After the inaugural year of the a psyching team at the Hartford Marathon, some of the athletes reached out to the Springfield College Athletic Counseling program to express their gratitude and experiences with the psyching team....
"Yesterday I ran the Hartford Half Marathon. It was the first half marathon I have ever done and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I hit the wall at mile 8 and every step was a fight. At mile 13 I met one of your students. I was running alone and she asked if I wanted company to help push me the last bit. I agreed and she explained that she was part of the sport psychology program and they come down to help. I honestly didn't think I could run more step but with her help I jogged to the finish and with a walk break finished jogging. Her kindness now still touches me and that your program does this is awesome. THANK YOU!"
"I wanted to send a quick note thanking you for the support of your students during the Hartford Marathon this past weekend. I have completed several half marathons over the past 3 years, however never completed a full marathon. I would not have been able to complete my goal this past weekend if it wasn't for the help of one of your first year students, Taryn. I met Taryn around mile 8 when I was struggling a bit, and she stayed with me until I reached the 13 mile mark. Taryn helped me by using several tactics which helped tremendously to not think about how much longer I had to the finish, but how much I had ready completed. In addition, she gave me a safety pin with a "piece of the finish line" which I kept in hand for most of the race, and crossed the finish line with it pinned to my shirt. Again, if it wasn't for her on Saturday I probably would not have been able to reach my goal of completing my first marathon. Can not put into words how much I appreciate the time of everyone who volunteered this weekend. I'm sure I am not the only runner your psyching team has touched."
Columbus Marathon Psyching Team
After the inaugural year of the Columbus Marathon Psyching Team, many athletes approached the team to express gratitude and explain the benefits they received from working with the team. The most poignant response received was from an athlete who attended both seminars provided in the months before the race and approached the table at the booth to talk with team members....
I just wanted to say thank you to you and your team for all of your help, advice and inspiration leading up to and during the race. At the first meeting I was scared and nervous. I was new to running and didn't really know how to handle some of the things I was feeling emotionally during my training runs. Your team taught me to be my own best friend, to stop beating myself up and encourage myself, to stop telling myself the things that i would never say to anyone else. I learned to have a mantra and come up with other positive words to help change my mindset when the negatives started to creep in.
At the second meeting there was a guy that talked about his training with triathletes. He talked about breaking the race down into smaller sections and having a phrase or reminder for each section. I had been having difficulty running my full distances once my long runs got to mile 6. I started using his advice. On race day miles 1-3 were "take it slow and get warmed up". Mile 4-6 were "settle in and find your pace". Miles 7-9 were "you have made it halfway, now head for home". Miles 10-11 were "this is normal, I'm ok, everyone feels this". Mile 12-13 was "run for those angels that didn't get the chance" and the last .1 mile was "go get your medal". FYI...I love medals!!! Once I implemented this process I was able to run the full distance for the rest of my training runs. I can't put into words just how much that advice helped me. It completely changed the way I felt during my runs. Any time the negatives crept in I just repeated my mantra for those miles and overpowered them. It was like I could stop the negatives before they had the chance to become a full thought. That same speaker had us gather closely at one end of the room and simulated what it was like to be in the corrals and start the race. No one really talks about that! I'm glad he did. Come race day, I knew what to expect and it wasn't a surprise. It's a piece I never would have thought to prepare for on my own.
Crossing the starting line was one of the most stressful parts of the race for me. I was excited and anxious, nervous, caught behind people slower than me, watching people faster go by, trying not to start out to fast or too slow, catching my first glimpse of spectators, looking at signs, hearing the cheers. I was glad I wasn't completely blindsided. But if there is one thing I wish I had more preparation for, that was it. I was taught that when the body holds stress you should exaggerate the tension of those muscles and then release. I used this around mile 9 of the race. I noticed that I had "angry face" and was leaning forward because I was shrugging my shoulders. I followed your advice and was able to relax a little. Not only did it help release some of the stress, but it also gave me something else to focus on for a few minutes.
At the Expo I had a great conversation with Jacqui and her husband. they shared some of their racing experiences and gave me some tips. It was great just to feed off of their excitement and encouragement. I left the expo feeling positive, ready, enthusiastic. My best training runs were always in the days after the Get Psyched events and I knew race day would be no different.
It was great to see your friendly face in my corral on race day. I was freezing. But the excitement of seeing someone I knew, that had so much positive energy and made me feel like they were there to support me got me all excited. It was the weirdest thing. But strangely, I felt warmer when I walked away. And Somehow, while i was trying to explain to you just how ready I was to get going, I managed to convince myself. I was told I needed to set 3 goals for race day. My goals were to finish, not finish last, finish in under two hours and forty minutes, and run the full distance (no walking).
I crossed the finish line in two hours and thirty two minutes, ahead of 2,405 other runners and...I ran the whole race!!! No walking!!! My piece of finish line ribbon made his way safely back to his friends. I earned my medal. I accomplished all of my goals. I feel proud. I feel confidant. I wore my medal all day, even to the Blue Jackets game that night. I took my medal to work today and shared with all of my coworkers. I have no doubt that the things I learned at your events helped me accomplish those goals. I can't thank you and your team enough for everything you taught me and the encouragement you provided. I really don't think I could have accomplished all of my goals without you guys. I had terrible mental blocks that your team helped me overcome. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
Toronto Marathon Psyching Team
"Thanks again for last weekend. Managed to break 5hr barrier last Sunday. At 35km I started to cramp; it takes a while to work it out. With around 1km to go, a shrink on a bike was talking to me. Difficult to hear with my Rocky theme song "Gonna Fly" on, but I think the girl with the headband [Psych on Bike] distracted me and I was able to get a personal best. I picked up the pace in that last 1km. Better to talk to a shrink on a bike at the end than a medic..."
"I was a participant in the full marathon earlier today. I am contacting you to express my gratitude to your staff. C-- was a very close friend of our family and his wife is my best friend. Upon crossing the finish line I was immediately approached by a volunteer, Anthony [a Psyching Team member], and was advised that C-- had collapsed near the finish line of the half marathon, was critically ill and had been taken to hospital, where my husband was also waiting for me. I immediately sensed that C-- was not going to make it. Anthony never left my side and never let go of my hand. He drove me to the hospital. There, we were accompanied by [another member of the psyching team] - the same psyching team member who walked with my husband to the hospital and helped him deal with his fear and grief. We never anticipated that this was the type of support we would need at the race—but it was there for us and helped us both tremendously.
As I am sure you now know, C-- could not be revived and we are all in shock. May I please ask two things of you: please pass on my sincere gratitude to both Anthony and the other psyching team member for the help they provided to my husband and I."
"I ran the Waterfront Marathon 3 weeks prior to this race with the support of my family. Not satisfied with my time, I entered the Toronto Marathon. Race day comes and my wife and our 5 children attend to cheer me on. Several check points throughout the race I meet up with my family as they encourage me. I finish the race in just under 4 hours. After the finish line I can't gather enough strength to make it through the chute. I'm forced to sit down, stretch, get up, only to make it a couple of steps further. My wife, breaking the rules a little, enters the chute area and helps me through. I have never felt so drained, with the lack of strength to stand on my own. I'm in tears from the pain and my family is scared and crying at the sight of seeing me this way. Then this volunteer shows up out of nowhere and begins his incredible act of kindness that words cannot begin to describe our gratitude. He and my wife practically carry me to the medical tent. From there he runs to get me ice. Then they carry me to the massage tent. While my wife stays with me, he takes our 5 children and gets them something to eat (bananas) and remains with them for 15 min. while I try to gather the strength to make it to our car. We never got his name. To that volunteer, Thank you! People like you are truly heroes."
"THANK YOU PSYCHING TEAM. I Had an AWESOME first marathon on Sunday!!!! The only thing I regret is not being more supportive to my fellow runners and more appreciative to those who supported me along the way. So this is to say thank you and tell you what your team did to help me attain such a great experience. I first read about the team as I was scrolling through the Toronto Marathon web site in August after I had already registered. I thought it was a great thing you guys were doing and I printed off the “Be Smart… Run Smart! And put it away for later use.
My Running Story… I started training for the marathon after completing my 3rd half in --- in May. My reasons for running were to ease pain in my life, get thinner, be a better person and it was something I wanted to do. I ran with a terrific group from the --- Running Room, led by a fantastic group leader, --- ---. There I learned the ins and outs of running, to say the least. I soaked it all up like a sponge. Since I was at the cottage with my two kids all summer I did 90 % of my runs by myself which I quite enjoyed. It was a difficult summer emotionally so the chance to escape to my running was welcome. Also during this time I was returning home for visits with my therapist to try to work through the painful issues in my life. September came and I developed an eating disorder including starvation for a period as a way to attempt suicide, in addition to forming several other back up plans…. As the race date approached I decided that I would hang on to complete the marathon. As I was getting weaker and my body started showing signs of damage, I realized I couldn’t starve and run a marathon at the same time, so I ate to fuel my running and tried hard not to purge.
Thursday before the race I received devastating news and decided that would be the day to die… but if it was a failed attempt, I’d be admitted to a hospital and not be able to run, which would be unacceptable, so I held off some more.
Friday, I picked up my race kit. I knew your team wouldn’t be at the Expo until Saturday but I was happy to see you’d left several “psyching tips” sheets that I took.
Saturday after dropping my kids off at a birthday party I went to a coffee shop and started my intense homework to “psych” myself up for the race. I worked through each sheet and then wrote a cheat sheet to keep with me during the race. On the front of the Be Smart Run Smart page I wrote all my positive affirmations and reasons for running (positive) that I ever heard and could remember, including the ones listed in the psych sheets. This was hard to do since virtually all runs this summer I used negative self talk to get through my runs as a punishment to myself. On the back of the sheet I used “developing a race strategy” and recorded my race plan; on the bottom half of the page I wrote out my plans for every situation.
Here’s what I wrote:
Perfect Race: SUCCEED, Meet goals of 1) Finishing 2)3:5-:--
Pain: Fix it if you can, check form, start at the head, I can run through it and recover later, SUCCEED
Fatigue: Gel/Fluid, Recover later, it’s temporary; distract self by crowd, music, mental affirmations, SUCCEED
Self-doubt: Remember reasons for running, positive thinking, SUCCEED
Decide now how you will forgive yourself then was my only non-positive statement on the sheet.
I absorbed all of the information on all of the pages and visualized my race with and without setbacks.
I followed all of my running room advice in regards to last day nutrition as best I could, sleep and hydration, check lists etc...The morning of the race: I was a tiny bit emotional when my kids were saying over and over how proud they were for me. This is good because I’ve been completely numb for a long time to any emotion. They showed me a banner they and all my extended family made for me saying “go mommy go” and the kids put painted hand prints and each person signed it, more tears. I also wrote on my arm “pain is temporary, glory lasts forever.” In the car on the way there I reviewed the “psych” sheets and my plan and did visualization exercises. All morning I was calm, focused and clear for the first time I could remember. I met with some running room friends at the start and told them I’d be running by myself, but good luck.
The Race: EVERYTHING went better than planned. My cottage training prepared me for the hills which I didn’t notice until the very end. I kept telling myself I love hills and I do. I took all my gels and Gatorade when planned, I loved running a hometown race with my family and friends cheering me on and the Psyching Team on bikes and people I knew who were cheering for others that were old neighbours or co-workers or old friends etc… I loved running in my old Toronto neighbourhood and along the lake and downtown. I truly enjoyed the experience every step of the way. I wasn’t tired at all or injured and I didn’t let negative thoughts enter my mind, somehow. I made my 10 km and 21.1 km splits 6-7 minutes faster than plan.
One of the sheets she talked about assessing your plan at a certain point. For me the race was to start at 30 km since I’d run 32 km with no problem before. I agreed the last 12.2 were going to be the unknown territory. I planned to assess at 30km if I would meet goal #1 and finish or #2 kick ass. At 29 km I looked at my watch and it said 2:45.00. It hit me that I could run 12km in 1 hour as I’d done before. I was feeling so strong. I gave myself 2 km to decide. At 31 km I called my husband for the 5th time during the race and said, “Change of plans I’ll be there at 3:45 not 4:00!” I abandoned the 10 and 1 walks, but didn’t feel too guilty since I’d been listening to my body the whole time and still planned to assess each km and could always add the walks back in if needed. I planned approx. 5 min/km’s and took off, focused for the first time; I looked at the pavement, turned up the iPod and said you can do this. As I passed other runners I thought maybe I’m peaking too early and I’ll bonk, oh well, I’ll learn from experience. I slowly declined from a 8/10 to a 6/10, by the last 2 km I was a 5. Starting out I planned to end with nothing left, possibly a 0. Instead, I stayed at a 5 the rest of the way.
When I heard them calling out other runners’ names and times I realized I wasn’t going to make -- (the Boston qualifying time). Instead of accelerating I held my pace until the last little bit, then sprinted to the finish. My family was there to cheer me on and I happily crossed the mat with a chip time of 3:4-:--. I felt I could have kept running forever. I didn’t realize since it wasn’t on my goal radar that Boston was 3:45:59 not 3:45:00. So I was -- seconds over! Had I known, I for sure could have made it, taking out one of the 5 phone calls to my husband, one walk break etc….
On a positive note, I more than achieved my 1) finish 2) 3:5-:-- and hit a few other unexpected goals, a reverse split on a more challenging 2nd half, almost qualified for Boston, had an experience of a lifetime and was alive when only 3 days before I had almost chosen death.
So now the race is over. I didn’t physically look at the sheet during the race, but I referred to it for sure. I plan to laminate it use for future challenges or for my kids who I’m sure will run into situations where mental Training will be required. I’m not sure what’s in store for me, but maybe I’ll try to qualify for Boston 2009. In any case, the one regret, as I said at the beginning is how selfish I’ve been this whole summer and if nothing else I wanted to say thank- you to those who supported me and helped me along the way. The “Psyching Team” helped me more than you can ever know. So Thank-You again!"