Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What It Means to Be An Ambassador

Earlier this week, I renewed my contract as an ambassador for Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company as part of Team FLRTC. I joined the team last year after moving to Ithaca in the hopes of meeting people with similar interests. I made some new friends through Team FLRTC, and being a member of the team helped make it easier to transition to life in a new city surrounded by new people and places. Needless to say, toward the end of 2014 I was excited to have the opportunity to run with this team again in the new year. Since attending last weekend's meeting and listening to store manager/team organizer Lisa explain what is expected of us and what to expect in return, I've been thinking a lot about what it really means to be an ambassador.

Anyone who follows media coverage of professional running has undoubtedly seen or heard the words "Runner X is an ambassador for brand Y," or something of the sort. In this context, an ambassadorship simply means that athlete X has a contract with brand Y to help promote the brand, it's products, and its values in exchange for free gear, money, or comped expenses related to racing. While I've never had a sponsorship like that and likely never will, I've come to realize that acting as an ambassador is much more a than simply promoting something for material gain, and that any one of us can become an ambassador regardless of athletic ability.

When it comes to running, there are two types of people - Runners, and those who run. By dictionary definition, the two are one in the same, but to some they have entirely different meanings. Those who run means just that - going through the physical motion of putting one foot in front of the other, whether by road, track, trail or treadmill. A person who runs may do so for no other reason than to set a personal best, win an award, or just to grab a finisher's medal at the end of a race. There is nothing inherently wrong with being a person who runs; it's just that someone with this mentality lacks a positive symbiotic relationship with the rest of the running community. 

A Runner, however, is one who embraces the culture and runs for less selfish reasons. A Runner is willing to give back to the community through volunteering at races, trail maintenance, supporting others as they strive to achieve their goals, or by teaching those of lesser ability. Speed, number of miles logged, and personal best times are irrelevant. A Runner is someone who is unafraid to sacrifice time and energy so that others can experience the thrill of crossing a finish line, conquering new distances, or whatever their goals may be. Simply put, a Runner is an ambassador to the sport of running. It's not about the ability to run fast or far, but about the ability to embrace and promote the positive aspects of the sport, the brand, or whatever it is that you are representing. It's about remaining humble while being vocal, respecting the land and all of its inhabitants, and remembering to have fun while competing. Anyone can be an running ambassador so long as he or she has the right attitude.

As I kick off my winter training season, one of my primary focuses throughout the year will be to act as the best ambassador I can be, for the sport of running and for Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Co. While I ramp up my mileage, I hope to do my best to give back to the community that has helped me get to where I am at and has made me feel so welcome here in Ithaca. A big thank you to last year's Team FLRTC, the Finger Lakes Runners Club, and anyone else I've had the pleasure of running with over the last 11 months!

Come run with us! Team FLRTC will soon be organizing weekly group runs for runners of all abilities. The runs are led by FLRTC ambassadors, and no runner will ever be left behind, regardless of pace. If you live in the Ithaca, NY, area, or just happen to be passing through, check the store's Facebook page or Twitter feed for updates on when and where the group runs will take place. 

 
2014 Team FLRTC at the Skunk Cabbage Classic Half Marathon and 10K. [Note: I ran the race but was absent when the picture was taken.] (Photo: Lisa Holt.)