In Search of Better Stories

Marathon Magic

     This past weekend, Vancouver hosted the BMO Marathon.

     Thousands of runners fill up our streets for twenty-six miles of grit, effort and determination. Thousands more line those streets to cheer them on. I am among them. My first responsibility is to cheer on my son. At fifteen, he’s already tackling his third marathon. I am proud of him, but as hundreds of runners rumble, race, limp, and amble by, I feel a sense of pride in them all. A sudden compulsion overcomes me. I cannot remain passive. I start to clap and cheer. I make eye contact, pointing out individual runners and calling their names (which are conveniently inscribed on their race bibs). When a runner, grim-faced and focused, hears me call their name or sees me looking at them, urging them on, a stunning transformation happens. Hard features melt into bright smiles and happy eyes. Their pace quickens. The encouragement acts like a boost thruster in a video game. The athletes gulp down my words. Magically, words are liquified and turned into performance-enhancing energy drinks! 

      Their grateful reception of my encouragement rebounds back in my direction, producing a joy-infusing dopamine hit of my own. Before I realize what’s happening, I take this thrill-inducing transaction to a whole new level. 

I stick out my hand. 

     The hand acts like the strongest magnet I have ever seen. Almost immediately, hundreds of runners are swept up in an irresistible gravitational pull towards my outstretched appendage. 

     Intuitively, the athletes know that their gruelling run will be a little easier if some helpful human touch can be incorporated into their race.  Big, strong men whack my hand, jarring my shoulder and wrist; other, more dainty runners chose a light touch as they bound by. Passionate runners wrestling with pain and discomfort opt for a quick squeeze. Comedic participants wind up like they are going to dislocate my elbow, only to withdraw force at the last possible second, barely grazing my skin and laughing as they roar by. Men and women, big and small, all humanity in its vast diversity and uniqueness, craves this happiness hit that magically comes from encouraging words and helpful touches.

     Soon, my son comes swiftly by.  We cheer and scream and high-five him. The jolt from that connection shoots him forward with renewed vigour like everyone else. He finishes the race, joy on his face, hands raised to the heavens. He’s set a new personal best, thanks in no small part to the thousands and thousands of people who have cheered and high-fived him onward to the finish line. 

     We all need encouraging words and touches, especially when doing hard things. To see someone struggling, to speak a word of encouragement, and to offer supportive touch are three of the best gifts we humans can give each other. 

     Enjoy the video below, which captures visually a little of what I’ve been talking about. 

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3 Responses

  1. Dennis, I LOVE this little story. You are simply the best dad and mom ever. You are so supportive of your beautiful kids. Well done. Haven’t seen you for ages. Hope all is well. Junie

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