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Thoughts on the Run: What's in a name?

Andy Shearer
Andy Shearer and his daughter Aubrey Shearer

I don’t recall the first team name after college, but I do recall the team and the players and the event. It was 1989, the Lord Chamberlin team triathlon, held at Delaware Water Gap (on the Jersey side). Three of my college friends had coerced me into running a 10k after the first pair canoed and the third guy biked. 

This event occurred six days after a marathon (Pittsburgh, a 2’45” effort), so I was looking and feeling my best.  But one never says no to a good race experience. There were 75 teams total. After the canoe segment, team “whatever we were called” was in 13th place. After the bike, we’d moved to 9th and I brought us home to 6th overall. One of the guys on the team had secured us a sponsorship from Shamrock Liquors in New Jersey, which equated to free T-shirts and some adult beverages. Worth. Every. Step. 

A couple years later, I teamed up with two friends for a swim, bike, run tri in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania. This “more traditional” triathlon event also hosted a solo race as well as a team competition.  Geoff, Gail and I won the team title three straight years, including the year I had a raging case of poison ivy and had to tape my eyes open with duct tape. True story. And no, I don’t recall the team name for this one, either. 

In subsequent years, I have been on teams such as MAC Attack, The Has Been Track Club, Smokin’ Laces, Sun Insurance Team B and (my favorite) Hoodaygofas. There was also one I can’t even type out due to obscenity rules. These team competitions have ranged from 25-mile trail events to 200-mile multiple stage races (the 2015 Hood-to-Coast in Oregon was a classic). 

Sometimes, the team name is a perfect representation of the team and its intention (have fun or go home?). And sometimes, the team name is a point of contention even after the finish line. But of the +/- 30 team events I’ve participated in since that first team tri, they all have one thing in common. They were memorable! 

There are a few key features to any team event.  First and foremost is to make sure you have like-minded people on your squad. If one person is uber competitive and the others are in it for the SWAG, it’s not going to be a pleasant experience. 

Other suggestions include naming a point person to rule them all. Having a democracy in a team event, though a laudable goal, usually doesn’t work. Make sure everyone gets to win at least one “point of discussion.” Buy-in is key (selecting which segments someone wants to do or which socks everyone must wear is a perfect example of this). Assign everyone one simple task, like getting a case of water or massaging everyone’s feet after their second relay leg. See? Fun! 

But the final key suggestion, which goes to the heart of a team event – it’s gotta be the name! Get creative, get crazy, get specific, get descriptive and then own that name! 

Back in the mid-90s, my friend Rob and I started a pilgrimage to the Allentown area that lasted eight straight years. The Lehigh River Relay Run was a five-person race that ran from Allentown to Easton. It wasn’t just the race itself, but the weekend that made it so memorable. The travel, the hosts (Rob’s in-laws), the pre-race dinner, and the post-race party. The Has Been Track Club won a few age group awards and even had a corporate sponsor (until the guy on the team who brought in the sponsor took up golf), but the basic premise of the pilgrimage has withstood the test of time: to have fun and create some awesome memories. Oh, and I still have the team race singlet!

Whether it’s a multi-stage event like a relay or a triathlon, or a single team competition with multiple scorers like a cross country meet or a 4x800m, a team is only as good as its name. And Team Poison Ivy Face is certainly memorable. 

I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails. 

Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.