5 Life Lessons from the Boston Marathon
Yesterday, I had a front row seat at history. The Boston Marathon. The oldest annual race. And it was epic.
Scores of people lined the Boston streets. From the starting line in a place called Hopkinton (a place I have yet to visit), to the city of Boston. In total an estimated one million people showed up to support more than 30,000 runners.
It might not seem like a big deal. Marathons happen all the time. But what it takes to complete a marathon is a big deal.
My first real introduction to the Boston Marathon came in 2013. I was working at KTXS News in Abilene, Texas. As the Education Reporter, I’m sure that on the day of race I was working on a story involving kids. That afternoon, our day and every one else’s day around the country was interrupted with news that a loud explosion went off at the Boston Marathon Finish Line. Then, another. The oldest annual race went from a celebration to a terrorist attack and a manhunt for the attackers. Live pictures on the news showed total mayhem.
Runners for the marathon come from everywhere. A co-worker of mine knew that we had local resident who were participating. Our next step was to track him down. A local Abilene doctor crossed the finish line right before the bombs went off. He made it to his hotel safely. He and I scheduled a phone interview and he played back the events leading up to the explosion and the aftermath. Getting back to Texas became a challenge for him as well, with terror threats on high alert.
That was my first introduction to the Boston Marathon.
While that conversation and the terrible effects of the terrorist will stay with me and many others forever–it was the way Boston came together as one body that left the biggest imprint.
After the bombing, you heard stories of the 264 injured, the three killed and the 21 survivors. You saw a city come together and rally around each other in love and support. The next year the marathon marched on. And now in 2016, another marathon is in the history books.
Six months ago, my husband and I moved to Boston from New York. It’s a city very familiar to him since he went to school in Cambridge. To me, I’m just getting to know Beantown. As soon as I got off of the “T,” or subway station to Boston’s city center, I could feel the energy. Excitement was in the air. People were waving signs to cheer on their friends and family.
There was no question police meant business. They were on every corner in yellow vests. Navigating the streets wasn’t easy. I walked down one street and the very next was blocked off. Not long after I got off the train, I asked a police officer, where is the best place to see the race. He directed me to section not far from the finish line. I followed a crowd of spectators to an opening. Before I could enter the section, my bag had to be inspected. I was given my blue tag–saying I was clear and I walked in. I nestled behind some people holding signs for their loved ones.
One by one, group by group, the runners passed us. Some fast, some slow, some walking, but all in the race. The cheering never stopped. When it got really loud, you knew people saw someone they knew. Every now and then a husband or wife would come of the path to kiss a spouse and then get back on course. I found myself ooowwwing and ahhhing and cheering for total strangers. It was that kind of moment. Infectious energy.
After a supporter would see their loved one, they would leave the viewing area and I would move up closer. After three people left, I was at the front of rail. Taking it all in.
Wow. How long did they prepare? I wonder if their feet hurt? What about their knees? How are they going to finish? Questions were flooding my mind.
Then, it hit me. This is exactly what life looks like. A marathon. A long, focused, journey that requires endurance and perseverance until the finish line. Sometimes there’s pain and hopefully a lot of joy.
After the race, many of the runners said they’d run other marathons, but Boston’s was the toughest. The hills, winds and other challenges. Boston is the big leagues.
And they had to prepare for months to get here. Not just their bodies, but their minds. To have the kind of focus and discipline it took to run 26. 2 miles.
I do know that not every participant finished. Mainly for injuries and that’s unfortunate. Again that’s life too.
On our journey we have bumps, bruises, highs, lows, challenges, opportunities, wins and setbacks. All while trying to make it to the finish line.
The winner of the men’s and the women’s races were both from Ethiopia. It’s the first time the country has grabbed both titles. You can read more about them here.
What I loved about the female winner Atsede Baysa is that she was behind for much of the race. It wasn’t until mile 21 that she came from the back and took the lead and by mile 24 she was alone and destined for the trophy. Nothing about her story says she sprinted out of the gate or that she was the front runner. In fact, officials were totally surprised she won!
Just her journey alone served as a reminder that slow and steady wins the race. You don’t have to be the front runner to finish first. That everyone else may count you out, but that doesn’t determine where you’ll end up in life. And that preparation is the key. Both winners of the men’s and women’s race had the same coach. A man who was reported to be tough and rigorous–and clearly the best.
I left inspired. Inspired to run the race of life with focus and determination. And with these five keys.
- Always prepare. People who show up prepared will always beat the ones who don’t. Even natural talent needs fine tuning.
- Look straight ahead. Don’t look to the left or to the right. You don’t need to see who’s running beside you. Focus solely on the race you’re running.
- Don’t pay attention to who’s in the lead. Just because they’re leading the pack now, doesn’t mean they will cross the finish line first. Just because we start at the same place, doesn’t mean we’ll finish together.
- Persevere through hills, the wind and curves that life sends you. It’s not about if they come, but when they come how will you respond. Press through and keep going.
- Endure until the end. How many opportunities will you have to quit? Numerous. Don’t give in. Keep going until you cross the finish line!
Our journeys are all different. Our pace is not the same. With 30,000 runners participating, people were crossing the finish line all day. The goal is to finish, better than you started.
I encourage you to run your race and remember life and the journey is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.