A few weeks ago I received an email from the athletic department of DeSales University, which I graduated from with a degree in mathematics way back in 1987. I was to be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at a banquet in late September during alumni weekend. The news came as quite a surprise given that nearly 30 years have passed since my graduation. I ran cross-country while at DeSales and achieved some success that helped (along with the efforts of many others) establish the foundations of a program that has since become a force to be reckoned with. I am honored to have been selected, and it got me thinking about my team and the times I spent running in the woods around that idyllic Center Valley, PA, campus.
Initially, I was a bit melancholy at the thought that it was the last team I was ever on. After graduation I ran other races and dabbled in biathlons and triathlons, mud runs, rock climbing, and fun runs, but never again had that sense of team that I’d had during my college days. I missed the shared activity and nervous excitement of a long training run or upcoming meet, missed the elation after winning as a team, each doing his part and getting the job done as a unit. But then I thought about motorcycling and the ways it has given me back some of what I miss about my college running days.
When you’re on a team with someone, especially a team centered around running, you spend a lot of time side by side clocking countless miles (I calculated having ran a minimum of 6,000 over the four years I spent at DeSales) talking about life and love and, in our case, some tragic losses. You become more than just teammates and often forge bonds that last the rest of your life, which is certainly true for me.
It is the same with motorcycling. I ran a riding group with nearly 200 members for a few years and while I did I realized I felt many of the same feelings for the people in my group that I had felt when I was captain of that college team so many years ago. First and foremost, I was charged with their safety and I took it very seriously. When people bestow that kind of trust in you, to agree to follow you, it isn’t something to be taken lightly, and I found that I loved planning the rides, watching my mirrors to try and keep us together and to see that they had a safe and enjoyable time. It can be a daunting challenge but one that is ultimately extremely gratifying.
In the same way that new recruits to my college team looked to the older runners for advice, new riders look to more seasoned veterans for guidance and to share their excitement. I recently met a young man named Greg, the son of my friend Barb, who is the office manager where I work. Greg stopped by on his brand new BMW F 800 GS to say hello and to show me his ride. He chose a red and black model (my favorite color combination) and was grinning ear to ear and excited to walk me around it. We talked for about 15 minutes but covered every topic from setup to helmet color and high beams, braking, bad drivers, and bad weather, but mostly just about the simple joy of riding. We parted with a promise to get together to ride, and as we did I realized Greg was instantly another member of the team.
If you ride with people or even share a love of riding with them, you are on a team, whether you realize it or not. You are each trying to achieve a common goal, each counting on the other to do his or her part in reaching that goal, and each counting on the other to be there, should they or you experience some sort of hardship along the way. Sure, there are no awards to be won or records to break and no one may be keeping score, but they are nonetheless teammates in every sense of the word. The payoff for us, better than any trinket or trophy, is the simple pleasure of shared joy upon safe arrivals and tales of hardships endured and obstacles overcome.
I miss those carefree days running with my old team and I’m proud that my efforts have been recognized as significant. I’m also grateful that this honor has reminded of the team I now find myself on; one that continues to grow with each new rider I meet.