In a relay, a fast team is awesome to behold. You know those teams. They're comprised of actual athletes, all 20-something in age, and not an ounce of fat to be seen. In their sport, they are focused and determined to win. And not just determined, they're confident. They're tanned and ripped and they sail silently past the rest of us as if we were not even there. Some of their teams even require qualifying times and are the teams from which the rest of us have no hope of ever receiving an invitation.
That is not my world.
The teams in which I have ran, are not fast. Oh, we've had our fast runners to be sure. I want to give full credit to Mark, Ben, Anne, Ricky, and others who have patiently added their low-minute miles to our team's average time and put up with the ultra-early starting times to which slower teams are typically assigned.
I prefer a slower team. Slow teams have more fun .... in my opinion. Reasons: Less pressure. In fact, as far as the rest of the team is concerned, the only pressure is what each of us put on ourselves. We know we won't win, so there's no disappointment when we don't. When assembling a team, we don't look for highly skilled runners. We look for fun people who run. The kind of people with whom we won't mind spending 30+ hours in a crowded van.
But the main reason I prefer slower teams is that on those teams, miracles happen.
Remember this post about my 2nd Hood to Coast? That was the Year of Amy. She was new to running yet agreed to join her husband on our team, worried about it all year, then ran all of her legs from beginning to end without walking. She DID it. She faced her personal beast and KILLED it. Her words at the end: "I never knew what I could do. Now I know."
Last month was the Epic Relay. We were so slow that our last six legs had to be run simultaneously so that the finish-line party would still be happening by the time we got there. That was the Year of Carrie.
Carrie had always been athletic, but was new to running. She was so scared, but agreed to take on some of the most difficult legs of the route. Her first leg was brutal with long uphills, and she said that when she finally saw the exchange up ahead and realized SHE HAD DONE IT, she almost cried. The rest of her legs she ATTACKED like a warrior. Carrie defined herself as a runner in that relay.
It was also the Year of Ellen who, over the past year, had diligently lost a great deal of weight, and became something she never used to think was possible.
And also the Year of Anna, who also overcame personal fears and limitations and showed herself what she could do.
I could say the same for Val, Justin, Anne, Dave, Chery, and others. People who may not have been the fastest at first. People who didn't dare call themselves runners ... at first. But after being invited into a team, doing their part, and running their legs -- they personally allowed themselves to own the title.
When teams take a chance on beginners, lives are changed. Beginners who, although terrified, accept the invitation and the challenge, then DO IT. They prove what they can do to their biggest critic -- themselves.
That was me once. I remember the fear, the intimidation, and the complete lack of confidence. I still feel it a little. That first year when I was actually invited on a real team with real runners -- was the year MY life was changed. It was the Year of Me.
Hooray for the slow teams! Sometimes their hurdles are the hardest of all.