Every runner needs sponsorship, and that can come in many different forms. It can be your job, your school, your training partner, your family, or for a talented few, a big-name shoe company. A combination of these sponsors would be ideal. Behind every budding high school athlete, mommy-jogger, or masters level champion, (just to name a few categories of runners) there is a support system. A team.
Your teammates may have many different roles. Some days my husband is my nutritionist, my sister is my trainer and my mom is my sports psychologist. But one essential role must be that your teammates join your own personal fan club. What would a race be without a few cheerleaders? I say "a few" because let's be honest, running related events don't typically break attendance records, aside from the bigger meets like the Boston Marathon and of course any race held in Eugene, Oregon. This may seem like a negative, but think about it, can football players hear their mothers yelling in the stands?
I can hear my mom and sister. "Way to go Cecily! You're looking so strong."
I can hear my husband. "Alright Cec, you're there, you're there!"
I can see my teammates making a human pyramid off the final turn. "She's no lime, she's a Lemmon-Lew!"
I can hear my coaches. "This is your race Cecily," and "Remember your workouts, you CAN do this," and my all time favorite, "Whenever you're ready, we all know how this is going to end."
And I can hear my dad. If we're indoors, I can hear his voice reverberating off the wall from the opposite side of the building. "Breathe Cecily! Just run smooth and easy."
These are just a few members of my fan club. I also know I've got my brothers, grandma, nieces and in-laws watching from computer screens at home. I know I've got friends and even co-workers who will check the paper the next day for results. I know I have former high school competition either in my race or at the meet cheering for their fellow Californian.
Positioned at various spots on the track or even by the loneliest stretch of the course, it's those same dedicated members of your fan club who power you through moments that define your race. When the pack surges and you feel too mentally and physically spent to respond. When at mile 18 of your marathon you become convinced someone has put rocks in your water bottle belt. When you've lost count of the laps and you have more left than you thought.
Fan club members celebrate with you when you cross the line in first or with a new best time. They cry with you when your dreams are interrupted by injuries or you narrowly miss a qualifying mark or place. They are your sponsors in so many more ways than providing free running shoes and a logo for your uniform. My sponsors pray for me, scream for me, love me and make sure I know there's more to me than crossing finish lines.
And the best part is, you can return the favor by joining their fan club too. You'd better believe I'm on more than one "team."
Recently, my sister-in-law told me that her oldest daughter, my six year old niece, drew her a picture of her mom running and herself running behind cheering, "Mom, I love you. Keep on running fast!" She now keeps it on her dresser as a daily reminder of how much she loves running and loves being a mom.
That's more real motivation than a first place cash prize could ever bring.
Cecily is a senior at Brigham Young University and is a two-time All American in cross-country and track. firstname.lastname@example.org