always supported them in their personal goals. I do provide them with training schedules at their current level so they can get better and be comfortable when we do run relays or other races as a team. I encourage them along the way and give advise where I can.

I have total faith in each one of them that they are capable of reaching the next level of their running, which is different for each of them, and being able to take on new running challenges. My relay team has always been about having fun and bringing new runners into the love of running. It has never been focused on a time goal or a pace requirement. We always have a wonderful time and choose to immediately sign up for the next year.

However, every year I end up with the same problems on my relay team. Less than half of my runners train consistently. So what, why should I care, right. They are the ones who will be vomiting and running to the bathroom during and after every run. They are the ones who will be huffing and puffing every time they put one foot in front of the other, Right?

Well yes that is all true, but the other issue is that because they don’t train they have to take the lowest mile positions. This is problematic if I have a runner who gets injured during training and needs low miles. It is also a problem because there are only so many low mile spots.

The bigger problem is, their lack of support for the team through consistent training hurts my runners who do train everyday putting their heart and sole into each step. My runners who do train feel like they have to make up for those who do not so that we can finish at a decent time (before the finish line arch is down). My runners who train care about our non training runners and want them to stay on the team and over the last five years we have just “made up” for their slower times.

In order for me to give my inconsistent runners the low mile positions, my consistent runners constantly have to run the same legs of the relay. They always have to take the high miles. This impacts their ability to participate in other races close to the time of the relay. My friend and I were planning on participating in an Iron Man this fall, but the race  is a week after our team relay. Because my other runners haven’t trained and we now have to take high mile spots on the team, we cannot do the full Iron Man the next weekend.

Another issue is, for the relay that we do, Red Rock Relay in southern Utah, the bigger harder miles are in Van Two. Four of the six spots have 19 miles or more. In Van One, two spots have over 16 miles. This means all my inconsistent runners will be in Van One. No big deal right? wrong! My inconsistent runners are of course much much slower (14-17 minute miles on FLAT). This results in Van Two running most of their longer harder(read as uphill with no shade) miles in temperatures over 100 degrees Fehrenheit. Running, fresh under those conditions is hard, but running them on two hours of sleep, some level of dehydration, and with irregular eating and you really find out what you are made of.

The final huge lurking shadow is their health. Relays are hard. You run all night in the cold and the rain. You run all day in the blistering heat with no shade. If you are not reasonably healthy/fit, you can potentially do some serious damage or die during a relay race. Some of my runners are bigger guys and I don’t want to tell their wives and children that they crumbled on the side of the road during their second leg of the race and never got back up.

I guess what I’m really tring to say here, is if you sign up to be a member of a relay team. You need to work as hard as the other runners. You need to support your team as much as everyone else is. Don’t make your team drag your dead weight along for 200 miles.

I’m going to have this hard conversation with my team at our prerace meeting in the next month because next year (that’s right they get an entire year to make the change to consistent training) if they don’t get their pace down to 12 minute miles (very very doable) for a flat 10k, they are off the team. If I have to run the race as an ultra team next year because none of them will nut up and do their training, then that is what I will do because I know I can count on my other three runners to put in the miles to run it as an ultra.

I know I’m going to hear excuses and at least two of them will say, “I thought this team was about having fun not about finishing fast.”

My response, “It is about having fun, but it’s about being a team too and if four runners have to carry the other eight it’s not fun anymore.”

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