Boston 2018: Where Grit Conquers All
This year’s Boston Marathon was a case study in grit. Amidst the coldest race temperatures in three decades, heavy rain, and wind gusts of more than 25 mph, the gritty underdogs rose to the top. The Boston Globe wrote, “The Boston Marathon was all about who could weather the storm.” Weathering the storm takes grit.
Tough conditions create opportunity. In tough conditions – be it cold, heat, wind, rain – most let their mind get to them and slow down, or worse don’t show up. This creates an opportunity for those who might not be the favorites – but possess more mental fortitude – to rise to the top.
Going into Boston, Shalane Flanagan stood apart from the rest as America’s best hope to break our 33-year-old curse in the women’s Boston marathon. And then there was Desiree Linden. Best known for her impeccable pacing despite social pressures in races and strong finishes (due to her good pacing and strong mental fortitude), Desi had consistently placed 2nd or 3rd in major marathons. Never the favorite but always consistent. Despite feeling poorly during the first half of the race, Desi persevered using her grit and pacing to eventually break away from the wind-tattered competition and break the tape.
On the men’s side, there was Yuki Kawauchi, a little known tough-as- nails runner from Japan. Nicknamed the “citizen runner,” Yuki fits his training around a full-time job and has no corporate sponsors. Despite this, he holds the world record for the most marathons under 2hr 12min – 25 of them to be exact. Yuki is a hardworking, no flare runner who would excel in the exact conditions presented on Monday. In these familiar conditions, Yuki rose to the top.
Both athletes should serve as inspiration for you. In coaching, I believe one of my greatest responsibilities is to reveal the inner toughness that my athletes possess. This will prepare them for racing – and life – better than most anything else I can teach them. I think we all should aspire to be like Desi and Yuki – to embrace tough conditions because we are tougher than others in those conditions. Next time you encounter a tough race, think of these two.