Thursday, February 4, 2016

Things I Learned about Team in Training (or "Why if you're going to train for a marathon you should RUN with TNT!")

I'll admit it, the idea of running with a charity and having to meet a fundraising requirement scared me. A LOT. I thought I had nowhere near the social capital needed to raise that kind of money. So I first entered the lottery for the Chicago Marathon... and I wasn't selected... and I was devastated.

It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me, because it gave me the push I needed to join Team in Training. This wasn't just a random charity choice to gain a bib - my husband lost his mother to multiple myeloma while he was in high school, so raising money to fight blood cancer was personally meaningful to us. And hey, their jerseys are purple, my favorite color :).

Here are some things you should know about TNT:

1. It IS a TEAM.
While I joined before the training season began, I wasn't able to attend any of the group runs until more than a month after they began. As you can probably imagine, I was pretty nervous walking up to a group of strangers I'd never met to join them during their sixth or seventh week. But from the very first moment, I was part of the team. I have never been part of an organization with that kind of immediate acceptance, it was amazing.

2. You have oodles of fundraising support.
The Chicago chapter is divided into four teams: City, North, West, and South Suburbs. Just for our team we had two mentors dedicated to fundraising help. They worked with you to draft letters and come up with ideas, and even posted links to team members' fundraisers on their personal Facebook pages. Other team members also offered lots of helpful advice and shared their ideas, and some would even offer to join up if they were doing something they could use help with. You are not alone!

3. The running support is unparalleled.
Oh boy, where to start? First of all, you are given a training calendar with distances and workouts for the entire season. All of the long runs are planned and coordinated for you. The routes are planned out, with water and gatorade stops along the way. Each team has two coaches (and alumni coaches who join in here and there) who pop up constantly along the trail to run alongside, check in on you and talk you through all sorts of running strategies.  Four of the long runs are "All-Team" runs, meaning all four teams meet and run together (meaning you don't get very far at all without running into a coach!). And note, these coaches KNOW what they're talking about. In addition to fluids there are all manner of fuel and supplements provided along the way for you to experiment with at the all-teams, and there is always food at the end of the run. You also receive regular emails from your coaches with tips and advice for running strategies, nutrition, injuries, various "what to expects," etc. there was a private Facebook page for team members to encourage each other, post tips, plan parties and social events (yep!), and so on. Plus everyone of course cheers each other on and encourages each other during the runs. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that I cannot imagine doing this on my own after experiencing this incredible level of support. And as for the marathon itself... well, I'll have to write about that in a separate post!

4. Running for a cause, with a group, takes the experience to a whole new level.
Training for a marathon under any circumstances is amazing, but knowing that you are making a real difference by doing it is an entirely different thing. Each week before the long run there are "Mission Moments," when someone shares their story of why they are/who they are running for. As you fundraise you see your amounts and the team's amounts go higher, every dollar another dollar to fight cancer... and you and your new friends did that together!

5. Your involvement doesn't end at the finish line.
Whether you choose to run again the next year or not, you become a TNT alumni. The events and social outings continue after the season. In December alone we chartered a bus to Lincoln Park for Zoo Lights, and had a Christmas Eve morning run and breakfast. Team members train together for other events, or just meet up for a casual run and coffee. And of course, the fight against cancer carries on.

Want to support me in fighting blood cancer, and gain resources for your classroom at the same time? Check out the fundraiser I'm currently running!

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