Running alone at night through North Idaho neighborhoods and farm fields, I finally understood what I’ve been missing by avoiding organized races ever since my last Bloomsday experience decades ago. It was my second leg of the Spokane to Sandpoint Relay last August, and despite the fact that I’m an introvert who often runs, hikes and bikes alone, I was loving it. Which got me thinking as I plodded along. Why haven’t I done this before?

Somewhere along the S2S course north of Coeur d’Alene – I remember the spot because I had just passed a herd of sheep staring at me from the darkness of a roadside pen – I started thinking about how to encourage more OTM readers to sign up for the gazillion awesome races, rides, triathlons and fun runs that happen every year around the Inland Northwest.

This year, we are launching the Team OTM Challenge: a new program that’s all about motivating others who, like me, have had some barrier to signing up for more races and other non-competitive events to challenge themselves to do at least one of our over 30 featured races and events every month for six months (May-October). For some, that will mean pushing their physical and social comfort zones with 5k runs and events like the Dad’s Day Dash 5k and Happy Girls Run or bike rides like the CHAFE 150 and Spokane Valley Cycle Celebration. For others it may mean trying something totally new, like a community multi-sport event like the Rathdrum Adventure Race, the Emory Corwine 50 Mile Ruck Race relay or a half or full trail marathon. Other seasoned, hardcore athletes can challenge themselves by signing up for as many badass races as they want, such as the Kootenay Sufferfest, Priest Lake Smokechaser 30K or the Trail Maniacs Jackass Hill Climb. You can sign up for the Team OTM Challenge as an individual or team (group of four). Participants score discounts on all races as well as killer swag, kick-off and wrap-up parties and a Team OTM tech shirt and opportunities to connect with a bigger community (see page 19 in the March print issue or click here for details).

The Team OTM Challenge will make it harder to put off getting or staying in shape because you will have made a personal commitment (or in this case, six months of commitments). That’s my main reason for taking the Team OTM Challenge myself this summer; it’s a way to fight back from too many hours glued to a computer and office chair. And, for as much as I’d usually rather be wandering the wilds in solitude, last summer I re-discovered the joy of sharing sweat, joy, exhaustion and a sense of accomplishment with others, whether it was with my team mates, strangers along the race course or a band of bleating sheep on the side of some highway. See you at the starting line in May! //