While we think of running as an individual sport, it has evolved into a team sport. The race results still show the name of the athlete, but around each runner, there are 2 teams. Let’s take a closer look at them.
First of all, there are clubs, and most runners are part of one. A club is much more than a running group, where a number of runners join up to do some runs together. Within the club there is a structure built around the runners, to give them the opportunity to get the best results possible. The 2 biggest parts in that structure are the coach and the teammates.
The coach will provide the runners with training schedules, will be at the training sessions as much as possible and will use every chance and means possible to improve the individual athletes. With an online coach, his or her attendance during training is replaced by constant messages, phone calls, and video calls.
The teammates, are the active members of a club that you are most connected to (same target, same speed, partial same schedules). Under the guidance of the coach, these runners do as many workouts as possible together. At some instances, the schedules of the athletes are prepared in such a way that one runner might be used to help out another one in certain workouts. Again, when working with an online coach this still might be the same if some runners from the same location join the same coach.
Both the coach and the teammates also play a role during races, the coach for creating the gameplan and providing the optimal splits, and the teammates who might function as pacemakers if a certain runner is out to reach one of his goals.
Family and Friends
Mostly overlooked, but by far the most important team for any athlete is his or her support from family and friends.
Runners of all levels make a lot of sacrifices and those can be a burden on the family and on their social life. This ranges from preparing specific meals to meet the nutritional needs, keeping some days of the week clear of any obligations other than practices, planning vacations and trips to be able to participate in specific events, and much more. If there is little to no support from the close family members, it can seriously hamper any progression. This is more and more compensated by making running a family affair, where everyone joins in the runs, or provide support during practice and races.
As for the social life, weddings, birthdays, office parties, get-togethers,… every runner has skipped a lot of those, just to be able to get their runs in.
As a beginning runner, you might find this frightening, but you will notice that after a while, friends will start to accommodate you and plan around your running schedule. A party might start at 8 instead of 7 so you can go to your practice and make it back in time, or they plan an outing on your non-running day. They might even pick up running themselves and join you in your running endeavours.
Make sure that you have 2 strong teams around you, who support you all the way and who understand that training and running comes with good days and bad days.
By Gert Rijkx, founder and head coach of QuadraCoach. Former athlete and certified athletics coach with over 25 years of experience in coaching, training and motivating runners of all levels