The Team Spirit Facebook Group is an online community, encompassing athletics and running volunteers in all roles and from all backgrounds. It encourages individuals to share their experiences, knowledge and ideas. England Athletics use the page to keep volunteers informed of opportunities that may interest them, celebrate the success of the volunteers and run member-only competitions. Team Spirit members are usually the first to get the latest information on opportunities.
Colin, a guide runner from Bristol, joined the Team Spirit online community and here shares what the community has meant to him…
I have created a group of volunteer running guides in Bristol to try and reach out to Blind and visually impaired people and encourage them to take up running. We have been doing this for over a year now and have over 12 regular Blind runners that have now completed both 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons/ marathons and even an ultra marathon. It has made a significant difference to their lives, helping them change their lives for the better.
My background to guide running really came about when a friend of mine posted on Facebook that a blind runner was looking for a guide to run the Budapest Marathon, which would be their first ever marathon. I met up with Chris, went on our first training run and after many further training runs we went to Budapest and we completed his first marathon. As you can imagine it was quite an emotional journey as any major challenge is, and I remember getting to mile 25 of the marathon and telling Chris that there is only one mile to go and that there is no way that he will not finish. A few minutes later I looked over at Chris and he had tears streaming down his face with the joy and emotion of knowing that he was about to achieve his goal.
The Team Spirit Community has been a great way for us to both share the ideas of the visually impaired running group that we have set up as well as pick up tips on how to help with the promotion of our group.
A significant challenge can be advertising the opportunity to potential visually impaired runners, as well as helping to spread the word to others that may want to give guiding a go. Since joining the Team Spirit Facebook Community, my group has gone from strength to strength. Individuals not only in the area want to be involved with me specifically, but others from all over the country have messaged me through the page to ask for advice and share ideas with me for growing the group. The increase in awareness, specifically from this community, has been a wonderful boost for me and my runners.
As part of getting our own publicity we came up with the idea of involving the Bristol Mayor to become a guide at the Bristol 10K. This proved to be a great idea because it attracted both local TV and radio to help find both new volunteers as well as encourage VI people to come and take part in running. Receiving such positivity from the Team Spirit community really gave me the confidence to put the group out there and reach out to the wider community. I can’t guarantee that we would have done that without the warm support and encouragement from other volunteers in the athletics & running community; it really spurred me on.
I think without a forum such as Team Spirit both good ideas and inspirational stories would be lost and not become recognised. The mutual inspiration found on Team Spirit is unbelievable. To be able to access opportunities I haven’t previously been aware of, as they are so readily posted on the page by England Athletics is invaluable and has supported my development no end.