Saturday morning, this was the exchange in our family room:
Husband: What are you doing?
Me: Setting up the TV and DVR to watch the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Me: Because I’m going to watch them. (Duh).
Husband: You are going to watch all of it?
Me: Yes. (Again, duh).
Husband: You are going to watch people run 26.2 miles?
Confession: I not only watched the full marathon coverage, I watched some of it twice, mostly from an elliptical trainer because nothing invokes guilt quite like watching people run a marathon while you have your rear end planted firmly on a couch.
Husband’s incredulity notwithstanding, watching the marathon coverage was very much a family affair in our house this weekend, in part because in our brush-with-fame moment, we know two of the elite runners who on Saturday made their way to the start line at the Olympic Trials. They are a brother-sister duo, the oldest children in The.Nicest.Family.Ever., and because of that you cannot help yourself but to root for them with all that you have as they pursue their dreams.
As much as these two athletes drew me to the marathon coverage, it was the whole of the event that kept me glued to the screen. Watching these professional runners take on the course was captivating to me. Mostly, it is because I know what it takes to run 26.2 miles, but I have absolutely no way of completely understanding the level of God-given talent, commitment, training, and heart that brought these athletes to that moment, that race. It is simply beyond me, and I am in awe. Watching them, there seemed to be lessons to be learned.
1. Dream Big – But Be Ready to Follow It Up With A Hell of A Lot of Focused Hard Work
All of the athletes who qualified for the Olympic Trials know how to dream big and name their goals. But none of them expect someone else to hand them their successes. The combined hours of training, days fighting injury, and opportunities they have foregone for the sake of pursuing their dreams are almost incalculable. You have to admire it, if not aspire to emulate it, in your own life.
2. Pursue What You Love
My theory behind lesson #1 is this, lesson #2: Work does not feel as much like work when you are pursuing what you love. I am not sure whether it is a personal motto or family creed, but Running Joyfully pretty much defines the attitude of the sister of the sibling duo – so much so that she authors a blog by the same name. Along the same lines, if you watched coverage of any of the pre- or post-marathon interviews, you know this to be true: These athletes are not just pursuing their goals, they are pursuing their passions, and they love what they do.
3. Practice Efficiency
There was rarely a wasted effort on the marathon course on Saturday. This was most evident when the runners grabbed their nutrition bottles to take down their fuel. Me, when I need to fuel up mid-run, I generally see it as an opportunity to walk a spell while leisurely enjoying my chews or beans like an afternoon snack. The elite runners? They take it down without breaking a stride. What I found most interesting about this is Galen Rupp, the winner of the Men’s Marathon Trial, who had never run a marathon before Saturday and, hence, had never had to (literally) juggle the grab for bottles while running the race. If the feel-good piece in the middle of the marathon coverage is to be believed, the first few times he tried to fuel up in practice, he literally dropped the water bottle. And so he practiced until he could grab and go without dropping the bottle or missing a stride. When seconds count, efficiency counts. Good to know.
4. Everyone Needs a Team and Cheerleaders
At this level, the athletes have teammates and coaches, sponsors and fans. If they are lucky, and I would like to think that most of them are, they also have family, spouses, and friends who have been there throughout this journey and who are intimately familiar with the time and effort it took for these runners to get to the start line of the U.S. Olympic Trials. More than any other lesson, it is this one that I can relate to most. Because the need to be supported is a simple human need, and knowing that you have people who are rooting for your success can sometimes make all of the difference.
5. We Are Stronger and Better When We Work Together
Saturday was a hot day in L.A., not what you want when you are running 26.2 miles on asphalt. Do you know what I did not see? Runners hoarding water bottles. What I did see was runners dousing each other with water or passing water bottles between them. It did not matter what team jersey they were wearing, or whether they were vying with each other for a position at the front of the pack, they helped each other out. Even more – watch Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan talk each other through the race. People write about the camaraderie among runners. I have seen no better example of it than in this particular race.
We all have dreams and goals, some that are too scary to even articulate. I like to think that I will achieve some of mine. If I can remember to practice even some of what I learned on Saturday, I like my odds.