4 types of people you need on your support team: What running for chocolate taught me

support team and hot chocolate run


I ran three miles for chocolate last Sunday.

Now I’m aware that this makes me sound extra greedy even as a “foodie,” so let me clarify. I ran for hot chocolate alongside thousands of other people on an early and windy morning in downtown Chicago. And it was so much fun!

I signed up for my first Hot Chocolate 5k/15k sometime during the summer with a few girlfriends, and I honestly forget about the race until two days before the event. I wanted to back out but I already made a promise that I’d show up and I paid the fee months before (which was much pricier than the other two 5ks we’ve done this year because of the fab souvenirs), so it was a done deal. No backing out allowed.

To make matters worse, I arrived to the race at the crack of dawn with only three hours of sleep (not the best plan), so I felt unprepared and uninspired. However, when I found my friends and lined up with all of the other participants, I became charged up - eagerly waiting for our cue to start. Our strategy to speed walk the entire race disappeared when the buzzer sounded. We took off with the runners, leaving the walkers behind. My fatigue disappeared. And whenever we stopped to walk, the crowd on the sidelines cheered us on to finish the course strong.


My first 5k this year was for the Colon Cancer Alliance organization. My team and I ran in memory of my mom, and there were other teams/individuals there who ran to honor loved ones lost to the disease, patients currently in the fight or those who have survived. We all had our own personal reasons to participate in the race, but the common goal was to raise awareness for colon cancer.

Races and marathons create a sense of unity. Whether you run solo or in a team, you and your team are still part of a bigger cause. Whether signed up for the 5k or the 15k, every participant on Sunday had the same goal to get through the run and make it past the finish line. We were all on the same mission and headed toward the same purpose.  

My experience made me think about how we operate in our life journey. When we connect with others who share our values and support our goals, we develop a community with like-minded individuals. A squad that strives toward a bigger purpose. A support system to help us become the best version of ourselves.

As we go through new seasons and major life changes, especially adversity or hardship, it’s essential to place ourselves around people who want what’s best for us. They’ll cheer us on when we are weary. They’ll encourage us to keep moving when we want to give up. They’ll respect that we may travel at a different speed, and they’ll reach back to pull us up when we are down. The types of people we choose to run with during a life transition can affect the outcome of our race.  


Who Ya With?

1. Team Players

Who are you running with these days? Who’s on your team? Are you on the course with others who are moving on the same path or are you trying to keep up with a squad traveling in a different direction (e.g., you’re prepping for the Hot Chocolate 5k and they’re training to do a Triathlon)?  

Even though I ran with a group during the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k, we didn’t always stick together. Sometimes, we separated and they ran ahead of me. Other times, I sprinted ahead of them. Still, we knew we’d all eventually make it past the finish line, regardless of the differences in our pace.

The race isn’t about speed when you’re on a team with people who are traveling in the same direction and carry the same squad goals. Everyone encourages each other to keep going. When one of my friends stopped a few steps before the finish line, I urged her to run through to the end. To finish strong. And we did.

When you surround yourself with people who don’t share your core values or support your goals, dreams and vision, their speed can slow you down. Hinder your progress. Or take you on a detour that throws you off of your A-game. You become so distracted and caught up in their game plan that you forget your own purpose/mission, which may lead you right back to the starting line. Competition isn’t so friendly. And there isn’t much encouragement or “you got this” because you don’t have the same end game or results in mind.  

This isn’t saying that we need to surround ourselves with people who think the same way (boring!) or have the the same vision because we’re all called to do something different.  But we should cultivate a community with people who strive toward a purpose that aligns with who we are at the core. Not people who detract or contradict what we stand for.

2. Cheerleaders

At one point, a line of spectators stood alongside the streets, applauding us and shouting out words of encouragement. I gave at least 10 people a high five, picking up the pep in my step with every hand slap. None of them knew me. I didn’t know them. And that didn’t matter. They cheered me on anyway.

Who’s standing on your sideline? Who cheers you on when you want to give up? Not everyone is running the same course with us. Some have finished this part of the race but they want to see us succeed. Others are unfamiliar with our course, but they pray for us to get through it anyway. Mentors, leaders, teachers, coaches, family and friends can give us the push we need to keep us focused and on track.

And sometimes, it’s the people we don’t know who encourage us along the way, similar to the group of spectators who motivated me to keep going during the run. These can be people who inspire you through their writing, blogging, podcasts, books, television, films, etc. I’ve never met Toure and Sarah Roberts, Valorie Burton, Joyce Meyers, or Devon Franklin, but I’m inspired by them and many more.

You may have a crowd of spectators who just watch your every move. They don’t congratulate you. They don’t offer any encouragement when you’re going through difficult times. They just observe you in silence. They may be your haters or admirers, depending on how you look at it.

Nobody needs a mute or lukewarm cheerleader on their team. If your spectators are too silent, don’t be afraid to go out and find people you connect with, whether it’s an online community or an in-person network of support. Surround yourself with people who will always root for you to win.

3. Sponsors

Thousands of runners crossed the finish line and headed over to the post-celebration event to retrieve goodies, which included a cup of yummy hot chocolate, fudge, a gigantic marshmallow and other deliciousness. Sponsors helped to make these treats possible, and their support created a valuable experience for participants.

Sponsors invest in something because they see the value. They enhance the quality of the event and contribute to make sure it’s a success, especially since their name is attached to it. Sponsors can also help events grow at a faster rate because they have the means to make it happen.  

Consider those who are investing into your life right now. Who are your sponsors? If you work for an organization, it would be your employer/boss. If you own your own business, your clients invest in you. Or if you’re an author, your sponsor may be your agent or publisher.

Your sponsors recognize your worth and see your potential, so they endorse you to get you to that next level. They enhance your expertise, strengthen your skill set and make you more marketable. Whenever you doubt yourself, look around at those who invest their time, assistance and resources into you, your dreams, your talents and your vision. Although sponsors may not know you intimately, they still support you and believe you have what it takes to be successful. It’s up to you to show them their investment will pay off.

4. Trainer   

I enjoy running, but I’ll admit it’s work. My running routine usually consists of hitting the treadmill with my favorite tunes for 30 minutes to get my cardio in. I've discovered the treadmill creates this illusion that I’m much faster than I actually am (running outdoors brings me back to reality).

My hubby ran track in college and is a fitness buff/personal trainer so he’s definitely more of a runner than myself. He also completed the Hot Chocolate 15k last year. He knows I’m not an avid outdoor runner by any means, so he gave me pointers prior to the event because he knew what to expect. He also promised to train me so that I can run the 15k in 2017.

Those who coach and mentor us also step out from behind the sidelines to go beyond their cheerleader role. They share their knowledge and expertise to help us grow. They provide guidance and challenge us to push through when we want to quit. 

Our trainers know a lot about us. They can pinpoint our flaws and weaknesses, as well as our strengths. Trainers provide a listening ear and a word of encouragement but they also give us actionable advice.

Mentors provide a considerable amount of support. Most of them have traveled down a similar path and they give back by assisting those behind them and preparing them for things to comeIdentify the people in your network who mentor and coach you, whether it’s personally or professionally. How do they help you improve? How can you take what you’ve learned to help others in their journey?

Don’t run it alone

Running a race is never just about one person. The fastest runner may walk away with the medal or claim the marathon title, but he or she never gets all the glory. Everyone who pushes their way through and steps over the finish line is celebrated. It’s a community effort.

A lot of times in life we encounter situations that we have to go through. We can’t trade places with those on the sidelines. We can’t have our mentors stand in the gap for us and take our spot. It’s our journey to take. It’s not optional. We don’t get to take a pass.

But if we look around, we’ll discover we are never truly alone. We can build a community to help us thrive during the good and hard times. We can connect with others who align with our purpose. We can find inspiration in those who root for us. We can execute our vision because of those who invest in us. And we can learn from those who have gone before us and paved the way.

It's important to have a support team to push you to win. To challenge your performance so that you'll come out of your journey better than you were before. And to help you get through obstacles, tears and pain in life with a lot of laughter and chocolate along the way. 


Yours Truly,