Dear Support Team (this could be spouse, significant other, team mate, best friend,
coach….that person or persons that the runner falls back on to achieve their goals),
You have been assigned a very noble and critical role in helping your loved one achieve their
athletic goal. Whether you signed up for this position or not, I hope you take it with respect and
value and I hope that your athlete shows you respect and value in return.
Your job is selfless. And the details of that job are going to vary from member to member on
that team. It may be staying home with all the babies and providing a balanced recovery meal
for your athlete. I know from experience that this may not sound like a very glorious job, but it
may be key for your athlete. You HAVE to do this with a smile and actually show concern with
their workout and progress even if you do not understand it. They need this from you and they
NEED to not feel guilty spending time away from the family pursuing this. (Now…this is a
touchy subject because you need to have opportunity as well for your goals and hopefully you
can work out a healthy compromise. Also if the athlete is reading this, you need to honor your
spouse and acknowledge the sacrifices that they are making for YOU to achieve satisfaction
in your goals. RESPECT that!!!
A decade and a half ago I was reading about a friend I grew up with. He and his wife, Alan and
Shayne Culpepper, were olympic athletes. She, like most elite runners, had a coach. He was
one of the few runners of this caliber who did not have a coach. He said that he wanted to know
why he was doing each workout and did not see where a coach would know his body better
than he did. He felt a coach was to encourage and motivate the athlete, and he got that from
his wife and God. There is truth in this…They both competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Both were the American Qualifying Champions….Shayne in the 5000 and Alan in the marathon.
They took their son at age two with them…handing him off between events. Supporting each
other between events. Respect, value, encouragement, motivation and belief.
I have another friend, Joe, that was a very promising athlete in his youth…at 17 he was running
a sub 1-hour and 15 minute half marathon. He continued to love running and follows competitive
runners to this day. He has followed all the upcoming runners for years and had a burning
desire to return to the track scene himself…in his mid 40s!!! His wife completely supported him
in this goal and they both uprooted from their homes in Chicago and moved to Portland for two
years to give it a go. I would say that he has a very special support team because there are not
many support teams that would uproot like that for a spouse to chase a dream. Pure
selflessness and it works because he also shows her value and respect.
And another very dear friend, Marco, who inspired me to write this letter from the start. He has
always been a very solid and passionate runner. He has taken this passion to become an ultra
runner…not just to “complete” the 100 miles but to RACE it. He has made 3 attempts and
nearly finished the third one but at mile 82, his support team said…dude, you look really tired.
Let’s just get in the car and take a nap and call it a day.
Yes at the time that sounds really good. But the next day he woke up with so much regret. How
was this support team to know what to say? I asked him that very question:
“In a race situation, whomever is part of your support crew has to understand that this time is all
about you. You can not transmit any negative energy to your athlete before or during their race.
Pick your crew wisely. The right frame of mind is crucial for maximum results! If you are going
to support an athlete, you must first understand what the athlete’s needs are and be able to
fulfill those needs with a smile!”
If your crew is your team mate, or an individual in a training group, perhaps the Running Wild
My First 5K, the Marathon Training group, or any one of the many distance training groups that
Running Wild provides in between, then YOU have a responsibility to be a support crew as well
as the athlete out there. It is not only your coach or pace leaders responsibility to provide
respect, value, encouragement and motivation to the group, but YOURS to do the same.
Remember: positive talk brings positive thoughts which give positive results.
Encourage one another. Be mindful not to unload all of your personal problems on the run…if
you must vent, do so on an individual basis. Build each other up. Be the support crew for
others that you need for yourself.
And enjoy the run.