My Performance Enhancing Drug: Confidence

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

Today I had the honor of meeting Dave McGillivray, race director for the Boston Marathon. He was speaking in Bethlehem to announce that he will be the keynote speaker at our half-marathon this October. I was there to represent Runner’s World with some of my co-workers, as well as write a story about the announcement (see the story here). I also edit Dave’s blog on our site but this was the first time I was able to really meet him in person.

Dave spoke to a group of us, including kids from the local chapter of the Mighty Milers, an organization managed by the NYRR to help get kids moving. His speech was mostly directed towards the kids but his words resonated with all of us. The part that stuck with me the most however was this:

“There’s a phenomenon going on in the industry right now, the walls of intimidation have crumbled,” Dave said. “People now believe that they can do this.”

Dave was a “last pick” kid growing up, meaning he would be the remainder at gym class when it came to picking teams. He said his handicap was that he was “vertically challenged.” So, by default he took up running because anyone can run.

This resonated with me because although I played tennis and lacrosse in high school, I was far from being the team star. I played second doubles in tennis, not a great position, and was better at lacrosse but our team was new so we didn’t have varsity. My problem was I was very self-conscious. Other girls were better, faster, and stronger than me. So, instead of really pushing myself, and risking looking like an idiot, I took the easy way out and stayed back in the wings.

Dave said he loves his job as race director because he can say he raises the self-esteem and confidence levels of tens of thousands of people in America. This is what running does.

I didn’t know the power of running until I started in March 2012. But now I know the power it has over my self-confidence and will to persevere. I know that I may not be the fastest runner, but I’m strong and I can finish a race no matter how hard it may seem.

It’s been an interesting week in our running world. A survey was released noting the disparity between the haves and have-nots of elite runners. Tyson Gay tested positive for banned substances and everything coming out of the sports news world has talked about “will track ever escape the plague of doping.” (We admittedly wrote a lot about it too.) But what we lose sight of sometimes is, instead of focusing so much on those who get caught using banned substances, why don’t we shift the conversation to the clean athletes. Like Nick Symmonds who publicly tweeted his “supplement regimen” this week, which consisted of vitamins you can buy at CVS. And Lauren Fleshman who, just one month after given birth, has dropped the baby weight like a boss and is hitting training hard and clean. Or Kate Grace, the Oiselle phenom who is setting PRs and taking names. Or Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce who had the balls to take on the subject bluntly in a blog post last week.

These runners and so many other clean athletes have that confidence running gives them. They know the kind of self-esteem Dave was talking about today to the group of young runners. They know it because they are confident enough in their abilities as elite athletes to race against those who take the easy way out.

These are the runners I look up to. I’ll never be as fast as them but seeing their confidence gives me validation that I can do this. I can run and I will keep running.