The “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” is a common misperception amongst the general public, including many runners. Truth be told, most people were introduced to running as a team sport in the form of cross-country running when they were in grade school. In fact, cross-country running was an individual and team sport in the 1912, 1920, 1924 Summer Olympics. Today, it is still a team sport at many different levels, with runner’s placings counting as points and the team with the lowest points wins. In Japan, corporations sponsor teams of elite runners to compete in relays called Eikedens. The events are televised nationally and draw some of the largest TV viewership in Japan. The team element tends to bring out the absolute best in the runners and their sense of responsibility to their teammates is so deep that some runners break down crying while apologizing on national TV if they feel they have let down their comrades.
Many of you may be asking what this has to do with the PEI Marathon taking place the weekend of October 16-18. For the past 7 years, the marathon has been host to its own team event; the Brown’s Volkswagen Corporate Relay. In this event, teams of 8 have an individual run a relay leg of anywhere from 2.7 to 7.1km. With the different distances, runners of all abilities can take part.
The team building aspect to this event cannot be overlooked. I have been fortunate enough to participate in the Cabot Trail Relay, a running race that takes teams completely around the Cabot Trail in a little over 24 hours. Cheering for your teammates and celebrating in their endeavor is one thing, but when on the course and your whole team is cheering and rooting for you is something that is hard to describe. I have seen how within 24 hours a group of 17 individual runners who usually compete for their own personal goals, transform into a team that encourage, support and push themselves and their teammates to new limits. A team event is incredibly fun, and can bring a group of co-workers together in a whole new way. Don’t take my word for it, though.
Deltaware Systems of Charlottetown have been participating in the corporate relay since 2010. One of their regular relay participants, John Bowser, explains how participating benefits their work environment, “It’s great because we all work together . . . We all enjoy seeing our fellow runners reach their goals”, Bowser added, “It’s a lot of fun to encourage others on race day.” It is little wonder that Deltaware has been named one of the best places to work in Atlantic Canada on a regular basis.
It goes even further than team-building though. The Corporate Relay helps foster a healthy work environment, and develops a passion for exercise. Bowser, age 52, has graduated from the relay on to the full marathon distance with much success. Bowser has done so well in his running that he recently qualified for the Boston Marathon and will hopefully be at the start line in Hopkinton in April 2016. He offers some advice for someone looking to enter a team: “Make sure to keep it fun, and maybe even challenge another workplace.”
So what are you waiting for? Grab your co-workers, set a few group training run dates and register for the corporate relay that is part of the PEI Marathon Weekend, October 16-18. You and your co-workers will have lots of fun and you may even come away with bragging rights as the fastest corporate team, and don’t worry; unlike Japan’s Eikedens, you won’t have to go on national TV after the race!
– Rob MacKenzie