Psych me up

Nothing we do is ever done in a vacuum. Whether you are an author, a runner, or a patient finishing their last treatment of chemotherapy, there is a team of support that helps to make things happen. Sure, one person is the individual who actually completes, leads, and wins  – but along the way there are many, many others who assist the process.

People who are at the forefront of these events have the determination, the drive, the natural talent, special abilities, or -in cases- the misfortune of a disease. They differ from the rest of us simply because we are not the one in their position. Everyone has their own personal goals or challenges to master.

We don’t necessarily need to be at the forefront of something, either, to benefit or need the support of others. I will never win a race or be as fast as some of the people I run and train with. But my goals, and pursuit of them, are my own challenges. As I progress towards these goals, I realize how much support means to me and how much I need it.

When I recently wrote about my friend Matt what struck me the most were his comments of how much he fed off and appreciated the support of his team. [Matt ran the Zion 100 mile race and finished third, with an amazing push in the last 15 miles from 9th place]. Given that running for almost an entire day (and night) gives you a lot of time to think, Matt mentioned how much he thought about all the support he had not only on the course, but at home as well. A lot of people knew Matt was running this race and were keenly interested in his journey – people he works with, who saw him run, who trained with him, or read about his mission of running for the greater good. A collective and physical energy followed him through his race.

I run a lot of my runs solo now; I’ve moved away from the group dynamic because of choice and circumstance. What I miss the most is the companionship and, through this, the encouragement. Something as simple as having another body present, doing the same thing, is both motivating and comforting.

I do have other external supports though. There are random strangers – there is the lady I see with her dog most days I go for a run. She smiles and waves; sometimes she says “Good job.”  My husband is my biggest support. He asks about each run, makes time for my runs, and encourages me in my process. He is also supportive of another support: my coach.


My coach provides not only my training routine, he also provides support. A good coach finds an athlete’s strengths and works on nurturing those aspects. They find what works for an athlete’s physical potential, but also how they can excel mentally.

There now exist these kinds of mental supports in races as well. Much like having your own cheering section, some races have volunteer sports psychologists who monitor athletes as they run. They provide motivation and encouragement to help alleviate stress and anxiety. They give external feedback to support the best in everyone.

While we each must meet our own challenges and overcome what we fear, it’s nice to know that a complete stranger can believe in our ability. It’s comforting to know there are those along the way to guide us and give us confidence when we may find that lacking. At very least, someone yelling in your general direction is enough to lift your spirits. You may not know them but you can draw from their goodwill. Thank goodness for spectators.


10 thoughts on “Psych me up

  1. I’ve heard that the bond between strangers running a full marathon together can be closer than friends who have known each other for years. There is something very encouraging about someone giving you a look, or a simple pat on the back. They know where you’re coming from, and you know they can help you get to where you’re going.

    • I think when you share a struggle with someone you understand them in a way that is a different bond than regular life. Helping someone break through personal boundaries (like the physical and mental tests in a marathon) is a little different than having them over for burgers. You can be encouraging because you know what kind of encouragement is needed.

  2. Tania, your post made me think of a time when I did a really hard race. The last two miles were all up hill! It was crazy hard, and I really wanted to give up. At the very end, there was this lady cheering for me, a complete stranger, and she made all the difference! Because of her, I kept going. It’s amazing what a little cheering can bring.

    • Amy,
      I love your story.
      When someone is cheering for you it’s like the external reminder to believe in yourself. You don’t have to *do* anything or change your mind about anything — there must be some endorphins that flood your brain and remind you that heart > brain and you can keep going and finish.

    • It’s so true that the trust and confidence of a support team is often what we fall back on. Since they worked so hard to get you to where you are, the least we can do is work hard to finish. So much nicer to celebrate with support when you are done, too!

  3. Indeed, spectators are great! in 2010, I trained for and completed my first marathon. I walked the entire journey. It would have been much more challenging had it not been for the spectators cheering and encouraging me along. One kind soul even brought out PBJ sandwiches for us:-)

    I enjoyed reading this post. I look forward to exploring your blog.

    • I’ve heard that in some races (Boston particularly) the crowds are so deafening that you can’t even hear yourself think. Then when you pass by the noise your ears ring from the echo of it all. I think running through that would be pretty uplifting.
      Love the PBJ sandwich spectator. What a great idea.

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