What I needed as a new runner was a mentor: Someone who would let me know this journey can be an emotional rollercoaster at times, someone who could give me the secrets and tips to progress, and someone to just encourage me along the way. When I started out, I just didn’t feel like that was out there in my training group. It felt very competitive and exclusive. It felt like everyone was out for themselves—and progressing was something you had to figure out on your own.
That’s not an environment where anyone can thrive. We grow in environments where we are being watered and nurtured. For me (and many), running is best in community—with a family environment where we are looking out for each other and cheering each other on along the way.
That’s a big reason I got onto social media. As I finally was progressing and learning the sport, I was so excited about each little nugget of gold I had learned. I wanted to share it with everyone who would listen in the hopes that it would help their running, too.
That’s what I craved when I started out, and so that’s what I try to give out now. I think it’s so important to give to the community what it is that you needed at one point.
With running, it can feel like we are out there alone, dreaming, and sometimes we can feel foolish—or be made to feel foolish—for dreaming so big. So much of what community in a sport should do is to say, “Actually, you’re not crazy at all for dreaming big and seeing the endless potential in you.” We already second-guess our goals enough in our heads. It’s so helpful to have friends and mentors encouraging us on those tough days and calling out the potential they see in us.
I was so hungry for that as a new runner. I wanted anyone to speak into my potential. I felt so silly to even think I was worthy of hoping for Boston, or of dreaming of a sub-3 marathon one day. I remember telling my then-boyfriend (now husband), Tyler, about some of my big dreams, like running a sub-3 marathon—and he said I could do that and without skipping a beat, said I could run an Olympic Trials Qualifying Marathon one day. This was when he was a 2:36 marathoner also hoping to run a 2:18 OTQ marathon (he did end up running that and running in the Olympic Trials in Atlanta.)
Sometimes, we need other people to speak life into our dreams and be our cheerleader. If you’re feeling like you need that, be that for someone else.
The biggest thing that helped me to be apart of others’ success was realizing that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Others’ success doesn’t take away from mine. Iron sharpens iron and we can work together as a community to foster big success that everyone can be a part of. I don’t need to guard my running secrets; I’ve found that by generously sharing my knowledge of what’s helped me to improve, I’ve also been the recipient of others generously pouring into my life too.
So since encouragement is something we all thrive with and benefit from, we need to do that liberally with others. When you see potential, call it out. When someone tells you their dreams, speak life into them and encourage them. Be a safe space for someone to share their biggest dreams. Even better, offer to be a partner in dream chasing with them.
Ways to Give Back to the Running Community
These are three easy ways to get started.
In Your Run Club
I love run clubs and track groups as a way to get involved and share what you’ve learned and pass it on. Mentoring another runner, being a friend to a new runner joining the club, offering to run at any pace for runners who may need someone to run with them at group runs—these are just some of the ways that we can give back in a meaningful way.
We want running to be the most inclusive sport possible and that starts with each of us being welcoming and happy to share the sport in whatever way makes someone feel comfortable.
Groups like Girls on the Run are a great way to give back to younger runners and help encourage and mentor them; you can donate money or, even better, donate your time to be a coach.
Back on My Feet uses running and fitness to combat homelessness; every $1 you donate results in $2.50 worth of economic impact.
If you recently seen Shalane Flanagan and Alexi Pappas act as guide runners and are interested in doing that yourself, Achilles International is always looking for volunteers to run with their members, who “function as a member’s eyes, ears, guide, and motivator.”
Volunteering at races and park runs are a really great way to serve the community. We all benefit greatly from all of the run volunteers over our years of racing—seeing a race from the other side can help you really connect with your favorite route and also be totally inspired in your own running. There’s nothing that puts me in a better mood than cheering on runners and being apart of their race day.
I want to challenge us to find a way to give back. If you’ve benefited from someone encouraging you and investing in your dreams—do that for another runner. There is so much goodness that can come from us working and dreaming together. Our potential together is unlimited.