by Katie Aguilar
I have been in the endurance community a few years now. My experience has been it is a competitive community. As any sports community is. And it is also a very supportive, encouraging one where friends help friends accomplish more than ever imagined; we help each other find balance in an imbalanced world; and strangers become friends when helping each other through a tough race when not everything went according to plan. Friendships deepen through training and racing together. We love our sport so much we often find ways to encourage others to join.
I also see athletes creating or working with organizations to open up their passion to others who may not otherwise try or have the ability or resources to try, or thought that they could try in the first place.
I have met a man that encouraged a friend who was blind to leave his cane behind to run a 5k (talk about trust), which blossomed to marathons and triathlons.
On Team Podium I was aware of three athletes who have made an effort to share their love for sport to help others experience the sport and grow from it.
When not training or racing, TP member Katie O’Dunne is a minister at Kirkwood UCC as well as a student mister at Woodward Academy. She has worked with Back on my Feet (BoMF) for over a year: an organization that works with men and women experiencing homelessness. Eligible men and women seeking to recover from substance abuse or move to sustainable living apply to be a part of the program through the shelter with whom they are taking residence. If selected due to their passion for the program, they become called “residential members.” Individuals outside of the shelters (“non-residential members”) volunteer to run with the res-members. Res and non res members meet on designated days and run together. And if you have ever had a running buddy, you know bonds form. This is no different: The
running aspect really breaks down the barriers of who is experiencing homelessness and who is more fortunate.
Katie with Team Salvation Army after a run.
Through the program, res-members build relationships, receive job/employment training, and receive connections to local employment partners. However, the largest part seems to be the confidence and motivation built through sport. Many of the members who have graduated, have found a job, and now have a home, return to help current res-members. Alumni members remain integrated with the program. Adding to the richness and reach.
Dan Meyer joined the Kyle Pease Foundation to give back some of what he’d been lucky enough to receive from the sport of triathlon. The purpose of the Foundation is to open doors to challenged athletes and provide inclusion for them through sport. Dan got to provide someone who can’t race by themselves, the opportunity to race.
Dan with Justin after the race
Dan’s experience was fantastic: gaining as much as he gave. As he wrote to me: “Seeing the sport through the eyes of another was amazing. The pure joy of Justin Knight as we cruised along on the bike and run (probably in the water, too, but I couldn’t hear him) was so uplifting. It reminded me how fortunate I am to be able to participate in this sport and to always remember that no matter how intense the competition or how tough the race, the reason I do this is for fun.”
Angela founded Team Endured to change the perception of elitism in a sport she loves, and build one of encouragement and inclusivity. She hopes that TeamEndured will help others overcome their obstacles, fears, bitterness, elitist views, and help create a safe community of individuals dedicated to encouraging each other.
Angela in her TeamEndured kit, focusing on inclusivity
TeamEndured is a not just an organization, but it is a movement to encourage people to become more than they thought possible, and to improve their quality of life through a focus on exercise. Their mission is to use courage, determination, and perseverance to encourage fellow athletes, new and experienced, foster an inclusive environment, and conquer what was once impossible.
In a highly competitive sport where very competitive people come together, it is easy to sometimes forget what is important. The fantastic thing is, there are also so many opportunities to remember what is important too, and to share our love for sport with others. These three teammates have taken opportunities to help share the growth and love they have experienced in sport with people who may otherwise not have ventured into this world.
Whether we mean to or not, more often than not generosity and spirit are what mark endurance sports and stick with us.