By Kristin Metcalf
Almost a week has gone by since the Boston Marathon and I am still thinking about Des Linden. Why? Many reasons come to mind: I am a huge running fan and love watching all races. Thousands of runners like me have been waiting for this moment for 33 years: an American women crossing the finish line tape first. Boston this year had exceptionally nasty weather and everyone involved had to persevere despite those conditions. However, that’s not the reason that I keep thinking about her. If you listen to her post race interview she tells you that early in the race it wasn’t her day. She was doubting herself and believed that she wouldn’t finish. So when Shalane leaned over to Desi to say that she was going to run to the bathroom and that she would try and reconnect with the lead pack, what did Desi do? She told Shalane that she probably wasn’t going to finish the race so whatever she could do to help her she would. She decided to be selfless in that moment and slow her pace so that when Shalane came out she was between the lead pack and Shalane. She made a choice to help her get back up there because if she wasn’t going to have a chance at winning she wanted her American teammate to. Wow. Watching it all happen I couldn’t believe it but knowing this back story and watching it again later that night I was struck with something I knew from my own running story too.
When you are selfless, when you set your thoughts to helping others instead of yourself it is amazing what transpires. Your self doubt talk deep inside your head fades away because what you are left with is one mission – to help that other person succeed. Early on in my coaching experiences I was fresh out of college and just starting out with high school coaching. I was a bit burnt out from my own running because I had dealt with a long road back from injury and things weren’t working out. So this new coaching gig was a blessing in disguise. I had a purpose that combined my love for the sport and also my desire to help others. In the first five years of coaching I did things in workouts that I couldn’t do as well in my college years. Why? I was trained well in college and had a competitive environment surrounding me. It was because I was so deep in my own head and my own thoughts that I couldn’t let go. And when I was coaching and only thinking about my athletes succeeding it just happened and I cranked out paces and miles I didn’t think were possible.
So, maybe Desi’s selflessness can be a lesson for us all. When things aren't going your way, when you have lost the passion or the spirit within a training cycle or a race itself, stop and think about how you can help your teammate or your training/racing buddy succeed. Like Desi it might in fact be just what you need to pull yourself out of whatever hole you are in and it might give you that extra pep in your step to get to the next goal; whatever it might be.