Finding your tribe (guest post)


If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a blue-clad tribe** to uplift its new members.

This year my soccer team put together a group entry to the fun run, Polar Rush 2017. Now its third year, the Polar Rush takes place at Horseshoe Resort north of Barrie, Ontario. The event fundraises for Sick Kids, and this year raised $17,000. Individuals and teams complete a 5km run or walk, facing 12 obstacles, on the resort’s hilly terrain.

Dressed in blue running gear, and with “best before” freezer tags pasted to our chests, our 15-person Team Freezer Burn jogged, slogged, sledded, and climbed the obstacle course. Then, later that night, we potlucked, played games, and recounted our day out together.

I’ve written about the limitations and benefits of fun runs. However, for me the day was notable not because of the event’s athletic focus or charity fundraising. It was notable because it turned a group of individuals into a community. In our overnight adventure I saw many, many acts of caring—women helping each other by navigating the run’s obstacles, sure, but also by driving and navigating, booking rooms, bringing food, welcoming new friends and partners, teaching games, and sharing stuff. No matter who or what was needed, someone was there to support, arrange, organize, and help out.

In this group I’ve gone from a person who was terrified of joining team sports for fear of letting anyone down to feeling emboldened to try new activities. On one hand, it’s a small thing to run a 5K race, in the snow, with bright blue hair with 14 other people on a day in February. On the other hand, in our busy, isolating, and stressful 21st century life, this group of women will still take time to encourage and strengthen one another. We build community through camaraderie, or, as one team member put it, “Start together and finish together.”

For those of you who want to be more physically active, or even if you just need to be taken care of for a little while, then I encourage you to find or reconnect with your tribe. And if you are the tribe, then make the time to welcome new members in. You can lift the blue by bringing it to another person’s life.

**Note: I am aware of the colonial implications of the word “tribe.” I use the term “tribe” not to refer to a particular ethnic group or nation, but as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations […]having a common character, occupation, or interest.”

Elan Paulson is less fit than feminist but plays recreational team sports, tries any new form of exercise, and chases after her two cats when they jump the fence. She works at her stand-up desk as Director of the EdD Program at Western University’s Faculty of Education.

2 thoughts on “Finding your tribe (guest post)

  1. I like this post Elan. As a fellow tribe member I can say that doing fun runs like this is a way that women can connect in community with one another. We lift each other up and share each other’s burdens! We share stories, swap books, recipes, and ask advise. When the kids were younger I was in playgroups and met with women in that way. Now my kids are older it’s harder to connect with women while working and meet the busy demands of family life. Recreational Sports is a fantastic way to connect with other women, share stories, support one another, and laugh! Most importantly laugh!!!

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