Skip to content

Community Above All: For Allyson (she/they)

Community Above All: For Allyson (she/they) Run Tri Bike

My running club lost a member this week. 

We were lucky – we were not the group of runners who were with them on the trail when she was killed by a falling tree. We are not the ones who needed to go through extensive trauma therapy this week. We are the ones who mostly knew them through our parasocial relationships online, and I was one of the few who actually had the pleasure of spending a day with them, hiking through the beautiful forest at Dash Point in Tacoma, chatting on the beach, then sharing a meal at a Mexican restaurant afterward. I will treasure that day for the rest of my life.

While my running club was not there with them when she died, we have spent the past week processing, grieving, crying, and supporting each other. Allyson was not just a member of our group, she was inarguably the representation of everything I wanted the group to stand for, and the more I’ve learned about them this week, the more I’m convinced that everyone who knew Allyson was better for it. 

Allyson was a calming presence, with a soft voice but strong convictions. She was a social justice advocate, dedicating their life to working with legal aid and creating policies that resonated throughout the legal aid community. She lived by their convictions, and their family supported them, and she became a voice for those who may not have had a voice of their own. 

Their impact on my running club was not only reflected in how we all felt about them, but in the way she gently but firmly spoke up when I screwed up. 

Rear View Run Club is built upon the premise of community above all. We build each other up, supporting each other in our movement, and pushing each other forward without judgment. We had begun focusing on a half marathon training plan, and I had structured our meetings to focus mostly on the plan itself, discussing progress based on each week’s goals. We had continued moving forward with this format for several weeks, until one day I received an email from Allyson.

In the email she stated that one of the things she loved about RVRC was that there wasn’t an assumption that everyone was at the same place in their running journey, and that everyone could show up where they are, and with whatever goals (or not) they had related to running. This was one of my core tenets when I started the group – that this was a community space that allowed for support even if someone wasn’t shooting for “more” in their movement journey. However, in transitioning to a focus on the half marathon training plan, I had inadvertently refocused the group more on hitting goals and moving forward, rather than keeping our focus on support for our individual journeys. 

Allyson stated that she missed the times when most of the meeting was spent sharing and discussing as a group and supporting each other, and seeing and accepting each other for who we are. She was someone who wanted to just run and be consistent in just running, as are many of our members. I have stated from the beginning that you don’t have to want to run faster or longer or cross a finish line to be a runner, and my group reflected that. Until it didn’t. 

Allyson’s email wasn’t any different from the way she lived her life – she spoke up where she needed to speak up, to make a difference. She was right – I had stepped onto a different path and was running (pardon the pun) in the wrong direction. I adjusted our format so more of the meeting was spent connecting and supporting each other, and less time was spent discussing the training plan with specific members who were using it. 

This may seem a strange piece to include in an online running magazine, but Allyson’s impact on my running club is one that I think more running clubs can learn from. RVRC is different from most clubs in that we are mostly online and meet by Zoom weekly, and because we have members all across the country, we don’t run together very often. We don’t talk about just running, we talk about all the ways that movement affects our lives, and how the lessons we learn through running can be applied to our lives every day. 

Allyson’s lesson was community above all. We may all have found each other through running first, but what keeps us together is a love for each other, and in supporting and celebrating each others’ journeys. If more of us can lift others up and speak up for the communities we represent, that rising tide can lift all boats. 

I challenge you to honor Allyson this month by speaking up for what’s right, standing up for others, and having the courage of your convictions – even when it may be uncomfortable to do so. Allyson left an impact on us, and will forever be on our hearts. I hope that you can do that for someone else, too.

All Bodies Are Runner's Bodies Marci Braithwaite Run Tri Bike Magazine

Marci Braithwaite is an RRCA- and USATF-certified running coach who focuses on beginner runners and athletes in larger bodies using Size-Inclusive and HAES-aligned principles. She has completed over 100 races of various distances in her 12 years of running, including a marathon, and she has her sights set on completing a 50k in 2023