Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hope is a 4 letter word

What makes Boston such a great marathon is the crowds. While making it from the start to the finish may not rank as a significant event for most people, to the runners who have spent months preparing for this day there is a lot of personal investment tied up in the goal. And the hundreds of thousands of smart spectators in Boston know this. In the old days, when the number of runners were smaller, the Boston Globe use to print all the runner's names and numbers in the morning paper. Spectators would make a game out of looking up the numbers and yelling out the names of the runners along with encouragement. There's nothing sweeter at the 21 mile mark than hearing your name called out along with "looking great, nice job" (except maybe a handful of jelly beans). It doesn't even matter how bad you feel, or that you really look like road kill, it gives you a bit of a lift. Since those days I've started putting my name on my shirt. Yeah it's a cheap trick but it works and I'll take any help I can get to make it through the day. And on this day it is a team effort, the support of the crowd, the support of the volunteer medical teams, and the support of the water stop crews all contribute. We just have to do the running.
I was out for a run the other day and I was thinking (there's a scary thought...guy on the windy (as in crooked...not blustery) back roads, in the dark, thinking instead of paying attention to dodging cars) about what keeps people going when they face all kinds of setbacks. My wife will tell you that in my case sometimes it's pure stubborn single mindedness. Certainly that has gotten me through more than a few marathons in the past.

In marathon training, hope plays a big role. I hope if I put in the training and get enough long runs I will be ready on marathon day. I hope it doesn't rain, or snow, or is too hot. I hope I don't get blisters or hurt before the race or on race day. But in most cases this is just wishful thinking. So what if does rain, or you get tripped in the crowd at the start or you get a cramp in your neck while trying to check out the girls lining the route in Wellesley (not that it would ever happen to me...but I know this guy...). How we handle adversity when our fondest hopes or wishes don't come true defines who we are. Certainly training in New England winters gives you plenty of opportunity to test that theory.

But HOPE also has a different meaning. Wikipedia defines it as an emotional state different from positive thinking. Hope is the emotional life jacket that we hang on to when everything around us seems to be crumbling. The real test of the word is when you face those really hard times that life throws at you like the loss of a job, your home, a child or spouse, or a long term or critical illness. Often times it is the HOPE that if I keep moving forward things will get better.

Ever notice how much easier it is to get your "hopes up" when you are surrounded by teammates, or family, or fellow workers supporting you? I like to think about hope as a light that needs power to shine. Everyone can give a bit to it themselves but it shines brightest when there is support to help. And much like we as marathoners have gotten support from running with each other and will get support from crowds on race day, the organizations we are running for are all about handing out support and hope. It's really not about the soup, or food pantry, or homeless shelter or medical help. All those are necessary but they really are just a proxy for giving a person hope that they are not alone, that their children won't have to go to bed hungry, that they won't spend another night sleeping in their car, that things will get better and that they can make it through another day.

Yesterday I ran my last long run before marathon day. From here we taper so the legs will get a chance to rest. Nothing we do from here will positively affect our ability to survive the day and certainly it could hurt it. I wasn't sure when I re-started the training with one mile the first week of Jan. if I would make it this far but with a lot of support from my team mates, friends and family...well here I am. I'm definitely the worst trained I've ever been but assuming all goes well over the next few weeks I'll be there at the start.

I want to thank all of you for your support, both the kind thoughts you've offered and the donations. I wish you could all see the faces of the people you help and the hope that you give them. It rivals the feeling crossing the finish line in Boston. And for that feeling I'll run 26 miles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
While I'm not very good at commenting in a timely fashion to your blogs, my thoughts come to you from my heart. Your dedication to all of your family and efforts to honor less fortunate individuals down on their luck at his moment in time, as well as your dedication and unending love for your wife and children is amazing and wonderful! You are one of God's brightest lights and I know I strive to be a better person as a result of your role modeling. God bless you and I know that Nick is shining down on you from heaven proud of his Dad and how you truly "Live Life Large" in your good deeds and joy of life!
With lots of love and gratitude,