Tomorrow's Boston Marathon, the 118th, will make news for more than being the elite, time-honored event that it is for marathoners. This year's race will be a testament to individual fortitude and the collective strength of a nation.
Over 5,500 runners (5,633, to be exact) who were unable, by circumstances beyond their control or worst imagination, to finish, were invited to return this year to race again. Those are the runners who are digging just a little deeper, questioning just a little more. The joy of running, the elation of competition, the thrill of pushing your body beyond its comfort zone and coming out on the other side in an altered state of consciousness or "flow," these are all now being compared to the grim reality that even intense preparation cannot ensure any particular outcome. "Is it worth it? Can I even finish this time? What if...?"
No, we cannot control the insanity of others who may seek to disrupt the harmony of our lives. But dwelling on what cannot be controlled is only detrimental to ultimate performance.
There are sights, sounds, feelings that cannot be unseen, unheard, forgotten. One should be mindful of these, allowing them to be, but not letting them interfere. Be aware that in this moment the thoughts are just that--thoughts constructed, reconstructed, replayed in the mind. They can appear easily but by the same token, can be dismissed as well. Trying to pretend they are not there in the first place is futile. But accepting their presence and willfully deciding to let them pass, replacing the thoughts for the moment with ones that are more positive, energizing, focused on the task at hand can help one renew their commitment to their ultimate goal.
To reach that goal, these runners will be faced with the same mental and physical challenges as any other runner in any other race. Until that moment. There will come a moment in this race when an awareness of what was and what is will merge. At that moment, the true measure of the runners will be seen. My guess is that each one has already played through that moment in their minds, and decided how best to handle it when it comes. After all, these are athletes who consistently push themselves beyond where their minds want their bodies to go. Run 26.2 miles, when nothing is chasing you? Crazy, right? These runners have learned to push through physical and mental challenges to reach their goals.
This will be no different, yet very different. No one would blame these runners if they couldn't push this time. But I don't think it will come to that for any of them. The inner strength they possess, the cheering crowds, the collective shoulders upon which they will be carried to the finish line--I predict this performance for each to be the greatest challenge, but more importantly, the personal best performance of their athletic lives.
"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."
Personal Best Sports
The sports world is filled with stories of perseverance, failure and success, personal struggles and public triumph. Each story provides insight into the mental side of sport and activity.