Training Ask JP: Why Every Runner Needs a Sherpa

Ask JP: Why Every Runner Needs a Sherpa


With the fabulous summer weather finally upon us, it’s quite easy to block out all those painful memories of training through the cold winter months. But it’s only a few short months until those bone-chilling hours at the staging area waiting for one of your fall races. Running is definitely one of the most beautiful gifts you can give yourself; however, I think it’s important to remember that success in running does not happen in isolation—many of us would be lost without those people who are always there to support us.

By: JP Bedard

Now is the perfect time to give a huge “shout out” to the lesser-known heroes of our sport, without whom, we mere mortals of the running world would be at a loss. The people I’m referring to are none other than what I affectionately call our  “Running Sherpas”. Just as highly skilled mountaineers would never contemplate an assent of Mount Everest without the assistance of trusted Sherpas, adept at the highly technical Himalayan passes, we runners are beholden to those caring individuals, who among other less attractive duties, drive us to and pick us up from races near and far. My wife often jokes that she’s not entirely sure when she signed up for this gig, but without a doubt in my mind, she’s the best running Sherpa on the planet.
If I had to write a job description for a running Sherpa, it would most likely sound something like this:

Wanted:  Faithful Running Sherpa

  • Must be willing to forego weekends and family time during spring and fall racing seasons
  • Must be content to wander aimlessly around race expos as your runner weighs the pros and cons entailed in purchasing compression socks versus compression sleeves
  • Must be content to subsist on a diet that includes eating pasta 4 nights a week
  • Must be willing to forgive (or most likely – ignore) your runner’s inevitable grumpy mood and irritability during the taper period leading up to each and every race
  • Must buy in to the idea that 10 pm on a weekend really is a ‘late night’
  • Must be adept at standing for hours watching an endless stream of runners while you wait to take the perfect action shot or video of your runner grunting and waddling down the homestretch toward the finish line
  • Must be amenable to giving your runner a big hug, and if you’re lucky, a big kiss after the race even though your runner is a salty, sweaty, smelly mess

If you don’t already have your very own Running Sherpa lined up, I suggest you get cracking on that one as soon as possible. If you’re not sure how to recruit one, let me pass along a little sage advice my wife has on the subject. Pick destination races that offer a great time to check out a new city or country –preferably ones with excellent shopping and fantastic restaurants.  Also, if you’re not targeting a particular race as your goal race of the season, and there’s no hope in hell of you getting on the podium, don’t hold up in your hotel room the day before the race saying: “I want to rest my legs before the race.”  Remember why you started running in the first place, and be grateful for all of the incredible things you will discover about yourself along the way. Much of our training is a lonely and isolating activity, so why not embrace the opportunely to share your adventure with those you love? By far my most memorable running experiences were those in which I embraced the camaraderie and festivities of the race itself.

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