Training for a marathon is just as much a “head” game as it is a game of physical endurance. The main reason I do several long training runs (up to 24 miles) in the months before the Boston Marathon is to give me the confidence at the start of a race that I will be able to go the distance and finish.
Last year, as the Boston Marathon was about to start and I was going to my assigned corral, I heard the announcer say that the charity runners had raised over $11 million to run the race. He read a long list of charities – Dana Farber, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, The Heart Association, The Liver Foundation, even Newtown. Even after running 9 Boston Marathons, I am still overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the running community.
When the race starts, runners are instantly greeted by cheering spectators lining the streets. Kids feed the runners wedges of oranges, and pieces of bananas like they would feed animals at the zoo, and hold their hands out so you can slap them five. People offer runners Vaseline to soothe any chafing, jelly beans for extra energy, and most importantly they offer words of encouragement like: “You’ve got great legs”, or “you’re looking great” (even though you feel like you are turning green and about to fall over), or “you can do it”! It is a wonderful exchange of energy. It is 26.2 miles of truly open hearted people celebrating the day, celebrating life, and caring for each other unconditionally as only a family can. It doesn’t matter what country you are from, the color of your skin, what religion, what political party, whether you are rich or poor, whether you are male or female, gay or straight, fast or slow, or even whether or not you have legs! (There are marathoners who compete in wheelchairs.)
It was a perfect day for running – sunny and cool, and I had a great run. I turned that last corner onto Boylston Street – the last 0.2 of a mile, and I could see the finish ahead. The spectators’ voices were echoing off the buildings, fueling my tired legs and body, to carry me over the finish. I was giving it everything I had left. I was about half way to the finish when I saw the first explosion. My legs continued running toward the finish, but my mind was trying to process what happened. Was it fireworks? Should I stop? When I saw the second explosion, I stopped. The roar of the spectators’ voices stopped too. I walked over to some people and asked if they knew what was going on? They said it could be a gas explosion or a transformer. I borrowed their phone to call my husband.
As I spoke with him, a group of about 40 police officers ran toward the finish, followed by about 30 police officers on motorcycles, followed by two fire engines, followed by a medical truck. I knew then that people had been injured. The police calmly directed people to leave the area and as we walked, people were on their cell phones reporting: 2 dead. 50 down. It had definitely been a bomb.
I was freezing. I was wearing my spandex shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. My clothes were wet because I pour water on my clothes to keep cool as I run. It was 50 degrees. After the bombings, the kind people in Boston took it to a whole new level. Another runner gave me his foil blanket, a woman invited me to come up to her company’s offices where it was warm and I could use their phones. Another runner gave me a spare pair of warm-up pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt to keep warm. A young man offered to walk me and another woman to our hotels. I was still freezing so he lent me his jacket.
When I got to the hotel room, the Hartford Track Club organizers looked at me as if they’d seen a ghost. They track all the runners on the bus and my projected finish time based on my pace at the 40K mark was 17 seconds after the first bomb went off. They had reported me as a potentially missing person. The New Britain police chief – Chief Wardwell and another runner (who were on our bus) had gone down to the finish line medical tent to see if they could find me in case I was injured.
The news of the bombings spread quickly all over the world, and I was inundated with messages from friends and family concerned for my safety from Slovakia, Germany, London, Mexico, and all over this country. For days afterwards my neighbors were stopping me on the street, or literally running out of their houses, to give me a hug. I felt as though I had gone to my own funeral.
In the days, weeks, and months since last year’s marathon, I realized some important lessons:
Lesson #1: People matter! Each one of us matters. People are more than a business transaction. We are all connected by our friendship and genuine concern for each other’s well being. I made a personal pledge to: Really connect with people. Treat people like human beings. Look them in the eyes. Smile. Tell them how much I appreciate them. Say “Thank You.” Build real relationships.
Lesson #2: By observing people’s reactions, I realized that an event like this releases a kind of energy into our world that flows through each person and comes out in their actions depending on the state of their mind.
Kind actions come from a kind mind. Runners who had finished the marathon ran to nearby hospitals to donate blood for the people who were injured.
My mother who tends to be fearful said: Oh there are so many dangerous people in the world. And I realized: Hmmm….Actually there were 26.2 miles of really wonderful people and only two whose minds were tragically disturbed by anger and hatred. It is very difficult to capture in words the enormity of the devastation that comes from an angry mind.
It made me look at my own mind? What am I adding to the world?
I said before that training for a marathon is just as much a “head” game as it is a game of physical endurance, so I have added a new “head” game component to my training regimen. I call it:
KIND MIND strength training!
It has three exercises:
(1) Notice how your mind is affected by the world around you. People, TV, Music, Magazines, News, Advertisements, etc. Advertisers and the media are in business to trigger your emotions in order to get you to buy things or do things they want you to do – like “click here”. Just notice what emotions are being triggered for you. Don’t judge. Just notice. Leaders influence people. They can lead people in good ways and bad ways. Notice how they are influencing you.
(2) Notice how the state of your mind affects your actions. Happy mind? Crabby mind? Are you nicer when you’ve had your coffee in the morning?
(3) Notice how your actions affect others around you. When you leave a sink full of dirty dishes for your spouse after a burst of creative culinary inspiration, does it make them happy?
A new slogan was created in response to the Boston Marathon bombings. It is “B Strong” or Boston Strong. I like to add “B Kind” – Boston Kind.
So: Train your body, and train your mind. B Strong. B Kind.