This past weekend, the Pacers Running//GRC New Balance men’s team won the Distance Medley Relay (“DMR”) at the Millrose Games, which justifiably calls itself the most prestigious indoor track meet in the world. The only way that non-professional athletes like the Pacers Running//GRC New Balance crew can compete at Millrose is in the DMR, which is comprised of legs of 1200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, and 1600 meters. Our men’s team is distance focused, and we don’t normally compete in events shorter than the mile, but after seeing our women’s team get the victory in the DMR at Millrose last year, the men wanted to give it a shot. The lineup we assembled was Stewart Reich, a 5,000/ 10,000 meter specialist, running the 1200, Craig Morgan, a 1500/5000 man on the 400, Daniel Trettel, a miler, on the 800, and Paul Thistle, a steeplechaser, on the anchor. Only Daniel truly felt comfortable at his assigned distance, and the guys were not race sharp, having competed only once previously indoors this season, so they went into the race with no expectations other than to do their best.
After seeing researching the formidable competition we would face from our peer clubs from other cities in the Northeast, I felt that we had a decent chance to place in the top 5, and if we ran a perfect race, we might be able to crack the top 3. Yet as the race developed, it was clear that the guys were running way over their heads, and after Daniel ran an outstanding 1:52.7 800, he handed off to Paul in second place, about 5 seconds behind the leader. Paul ran a superb anchor leg, closed hard in the last 200, and when the dust cleared, we had won the race by less than two-tenths of a second.
In reflecting on how a group of distance runners were able to run so well in an event that was way outside of their comfort zone, it is clear to me that the team dynamic allowed each of the athletes to find an extra gear when the race was on the line. Something special happens when athletes are competing for a collective goal, and each of the runners on our DMR wanted to perform at his absolute best not just for himself, but for his teammates. Stated another way, none of the athletes wanted to let the team down. Running as a team created a situation where each of the guys ran better than I, and they, thought was possible.
There are ample opportunities for runners of all abilities to experience this dynamic by racing as part of a team. There are many running clubs in the DC area that are open to all comers, and there are many road races that have team competitions, including the Crystal City Twilighter 5k, which is the highlight of the summer racing schedule for the Pacers Running//GRC New Balance men and women, and for the open team I coach, the Northern Virginia Running Club. Running is often a solitary pursuit, but being part of a team is a great way to bring out the best in yourself. You might not make it to the Millrose Games, but you can enjoy the excitement of competing with teammates for a collective goal.