As I was hiking with a friend in Sedona, it dawned on me that when runners hike together they get to have a lot more enlightening conversations than when they run together. When I run with someone conversation topics usually include: dogs, weather, nature, bees, pooping, mountain lions, race plans. Basically, things that I automatically know we have in common and can be talked about in short bursts. When you take time to slow down and hike with that person, that's when the magic happens.
So as my friend and I were hiking along, we started talking about things that most trail runners probably think about frequently but never get the the forum to discuss. Both of us are relatively speedy and have good potential for improvement. She is definitely faster than I am. We fall in this category of runners who wish they were fast enough to run full-time, but would need some big break through races to get recognized. We also have been and/or are currently in relationships with guys who REALLY want to be sponsored.
Here's a pattern that I've noticed in a lot of people that want to be sponsored but aren't quite there yet. First they get hooked on the sport, go to their first race, and realize that they are pretty good and with some improvement they could be even better. They immerse themselves in reading up on training tips, the latest gear, and who's who in the sport. They get super inspired and see incredible gains. Then when they feel that it is time to test their fitness they look at their race options and pick some that aren't that competitive so that they can do really well place wise. Then they get this fear about doing competitive races because they wouldn't want people to realize that they are in the back of the front pack. When they finally work up the courage to go to a competitive race, they realize that there are a lot of other people just like them who are hoping to have a break out performance.
After that realization, good runners get disheartened instead of enjoying the fact that their bodies are able to do incredible things! The joy they had after that first race, the enthusiasm they had reading their favorite running magazines or blogs, it's not as strong because it reminds them that their dreams are just out of their reach. The things that used to inspire them end up controlling them.
There's also a few runners I know that are about my ability level who have some brand sponsorships. Sadly my first reaction is usually, 'If they are sponsored how come I'm not sponsored?' Then I started to realize how these runners could start to feel trapped by the thing that they so desperately wanted. They've thought the same things I'm thinking and so they know other people are sizing them up to see if they really deserve what they've got. Instead of being able to enjoy their running and the every day freedom it gives them, they have expectations to meet and people to prove things to.
The main thought I want to express is that if we take the time to realistically envision what our lives would be like if we get the things we want, maybe we would change what we aspire to. What I actually want is not the ability to run fast and attract sponsors. What I really want is to build a community of running friends who I can enjoy the trails with and who I can share life's trials with. I want a group of friends who enjoys travelling around together (families, dogs, baggage, and all). Friends who are welcome to stay at my house and who let me crash on their couch. Friends who carpool to races, train together, cheer for each other, and encourage each other when times are tough. When I look at what I've got, I realize that I have everything I wanted.