An individual athlete is only as good as his or her team. It is they who supply the motivation and encouragement when things get tough; they who provide the food and drink at regular intervals and to an agreed plan; they who perhaps help set the training, race and nutrition plans. Physios repair, restore and keep us on the road. Some with experience of nutrition will guide what we eat and drink at different stages in an event. If the event is a route (the Lands End to John O’Groats or the Spartathlon for example) then there will be vehicle drivers, navigators and people who can jump out to offer food or cycle alongside for hours carrying what might be needed.
An individual might get their name in the record books, on a trophy or on the list of those on the podium, but it is the team that has made that possible – the unsung and often unrecognised team players who have worked behind the scenes with dedication often over many years. They give their time and pay their own expenses not expecting any recognition. Their reward is what the athlete achieves. Hopefully we embrace their commitment and share our pleasure, our success and sometimes our failures with them. But sometimes when we are tired and emotional we can take it out on them – and always regret that a few moments later. If we do fail, then we feel we have let them down even more than ourselves.
Composing the right team requires an awareness of the different strengths people can bring to the team. Some will lead, some will be happy to follow; having a woman in the team can sometimes help the members to work more amicably together. Equally, sometimes someone has to play it tough with an athlete and say the things that are needed to get the athlete to refocus, to take on enough fuel, to restore their self-belief and to drive forward when their body wants to weaken. Keeping an athlete’s mind remains in control of their body can be a key role for someone who has to be both tough as well as supportive.
So we thank and remember with deep gratitude all those wonderful people who have travelled the journey with us – and some who continue to make that journey. We hope that by supporting others and sharing our experiences and what we have learned we can put something back into our great sport that has given and continues to give so much pleasure to so many people around the world.