Until this past weekend, November 20, 2011 was the last time I ran a race as a member of a team. On that day the men of Southern Oregon University won a National Cross Country Title. Granted the university is a part of the relatively unknown NAIA, but that minor detail didn’t matter to the 7 of us who had spent years preparing for those eight kilometers of grass, mud and hills. The success of that day was exciting, fun and depending on your philosophical beliefs possibly even meaningful. By the evening the feeling was gone. The enjoyment of the win was fleeting, This was my last collegiate cross country race, and the emptiness I experienced knowing it was over clouded my mind. For years of weekday afternoons and weekend mornings, I spent my time training with the guys that I had the privilege of calling teammates and friends. We ran together, lived together, spent painful hours in the university’s training room ice whirlpool together. Needless to say it was a pretty tight group.
I don’t have allusions of grandeur. I know collegiate cross country is a special thing that occurs for a special time at a special place in a young runners life. When its gone, its gone. Trying to get that experience back has probably ruined a few good years for many a runner. That being said, their are many benefits of a team that any runner can experience. I can’t guarantee that this will make running more meaningful (as that is up to you and your demons) but teammates and friends will make running and racing more fun. From the outside it looks like just a bunch of dudes (or ladies) wearing matching shirts and shoes, sporting the logo of whoever pays the bills on their chest. In some instances I’m sure this is true, but just as the Grinch discovered that Christmas meant more than presents, teams mean much more than uniforms and sponsors. Point: Traveling and racing with friends is more fun than alone. And as juvenile as it sounds, wearing cool matching shirts actually makes people feel more together.
This weekend part of the Nike Trail Elite Team got together to run the Chuckanut50k. We didn’t do a pre race chant, braid each others hair or cross the finish line holding hands. We warmed up together and each ran our own individual race, individuals as part of a greater whole. We pushed each other, encouraged each other, sat around after the race together debriefing and getting fired up for the next time we all get to spend a few tough hours running on the dirt together.
Nike is a company built around and for long distance running. Its pretty special to be working with a company that values the voice of the athlete as much as Nike does. I’m excited about what the Nike Trail Elite Team has done so far and I know there will be many more huge successes in the future. Rogue Valley Runners makes a huge impact in the local endurance community as well as greater trail running community. I’m proud to have both The Swoosh and the Rogue Valley Runners logo on my chest.
Can’t wait to get down to the Sonoma 50 Mile in a few weeks and have much more of the Nike Trail crew together!