I know many people from the adventure racing community, but because of the nature of events, they’re a bit like Facebook friends. Always nice to see them and we say hi-bye in passing at events but I don’t know much about them; their racing aspirations, favourite discipline or even where they live. For all I know, they may live a few blocks from me, are as crazy about running and would be a perfect Friday-night running buddy.
Getting to know someone better opens up activity opportunities within and outside of multisports. You may discover that you run at the same pace and that you both would like to do a paired, staged event; or that they’re itching for a week-long mountain biking holiday but don’t have anyone to go with them and you’d be the perfect partner.
So, how do you get to know people better when races are often an arrive-race-leave affair and people stick to chatting to those they already know? When it comes to AR, for longer races, teams often arrive at night, after work on a Friday, and keep to themselves while they sort out gear. And when they finish, they hurry home to family and work. You only really meet people in teams racing alongside yours.
The short sprint races (20-35km) certainly offer the best social environment as there is usually time between finishing and prize giving to chat, if you hang around. Don’t know anyone? Start a conversation with the person sitting next to you. People at races tend to be friendly, united by a common accomplishment, so they’ll most certainly engage with you.
Other social opportunities really are few and far between. Adventure Racing Club in Jo’burg recently held one of their ‘Five-minute meet’ evenings. Attendance was low because the format has a speed-dating feel (where in the words ‘five-minute meet’ does it say ‘dating’?). For the dozen participants it was an evening with positives and discoveries. It would be great to see cycling and running clubs organising the same type of eventings.
“When there is an adventure race so many people look for partners at the last-minute. They didn’t use this opportunity to come and meet new people in a social environment because they thought it sounds like speed dating,” says Jacques Booysen. “In reality it was just a meeting of like-minded, adventurous people.”
Rob Crichton found each ‘five-minute meet’ to be different in terms of conversation, pace and interest in adventure racing. “I realised how diverse the sport is and that people can connect so easily, no matter their experience level,” he says.
Learn a little
From the seven ‘five-minute meets’ Amy Witherden learned about injury prevention, team dynamics and interesting and inspiring sporting holidays. “I enjoyed meeting new people, but also learning what drives them to compete in AR, their sporting backgrounds and approach to training,” she says.
Francis Rogan found why one team’s dynamics had not worked out. “They had differrent goals and also were in different financial situations. Two team members wanted everyone to get new kit and were considering races that were further away; both increase expenses,” she explains. “This was something I had not really considered before but I think is something important to look at, especially for building long-term team relationships.”
For Kate Swarbreck the evening was a chance to meet a few new people and to be inspired. “Very few people in AR seem to accept mediocrity,” she observed. In her conversations she learned of people’s experiences and future plans. “There is something special in the excitement of their eyes when someone relates a story of a past event or when they talk of a forthcoming venture. It reminds me why I should train a little harder!“
Long-time racer Brian Gardner quizzed people on how much time they spend each week on training. “Most of them train a lot more than I do!” he discovered. He enjoyed meeting ‘newbies’ to the sport and used this opportunity to get to know others a little better. “I found out what people I kind of know on a hi-bye basis actually do for a living… I never knew about most of them!”
At races and club evenings, people who know each other tend to stick together. Rogan appreciated the chance to actually talk to other people, not just to people that she already knew. “At the next event I’ll know more people, which will be good.”
In our world of run, bike, swim, paddle and everything else, you’re not the only one out there hoping to meet people with similar interests and lifestyles for training, racing, friendship and, yes, dating too. All it takes is “How was your race?” to open the door.
- Suck up any shyness and just start a conversation with the person nearby in the transition area or sitting next to you after the race. Begin by asking them how their race went, who they raced with (you may know someone in common), how many races they’ve done and whether they doing a certain forthcoming event.
- If you’ve enjoyed previous encounters, make a point of catching up with the same ‘new’ people at each event.
- Take advantage of social occasions like the regular Adventure Racing Club evenings in Jo’burg and the gap between the finish of a race and prize giving to meet-and-mingle. Use these as occasions for informal ‘five-minute meets’. Aim to meet three of four people each time and your network will steadily develop.
Author: Lisa de Speville | Published in Go Multi Magazine, Sept/Oct 2011. Vol 15.4