Sherpas are highly regarded as elite mountaineers and experts in their local terrain. They were immeasurably valuable to early explorers of the Himalayan region, serving as guides at the extreme altitudes of the peaks and passes in the region, particularly for expeditions to climb Mount Everest. Today, the term is often used by foreigners to refer to almost any guide or porter hired for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas, regardless of their ethnicity. Because of this usage, the term has become a slang for a guide or mentor in other situations.
So you’ve decided to run your first big race—a 10k, half marathon, or possibly a marathon. You’ve been scouring the Net for training plans and the perfect apparel. Maybe you’ve even signed up for a running clinic to keep you motivated. In the midst of an endless sea of running advice, a critical consideration is often neglected—Have you lined up a faithful running sherpa?
I turned to long distance running a little over 15 years ago when I decided to finally confront my alcohol addiction and get clean and sober. Since that time, running has been a constant companion that has weathered me through some rather turbulent times in my life. I’ve met some incredible people in the running community, and I’ve pushed myself to physical and emotional limits I never thought possible. Having run 75 marathons and quite a few ultra marathons, I’m often asked how I have been able to keep training and racing at such an intensity. There is no doubt that you can’t cheat the distance and you need to put in the miles in your training, but a critical part of my longevity is the tireless support of my lovely wife, Mary-Anne, affectionately known as my running sherpa.
If I had to write a “job description” a running sherpa, it would probably sound something like this— Wanted: Faithful Running Sherpa
-willing to give up weekends during racing season
-content to wander aimlessly around race expos as I consider purchasing yet again another pair of running socks
-happy to eat pasta 4 nights a week
-forgiving of my inevitable grumpy mood and irritability during my taper before the race
-accepting that 10pm on a weekend really is a “late night” for me
-adept at taking videos with a smart phone as I grunt my way down the homestretch to the finish line
-ready to give me a big hug and a kiss after the race even though I’m a salty, sweaty mess
If you don’t have your running sherpa already lined up, my wife has provided some sage advice on how to cultivate or acquire your very own. 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, don’t hold up in your hotel room the day before the race saying: “I want to rest my legs before the race.” Remember that running is a family affair and it can be an awesome time to break you out of your comfort zone and explore a new place with your loyal sherpa. Most importantly, remember why you started running in the first place, and be thankful of all of the incredible things you will discover about yourself along the way.
Why not give a “shout-out” to YOUR running sherpa in the comments section below and show your love to the person(s) who always has your back!