What comes to mind when I say the words “team sports”? I bet most people would reply with sports that involve 2 teams playing against each other, such as football, baseball, basketball or hockey teams. Others might mention a sport involving individual athletes competing against each other, like they do in wrestling, gymnastics, track or swimming, where there is an overall team winner as well as individual event winners.
There are many kinds of teams, and Merriam-Webster defines a team as one of the following:
- a number of persons associated together in work or activity
- a group on one side (as in football or a debate)
- a group of people associated together in a common activity or by common traits or interests
- a group of people who are friends and who do things together
But what does that have to do with the Wonderful World of Ultras, you ask? If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you know that Team Colors By Carrie is normally all about team sports like those I listed above. What you probably don’t know is that from a personal stand point, I prefer to participate in a sport known as Ultra running. This means I run what are known as “ultra-marathons” or races of any distance longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles, and I run mostly on trails instead of on roads.
People can be very competitive when running Ultras, but at the same time, ultra-runners are the friendliest and most helpful people you could ever meet. Everyone always cheers the other runners on, and honestly wants you to be successful. If you are struggling, other runners stop and ask if you are okay and offer help. They’ll share generously if they happen to have something that you need. Ultra-runners also pass on tips and tricks, and what they’ve learned from their successes and their failures. So even when running ultras alone as an individual runner, you are never really alone.
Given that incredibly supportive community, you wouldn’t think there would be a reason for a team in ultra-running, but I am here to tell you that a team can make ultra-running more enjoyable, and can make the impossible goal seem much more possible.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been fortunate to connect with Trena and Lisa, two women ultra-runners who happen to be about my age, speed and experience level. We’ve run a growing number of the same races, and always stick together from start to finish (the pictures I’ve included are from some of this year’s races). During one of those races, when it was rainy and foggy and pretty miserable in the middle of the night, Lisa reminded us that we should just pretend we were in our happy place of rainbows and unicorns. We’ve been “Team Unicorn” ever since!
So what makes us a good team?
- We have similar interests – we all like running on trails, and running ultra-marathon distances.
- We have common goals expectations – we tend to run about the same speed, and usually don’t care much about what our finishing time is, as long as we get it done within the cutoff times. But knowing you have someone to run with also enables you to set your sights on things you might not have tried on your own, like a 100 mile race.
- We communicate effectively – we’ve become quite comfortable with each other, and are not afraid to share when something isn’t going well or as planned. This usually results in suggestions on how to deal with whatever the issue is, as well as understanding and moral support.
- Trust – we know we can rely on each other to stick together and get to the finish as a team.
- Good company – 50 to 100 mile races take a really long time to complete, so it helps to have people you like around you, for good conversation and good cheer! It is not uncommon to hit a low point during a really long race, but it rarely happens to all 3 of us at the same time, so there is always someone there to talk you through it and cheer you up.
Trail running is not for everyone, but together as Team Unicorn, it works really well for us. None of us are super competitive, or interested in the huge training commitment that would be required to get to the next level. We all enjoy running for the sake of running, and want to keep it that way.
I’ll leave you with our motto about how we enjoy trail running:
“Trail running is supposed to be fun, so if we aren’t having fun, we might as well go home.”
Please share this with any trail runners you know, as I’d love to hear from them! I only know of one other closely knit ultra-running team (that’s you Team Turtle), but I have to believe there are others.