Monday was Patriot's Day in Massachusetts, a state holiday established to commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord during the Revolutionary war and is now more popularly known throughout New England and running circles as Marathon Monday. The Boston Marathon has been run on every Patriots Day since 1897, even through World War years. Until this year. The 2020 Boston Marathon is now scheduled to be run in September.
As I shared in our Wednesday team Zoom meet-up, I did a lot of thinking about the Boston Marathon this week. I grew up in New Hampshire, about 40 minutes north of "the city" (which meant Boston to me growing up, not yet NYC). Every Marathon Monday was about Boston and our family made the trip to cheer on runners annually. My extended family would ask me, at every gathering: "You run cross country and track -- when are you going to run a marathon? Will you try to qualify for Boston?" And every time, my answer was an emphatic no. I identified as a mid-distance runner who loved cross country, but 5K was as far as I ever needed to go.
And then I dipped my toe in the marathon waters. It was an uncharted experience for me, and one that I figured would be a check on the bucket list while raising money for an important cause close to my heart. But I caught the road racing bug, and I raced with increasing frequency and intensity and eventually worked towards training to make the Olympic Marathon Trials to be held in Boston in 2008. I'd qualified for the Boston Marathon several times over -- but during each training cycle, I'd get injured before getting to the starting line. 2008 would finally be the year. It was not. I got injured once again. And then we started a family. And while I'd found a love of road races and half marathons and marathons, it seemed Boston maybe wasn't meant to be for me.
Fast forward 10 years, and I finally made it to the starting line and all the way through to the finish line in Beantown. It wasn't anywhere near the times I'd been running ten years prior. But it was the most joyful race I've ever run, and each step was filled with gratitude. It was the realization of a goal that had been held through many different stages of my life and had necessarily changed many times over. I think it's the most present I have been except for one other race in my life (the 1000m at ECAC championships in 2002; another story for another time), and I wanted to remember all of it for exactly what it was.
On Wednesday, we watched this mini-documentary on Emma Coburn during our zoom meet-up. I chose this one because the film focuses on a race that she sponsors for her community. Emma is a runner in her prime, still racing at the top of her field -- and she's also actively creating ways to remain connected to the running community when she's no longer racing. She talks about her nerves, the importance of being surrounded by positive people, and gratitude. She is one of many, many athletes who have had their training plans and racing goals upended by the coronavirus pandemic, and she's a great model of someone who is working to do her best to be focused yet flexible in the present while unrelenting and ambitious about her future goals and realistic in knowing that she won't race forever -- but she wants to have a connection to running forever.
We then watched Allyson Felix narrate the rollercoaster ride of a preliminary-prelim redo-finals road to victory for the 2016 USA women's 4x100 relay team. Different context, but this is another example of goals and obstacles and holding many emotions simultaneously. These women had a goal, had to react to a massive obstacle/mistake, be ready to step up should there be another opportunity, and be unrelenting when the window of opportunity opened.
Our training schedule asked you to "revisit your perspective, to reflect on your motivation and your WHY as an athlete. It’s bigger than just one season. While we continue to work hard now in hopes of opportunities to compete in the near future, we also want to keep looking at the bigger picture. This week’s focus is all about holding both the present and the future in our minds simultaneously, striving for that balance." We hope that these videos are some examples of this. If you're looking for another really fantastic dose of perspective, I strongly encourage you to watch the story of Gabe Grunewald. A promising American distance runner, she repeatedly fought cancer and, with grace and generosity, openly acknowledged both how crappy a situation was while fighting relentlessly for her goals, both in health and on the track, all while inspiring others and establishing a charitable foundation.
Know this, Team: you are inspiring others, even if you don't know it. I am inspired by the athletes I coach, and I draw upon your everyday bravery when I have a moment of doubt in my training or races. When you make time to train or find ways to get stronger, your family sees this and perhaps is inspired to do the same. Knowing your teammates are working out at their homes is not a virtual connection, it's a real one, even across the distance. Being flexible yet focused on your fitness NOW allows space for you to keep dreaming about what is NEXT. Because even with all the uncertainty surrounding us, ask yourself: "Why not me?" Why shouldn't I be the one with the inspiring story of overcoming the odds to make it happen? As Robin Arzon says, Get ready to star in your own movie.