One of the things that gave me a little thrill when I joined my running club was becoming a member of England Athletics at the same time. I quite liked the idea of being an athlete, and as I am running a half marathon in Morocco next weekend, technically I am an international athlete. I realised that what makes me feel most like a ‘proper’ athlete is my support crew. Yes, I have a support crew, in fact whether you realise it or not most runners have a team that keeps them going. I would say there are 3 areas where I am looked after. Equipment, physical training, and support and logistics. Admittedly some of the areas overlap, but I think this is probably true for all athletes, after all what coach doesn’t also support and occasionally bring along a bag of jelly babies.
The first people to unwittingly join my crew handled the equipment. Before I even set foot on the road I was being supported and advised by the lovely people from my local running shop ‘Run to Live’. I found them on line, dropped in and was pleasantly surprised to be enthusiastically welcomed into a new activity. We arranged a time when I had long enough to run on a treadmill getting my gait analysed, trying on different shoes and talking about what the hell I thought I was doing. The whole experience was so wonderfully different to any other form of shopping I actually found myself enjoying it. Since then I have always gone back to the same shop. Sometimes I hop on the Dreadmill to see if my running style has changed, on others I just drop in for a chat, a biscuit and cup of tea. I am always made to feel welcome and value the advice I am given. I have run in events they have organised and now and again I see the staff out and about running at the same time as myself. If my reception when I first walked in had not been as friendly and supportive as it was I may not have kept this up, and I certainly wouldn’t count ‘Run to Live’ as the first part of my support crew.
The story with the next group of people who look after my athletic needs is a bit more fluid and they arrived on the scene a little later. I trained for my first race by finding a zero to half marathon plan on line, didn’t speak to anyone, just went out the door and got on with it. The week after I had run that epic I managed to damage my knee, and that is where the first of my physical support crew came in. OK so it’s a bit of an overinflated way of talking about the local GP, but she knew what she was talking about. Her husband ran she explained, and trying to get him to stop and rest when injured was like trying to make a kosher bacon butty. Anyway I was prescribed a month off, and being the good newbie I was I made damn sure I behaved myself something I would find difficult now. It wasn’t too much later that I joined a running club and was introduced to a whole group of people who knew what they were talking about. I was subjected to the horrors of hill reps and tempo runs. Before I knew it this invaluable support got me running quicker and I had expanded my physical support crew with a coach or three. The latest member of my support crew I met when I was worried about my knee over Christmas. I bit the bullet and paid the money to see a sports physiotherapist. She was fantastic, poked and prodded in all the right places, announced I was good to run as long as I followed an exercise plan, and so sealed a permanent place on the team.
Now every athlete needs a few supporters, and a bit of logistics from time to time. We can’t always drive ourselves to every race, and sometimes we need somebody to waggle a water bottle at us when out on a ridiculously long training run. Most of my support crew assembled themselves from the running club I joined. To be fair I guess I am part of their support crew as much as they are part of mine. We have all taken turns ferrying bodies to races, and other places. Been there with kind words and insults in appropriate measure as required, and generally acted as the core network of support for each other. We even gave ourselves a name. ‘The odd running bods’.
And there we have it, like every other runner whether they realise it or not, I have a crew
of people who keep me going and allow me to call myself an athlete. Even if you go out on your own there is somebody somewhere who sells you your trainers, and probably another at home who will make you a cup of tea when you get back. If you are really lucky you will have a decent running club near you to join and assemble a bespoke team (or perhaps be assembled into somebody else’s), but however it works out, despite the self focused nature of this individual sport, as an athlete you will always rely on others. I’m just grateful that I have found such a wonderful crew to support my dubious athletic career.