Running on Stories (Mental Taper, Part 2)

For better or for worse, running is a meditative sport. I say “for better” because there are few activities as good as running to help you untangle your own thoughts. I’ve written articles and presentations on runs; I’ve solved work problems and I’ve sorted through complex emotions through repetitively pounding the pavement. I also say “for worse” because in a long, grueling race like a marathon, any break in your mental focus or motivation can spell disaster.

That’s why I’m putting together a multi-part series about mental preparation for the Boston Marathon. My previous post was about creating a marathon playlist. But sometimes the crowds at the Boston Marathon are so loud that runners can’t even hear their music. What then?

We run on stories.

Emma's been running on stories since Rare Disease Day 2013!

Emma’s been running on stories since Rare Disease Day 2013!

Emma put it so eloquently in a comment on Dan’s blog post: “Motivated by my partner Andrew’s training efforts and all the great blog posts I keep getting in my inbox, has given me the focus to keep running (& running) since last Rare Disease Day. I didn’t even have to join a boot-camp to train, running on stories instead.”

26.2 miles is a long way to go, so you need to have lots of stories to tell yourself. Fortunately, this blog is a library of inspiration. The stories of this community become even more inspiring when you see them as one bright star in a galaxy of stories that touch the Boston Marathon.

About a month ago, I encouraged everyone on the team to read 26 Miles to Boston by Michael Connelly as part of their mental preparation because it provides mile-by-mile stories about interesting people and events that have taken place along the marathon course. I truly believe that filling your mind with stories like these is a useful and inspiring way to prepare for a race.

Now I’d like to share two amazing articles about other people who will be sharing the course with us on Marathon Monday.

  • “Shalane Flanagan’s Game Face” – Runner’s World
    A darling to Boston spectators, elite runner Shalane Flanagan hails from nearby Marblehead, Mass. Locals’ enthusiasm for her is surpassed only by Shalane’s drive to win this race which means more to her than any other running accomplishment ever could.

    Her coach says in the article: “Her earliest memories of running are in Boston. This has been most important to her. This is a hard, tough sport, and there are 10 to 12 other athletes on the line who have a legitimate chance to win. As always, we just focus on putting her in the best position we can—with Shalane, whatever the result is, it’s always everything she had that day.”

    Even though Shalane is an elite runner, she’s also a “charity runner” in that she raised money for The One Fund Boston in the lead-up to this year’s marathon.

  • “One Last Boston Marathon For Legendary Father-Son Team” – WBUR
    Team Hoyt is composed of the father Dick pushing his son Rick in a wheelchair. The pair have been participating in the Boston Marathon since 1981. Last year was supposed to be their last year, but when they weren’t allowed to finish, they knew immediately that they would run again this year.

    Our teammate Shane ran into Team Hoyt during last year’s Boston Marathon.

    Our teammate Shane ran into Team Hoyt during last year’s Boston Marathon.

    Team Hoyt first ran a road race when Rick was 15 years old. It was a charity road race for a lacrosse player at Rick’s school who had been paralyzed in an accident. Using his computer to speak, Rick told his father, “I have to do something for him. I want to let him know life goes on even though he’s paralyzed. I want to run in the race.” Though most people thought they would just run to the corner and back, they finished the entire 5-mile race. Rick said afterward, “Dad, when I’m running it feels like my disability disappears.”

    The team kept running, and they even had to time-qualify in Rick’s age group in order to participate in their first Boston Marathon. The team has since participated in triathlons and Ironmans as well.

    They showed the world that a disability doesn’t have to be insurmountable. Dick explains, “When Rick was born, we’d take Rick in a restaurant, people would get up and leave. Then they didn’t want him in school. Then they didn’t want us competing. And our message is: yes you can. There isn’t anything you can’t do as long as you make up your mind to do it. And there’s no such word as no.”

Stories you can lose yourself in, stories you can be inspired by, are invaluable assets during a marathon. I believe I will tell myself these two stories, as well as all the stories that have been posted on this Running for Rare Diseases blog, when the going gets tough on Marathon Monday.

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2 comments on “Running on Stories (Mental Taper, Part 2)
  1. Erica Thiel says:

    Thanks for sharing Jessi!


  2. Emma Rooney says:

    Perfect timing on your post Jessi! I was looking for something to start reading this weekend and I just downloaded your “26 Miles to Boston” suggestion. This will help me to visualize what Andrew is going through on Monday and I can better imagine running alongside from here.
    Team Hoyt reminded me of an experience last fall when I ran my first marathon in Toronto. Pretty much the whole way I ran close to a Mom and Son team. At km 27 I had already hit my wall when I noticed that this racing Mom hadn’t stopped smiling and acknowledging the cheering crowds as she gracefully ran and pushed her son ahead. Seeing her passion brought my heart rate down and I could feel peaceful moving again.
    Stories in our head are a powerful tool but we mustn’t miss the stories happening right before us. At times I like to embrace running as a solitary pursuit and sometimes I need the team spirit (even with perfect strangers) to get me to the finish!

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Archive of posts from Marathon runners dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of people with serious disease.