Brian Tinder, Josh Eberly and Shunsuke Okunomiya are three of the most successful trail runners in the world… individually. But how can they become a team to tackle the INFINITE TRAILS World Championships 2018 in Austria from June 22nd to 24th?

INFINITE TRAILS is a relay race, so individual runners must merge together as a team to be successful. Three months out from the race at a Fuerteventura training camp I watched these three athletes gel together and took away five key learnings to build winning sports or business teams.

Let the principles inspire you to go out and build a great team yourself!

Two men run across a mountain in matching running jackets. running, mountain, cross country, teamwork, competition
A team, capable of racing up and down the highest mountains, might have some tips for us down here at sea level. ©Raphael Weber

1. Diversity is key

In a trail running relay, the different loops require differing traits and capabilities from the runners. On one course the thin and lightweight runner might gain an edge over the muscular fighter while on another mental strength might make the difference.

Brian Tinder from Arizona sums up one of the advantages of being a diverse team:

“All three of us have different trail running strengths. We have learned to be patient with each other while expressing our own strengths and weaknesses on trail.”

In the office look at the tasks that need to be done and then look at the pool of talent to do it. Are you looking for the communicative alpha leader or rather the connector, for the perfectionist or the achiever?

A man jumps for joy wearing running clothes in a sunset. running, sunset, joy, motivation, happy, concentration
Diversity is key: Make sure to have at least one team member onboard who can land securely in tough terrain (such as Brian here). ©Raphael Weber

2. Get everybody on track (uhh… on trail)

No one wins a relay race alone. Diverse and strong talent is good, but useless if you don’t align as a team. Therefore, get everybody on track. Josh Eberly is a runner, artist and designer. He explains, “Training together, we got to know the person behind the running.”

Joint training sessions are a good way to boost the good spirit and the team’s performance.  In Fuerteventura training involved “10 times 1km in 90% intensity plus 10 times 1km in 70% intensity” – while in the office team workshops, design thinking classes or time away from the office as a group will do the trick.

A team of runners run together in the hot sun. teamwork, determination, togetherness
While running next to each other kilometer over kilometer, a team grows from talented individuals. ©Raphael Weber

3. Get the experts on board

In trail running many experts are needed – a physio for recover, a dietician for the right fuel, a bus driver for safe transport. Athletes need that extended support team so as not to distract them from the goal in hand. It’s no different with a work team. The bottom line is: let your talent focus on what they are good at and get experts on board for additional support.

A runner looks focused on the trail ahead while running during the sunset. focus, running, runner, sunset, ocean
While Shunsuke’s energy reservoir is sheer endless, he still relies on experts, e.g. for first aid. ©Raphael Weber

4. Stay positive

Foster positive vibes within the team. “We always have a good laugh when we are together.” is how Brian summarizes it. “Running together we have lots of fun while we keep our thirst for competition.”

An atmosphere that stimulates open communication and transparency will develop a team that works as one – a team that takes decisions together instead of individuals pushing personal agendas.

Team-building activities and dedicating time for everybody to hang out together helps people to grow as a team.

5. Sharpen your strategy

The team strategy defines the roles and responsibilities for every team member so that their individual strengths are played out perfectly.

Brian is a motivator, someone who always keeps the spirit up. Great, he will kick off the race and be our start runner. Then, we need someone who proves consistency in his performance, someone who gives confidence to the team: Shunsuke, the endurance pro, will take over the lengthy middle loop. Lastly, we have Josh, our responsible leader ready to bring the prize home on the final loop.

A adidas runner folds his arms while standing in the sunset. terrex, adidas, sunset, runner, dessert, mountains
A team captain like Josh sets up a great strategy… and pursues it. ©Raphael Weber

At INFINITE TRAILS, the best team will win. Not the team with the best individuals.

What about your team – have you created a winning team? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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