six in the city

Life in the 'hood with a husband, two kids, and two dogs

Archive for the tag “running”

Find your Tribe

“I’m so happy to be part of this tribe,”—a simple and positive social media post.  It elicits “likes” and supportive comments. Another common post in our running group page, “ten miles with my tribemates, so proud of them.” You’ve seen it, in your team’s Facebook page, or in business groups, or supportive social networks. On Instagram you’ll find the ubiquitous #bridetribe hashtag.  But It seems like there is always someone who responds with something like, “be careful how you use the word tribe. It can be considered racist.”  But they don’t tell us whyWhy would this be?

My brain goes in all sorts of directions—is the bigger topic related to tribes of Africa? Indian history in the United States? Or is it generating a feeling to some that we are making a cultural assimilation or appropriation? If so, I would argue the person complaining about it is the one assigning a negative thought process here.

An old article on talks about the use of “tribe” in reference to the study of African nations which we are not doing…. that use of the word promotes misleading stereotypes, saying “It carries misleading historical and cultural assumptions. It blocks accurate views of African realities.” We can all agree that more education is always a good thing, especially today, on the subject, but we are not college professors. We are not writing academic articles for history journals. We are not referring to anyone from other countries as tribes.  We are not studying African nations and producing reports. We are not influencing any political thinktanks. All of that academic life has nothing to do with calling ourselves a “tribe”.  Even the good old Merriam-Webster dictionary is okay with it:

a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

informal + humorous : a large family

Google search results produced one marketer who says that use of “tribe” in marketing “is over with, don’t use it”. She pokes at the #bridetribe as an example. So what?  The #bridetribes aren’t selling a product or creating social change. They are having fun. They are expressing their friendship.  Her advice may be okay for marketing professionals selling serious products, but we don’t need to worry about that.

Another marketing ‘expert’ says we should come up with alternative words. He offers a long list and here are just a few, which crack me up. He must be extremely woke:

  • Society (vague much?)
  • People (how original!)
  • Horde (really?)
  • Troupe (are we circus folk?)
  • Family (duh)
  • Gang (probably would get flagged on social media)
  • Coterie (WTF?)
  • Syndicate (very “Bourne Identity”)
  • Friends (no shit)

Over the summer on a hot Sunday, I was scheduled to run eight miles in the sticky, humid weather.  Turns out, my legs were done before mile 5 and I gave in and decided to walk the last three-plus.  I encouraged the group to forge ahead. I know my way through town and told them I would be just fine.  A friend hung back and walked with me (even though I repeatedly encouraged her to run off).  Later when I thanked her for being so patient, she said “hey, we are a tribe, we don’t leave people alone out there.”  You see? How is this a bad thing?  Dear marketers, I really don’t think switching “tribe” out for the word “community” would be effective here. 

John Boudreau of Wilbraham, MA described his tribe to me. “Lindsey’s Tribe” is one of the leading fundraisers for our local breast cancer nonprofit, Rays of Hope.   ROH has raised over $15M to date and the funds have stayed local to western Massachusetts residents. (Heck, I don’t matter in this equation, but I did get into running so that I could learn to run the ROH five miles in support of my mother, diagnosed in 2014 and cancer-free today.)

The “Tribe” got its painful but beautiful start when Lindsey lost her first child 12+ years ago. They had just closed on their first house. While she and the baby were in the hospital for five days, a group of friends started coming together to help them get the house cleaned up to move in. What ended up happening was a magical group of over 30 young people who cleaned, painted walls and ceilings, installed lights, landscaped, refinished floors….over a four-day period. The Tribe was born. They were again called to action when Lindsey was diagnosed with breast cancer. They helped with the boys, cooked meals, delivered groceries, went with Lindsey to chemo sessions….”

I recently finished reading TRIBE by Sebastian Junger. The book jacket says that the author “demonstrates that regaining our tribal connection – largely lost in modern society – may be the key to our psychological survival.” In the Introduction he talks about his decision as a young man to hitchhike across northwestern US. “The sheer predictability of life in an American suburb left me hoping—somewhat irresponsibly—for a hurricane or a tornado or something that would require us to all band together to survive.” See, that’s just it – a common goal, a common challenge. Our running group is not enduring military stress like Junger writes about, but the goals and the bonds that form are real.

We are the nation’s stakes

If everything’s erased

What you gonna’ do?

I need some room to breathe

You can run with me

If you wanted to


Not Today, Fleet Feet. Not Today.

We live in cities you’ll never see onscreen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things.
Livin’ in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know we’re on each other’s team… (Team by Lorde)

I won’t tell you not to shop at any Fleet Feet locations, but I will try to express my opinion with this keyboard. You can make up your own mind; you’re a grownup.

Without any discussion or warning (seemingly, from my humble point of view as a runner and shopper), Tim and Jill Murphy were removed from their Fleet Feet franchise in Longmeadow, MA, after five years of “building and supporting the Longmeadow community and the local running community” (thank you for that, Allison L.). Corporate swooped in and got rid of them. Yep, after they spent five years taking the store from nothing to a family of hundreds of runners and shoppers.  They’ve supported hundreds of races and events in our area!

It feels like someone tried to burn down my living room to hurt my family. I don’t think that is overly dramatic. We’ve been through a lot together – mostly laughter but many tears. Births, deaths, trauma, celebration, stress, injuries, joy, even a wedding! What a diverse family! We are all ages and from all sorts of backgrounds. We are fast, slow, small, tall, serious, funny, dorky, smart, tough, nervous, annoying, all of it!  We have a supportive environment and get pushed to be our best. We are instant friends.

So, what? Maybe there were other factors going on, like profit, inventory…who knows? It’s retail!   I do not care. I don’t need to know.  I do want to know what sort of “community oriented” firm treats its owners and employees like this.  Fleet Feet, you are not getting one single dollar from me.  I have happily spent hundreds in your store over the years.  You can keep your app and your magnets and your bullshit stories about how you treat people fairly.

I was 47 in 2015 and had never been a runner. I had muddled through one 5K on my own to see what it was like. When I started out, I could only run across a street. After a few weeks, I could run a block.  It took me months to run a mile without stopping.  I joined a Fleet Feet winter training to do a 10K; I had no idea it was known as one of the most difficult (and fun) 10Ks around, St. Patrick’s Day in Holyoke.  I joined the group without knowing a soul and also dragged a friend along. I was truly nervous. We followed strangers through the streets of Longmeadow in the dark, through a snowstorm. We didn’t know the roads. We didn’t know the people. I was petrified. I had the best time. Those strangers are now friends, you know, the kinds of friends that become your family. I never knew I would run several half marathons, continuous 5K races or begin coaching Girls on the Run.

It’s the collective awesomeness of the people I have met and their inspirational and amazing feats, from the speedy marathoners to the people who are simply walking; the people who bounce back from health challenges and get back out there. Tim and Jill are the center of this family. It feels, Fleet Feet, like you’re trying to send our family scattering. I’m here to tell you we are a tribe and we will survive without you. Now, four years later, I can’t imagine rewinding and never wearing running shoes, and never having met everyone. I’ll probably never be fast. I’ll never “break the tape”. I’ll never stand on a podium. But I’ve already won. These people push you further, they call you out on your baloney–THEY are the community. Some corporation with a focus on its bottom line is NOT our tribe. This makes me sad. We were always so proud to be part of the Fleet Feet family and its history.

Hours after hearing the news, I returned to the store to see of couple of part-time employees looking shocked. The “corporate employee” was having trouble figuring something out at the register, which, inwardly, brought me joy; but it’s sad to see something so valuable be driven into the ground by its mother ship. Corporate Employee made no eye contact; didn’t ask who I was, no “good morning, how can I help you today?” Nothing. Good luck, Fleet Feet, with your ice cold corporation. Our little family may not have a “living room” at the moment, but we will thrive without you. I know that Jill and Tim will continue to do great things, even though their corporation tried to clip their wings. Fly, guys—fly!

We joke that runners are “weirdos” (we use porta-potties during winter races where it’s way below freezing); we are “freaks” (we go out to run 12 miles on frigid, pouring mornings) and sometimes we are “stupid” (we run while eating donuts and doing burpees). So yeah, we are – we are freaking devoted. We are weirdly supportive. We are stupidly aware that big business sucks sometimes. We are stubborn, determined, and we know when to call “bullshit” when we see it.  I was reminded by one in our running family that this actually can be looked at as a blessing. Imagine what comes next. We will be stronger. Imagine what we can do together.  Yes. But I am still mad.

Read a guest blog post for the Longmeadow Shops by Jill Murphy HERE, about motivation. Does this sound like the voice of someone who is not interested in seeing people succeed?  

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