On Monday afternoon, I sat in the glorious Florida sunshine and watched two of my dear friends, and about 35,000 of their comrades, complete the Boston Marathon in cold, freezing rain. Knowing the level of commitment, discipline, and tenacity it takes to accomplish any marathon, much less qualifying for one of the most prestigious races of our time, I was in awe and inspired. Wow.
Then, I took to social media to share in the energy of the running community, where my friends were posting their reactions to the finish. One post stood out for all of the hearts that surrounded it; my friend Denise had highlighted an element of the race that made me grin from ear to ear. It is a story of self-doubt, selflessness, and what I hope it a sign of the radicalization of our time.
You may have already heard it, but I am going to tell it again, and tell you about three things that 2018 Boston Marathon winner Desi Linden did that makes her like you and me, and which look to me like the extended hand of camaraderie.
She Had Doubts
It’s hard for me to imagine that a person who has run as many races as it takes to qualify for the Boston Marathon at such an elite level would ever doubt themselves, but Linden admits that in the early stages of the race, she wasn’t sure that she would finish. Now, most marathon runners will tell you that their goal is simply to finish the race, but we know that they have something much more specific in mind. So while her context of finishing a marathon may differ from yours and mine, the concept of self-doubt is universal. We doubt whether we can make it to the gym three times in the week, or if we can resist the nachos at the ballpark, or if we can keep the weight off once we’ve lost it. Knowing that an elite athlete who I admire has the same doubts that I do helps me feel more willing to keep going despite my own.
She Had Help
Desi Linden crossed the finish line alone, but she didn’t get there alone. None of us do this amazing stuff on our own. Somewhere along the way, people have helped us, supported us, and given us a leg up so we could get our footing and carve out a little place for ourselves in the world. We may think we’re self-made people, but we’re not. Having a strong network of support and guidance is not reserved for professional athletes or celebrities; it is part of what everyone deserves and needs to achieve greatness. Reaching and sustaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy, and we all need a little help from our friends. If you don’t have ready access to people who support and cheer for you along the way, look online at the hundreds of positive communities dedicated to just that. Join one. Give the same to others. Ask for help and be the help.
She Had Perspective
Now this is the part of the story that I want to really zero in on. You may have heard by now that during the race, Desi Linden’s teammate and fellow runner, Shalane Flanagan, defending champion of the 2017 New York City Marathon, veered off the course about halfway through the race to duck into a port-a-potty. And in a move that was fueled both by camaraderie and strategy, Linden waited for her. She waited for her competitor to rejoin the race. And as they returned to the front of the pack together, Linden eventually pulled ahead and won the race.
So what does this have to do with healthy living? We all have doubts. We all need help. And even though there is a big skill gap between us and the people who win marathons, there is not a gap in our ability to persevere, especially when we are willing to slow down and help each other to the finish line. In an age when competitive advantage and political rivalries dominate the news, sometimes the greatest gains are made when we work together.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!