What A Marathon Can Teach You


Christine Moriarty is a forty-year-old Certified Financial Planner and speaker who recently ran the Boston Marathon. Please note: she is not a professional runner. Christine, with whom I happen to lead workshops, is simply someone who had a dream, and inspired by a tragedy, went on to fulfill it. Her story is so great, and so touching, I just had to share it with you.

First, the facts: Christine is a casual jogger -someone who ran off on and on for the last twenty years. The Boston marathon is open only to 20,000 registered runners, and is the biggest and oldest marathon. It attracts world class runners, and numbers are next to impossible to get, unless you're already a ranked runner … or you represent a charity, and are running to raise money.

Christine grew up watching the Boston Marathon, and was always intrigued by the idea of running it. Yet, twice before, she was unable to get a number or suffered training injuries that took her out of the competition. Finally, while sitting on beach in August of 2002, she decided to go for it by running with Billy, a friend of her brother and her family's. Not long after that, she began to waver.

Then her brother died suddenly. "My brother was a caricaturist, an athlete and my best friend, and I was devastated. That night I sat in the kitchen with two of my friends, and said, 'I need to run the marathon.' It just came at me as this impulse and I grabbed it as my lifeline, very unconsciously."

What followed was training in the coldest winter in Vermont in fifty years. More than 30 days had daytime highs below ten degrees F. Still, Christine pushed on, running five to eight miles per day, some days up to fourteen miles. She also organized a benefit fund in memory of her brother, to help her qualify for a number. Still getting a number remained elusive; her enthusiasm began to flag.

Christine asked everyone she knew if they could help her get a number, including her mother, who knew someone named Denise who's brother had run it. I said, "Fine, Mom … and I didn't think much of it." On a particularly bleak day in January, when Christine was just about ready to quit, a number to the marathon arrived in the mail. Turns out Denise's brother actually ran the organization of the marathon, and he got her in.

"Then," says Christine, "I knew I was destined to do it. I ran through all my business travel as a speaker. I'd just put on my sneakers, and my watch, and run for two hours."

The day of the race was hot, and it took 22 minutes just to get across start. Christine and her running buddy separated in the throng. Then, halfway through she got abdominal cramps. At that moment, a friend showed up and gave her oranges, and she just kept running slowly. Then Billy reappeared. Then it was 16 miles, and they had ten more miles. She thought she'd never make it, but Billy kept telling her to take it one mile at a time. Then at mile 18, the four-mile Heartbreak Hill started… this is the place where most people quit.

But Christine was used to running hills from her mountain town in Vermont. She also knew that at her family would soon appear. At mile 21, her cousin jumped in, telling everyone to cheer for her. He carried a big sign that said she was running in memory of her brother. On the front was a sketch her brother had done of runners, that Christine had never seen before. "So now I was running and crying; I was so touched. Then my 14-year-old nephew jumped in … I only had four miles to go and I was cranking."

"When I rounded a corner and saw the finish, I thought, 'I'm running the Boston Marathon… and I'm about to finish!' There was no one ahead of me for 100 yards and no one behind me for 100 yards, and I think they're all cheering for me and I'm about to win!"

Christine finished the marathon in 5 hours, 18 minutes and 30 seconds, placing in the last thousand.

"I was in a daze, just looking around, shocked I'd done it. My old support team, my brother, was gone. And now I had a new one - my cousin, my nephew, my sister-in-law who drove me home, my brother's friend Billy … my friends from Vermont who came to Boston."

The Big Lesson:

"When I got sick in the middle, I suddenly saw that I was trying to hang on to my old life - and that this marathon was really about moving forward into a new life. I hadn't wanted to do that without my brother. But the minute I pushed through the pain, and kept going, all these supporters showed up, and I was able to finish."

Suzanne Falter-Barns is a best selling self-help author, and happy host of howmuchjoy.com, where you can find practical tools and tips for living your dream. Check our her ezine, The Joy Letter, for a bi weekly shot of inspiration at http://www.howmuchjoy.com