On November 1, 2015, I had the privilege of serving as a volunteer at the NYC marathon. I was part of a subgroup within a larger medical team called the “Psyching Team.” We were a group of mental health professionals interested and passionate about keeping marathoners focused and motivated throughout the race. This was the first year I served as a volunteer, and did not know what to expect. Needless to say, the marathoners did more for me than I did for them. The experience reiterated important lessons that I would like to share with you in the hopes of creating more awareness, hope, and value in humanity.
I was stationed at the finish line, and was humbled to be there. The first marathon participants to cross the line were those with physical disabilities. People were crossing in specialized bicycles, wheelchairs, etc. People had varying disabilities from being paralyzed, to not having limbs, or other physical ailments.
These marathoners reminded me that embracing life’s challenges provides you another way to accomplish your goal. They completed the marathon WITH their disability. They taught me that RESILIENCE and CREATIVITY are key elements to overcoming challenge. They taught me that yes, it is difficult to take on a challenge; but nonetheless, we’re able to create this opportunity by being open to a new approach. Resilience is powerful.
How are you resilient? Did life throw you something that you weren’t expecting? How did you rise to the occasion? That’s what these marathon participants reiterated to me. They reminded me that HOPE ignites the opportunity to find a different route to get where we want and need to be.
Another life lesson that was spotlighted for me was the importance of GENUINE HUMAN CONTACT AND CONNECTION. Being there to greet all of the marathoners at the finish line evoked emotions in me that I was not expecting. Some marathoners looked elated, others looked tired and a bit disoriented from being overly hydrated or dehydrated. Others were overcome with emotion. And others needed to connect with someone after being on the 26-mile route for several intense hours. Whether it was about untying someone’s shoes, opening up their water bottles, or giving them my congratulations, there was something about these exchanges that meant so much more.
That’s where I sat with the value of ACKNOWLEDGING other’s people presence and accomplishments. For example, there was a man in his 70’s who only spoke Italian, and was trying to communicate with everyone that he had just finished his 29th marathon in United States. No one understood him, and when I replied in Italian, he had a moment of looking stunned and relieved. He hugged me and said, “You understand me!” And I gave him my congratulations. I asked for his name, addressed him with his name, and praised him for his accomplishments. The gratitude and power that came with this connection is indescribable in words. All I can say that I learned how important it is to humanize those around me at all times.
Participating in this marathon was more than coaching other people---it was about CONNECTION, HOPE, and BEING PRESENT. It was about believing that we, as people, are resilient and need connection. We need to achieve goals for ourselves, and appreciate it when others acknowledge our accomplishments. It is these connections that give us the hope to take risks, the resilience to do so, and the power to move on with our lives.
About the Author
Dr. Cristina Dorazio is a New York State licensed psychologist and owner of her private practice, Unity Psychological Consulting, PLLC. She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University and her specialties include: women’s reproductive health, couples counseling, mindfulness, and career coaching. You can find more information about her practice at: www.unitypsych.org.