Fueled by Intention: A Marathoner’s Perspective
By Charlene Trinh
The Road to Boston Starts with an Intention
As a marathoner who has run 12 marathons in the last 6 years, 4 of which were at the Boston Marathon, I find that my practice of setting intentionsas part of my training preparations has served me tremendously.
To be able to experience the Boston Marathon on race day was a dream come true for me. Andhaving my first experience of it be in 2014, the year after the bombing, was both emotional and unforgettable. I can still recall, standing there at the start line, it felt like the entire City’s population and the world’s running community were all united under one giant intention of “Boston Strong”. The early morning air was electric, charged with the thunderous clapping of excited spectators lined 3-rows deep, and the jostling of runners’ bodies as they worked to stay warm. I was nervous, and knew that others around me were also trying to shake off theirpre-race jitters.The amazing thing was that my nervousness instantly evaporated once the gun went offand the mass of runners started to lumber forward. I felt energized and upliftedbythe endless sea of spectators who were roaring their heartfelt cheers of encouragement and appreciation. The entire experience was utterly surreal.
Now mind you, it certainly was not part of my initialgoal to run Boston when I first started running. I remember being so intrigued by all of thecolorful race participants who ran past my neighborhood each year, and that curiosity for the sportturned into an ongoing love affair that continues to fuel my spirit. Soin January 2012,I finally signed up for my first half marathon in Huntington Beach, CA. Funny enough, I thought it was going to be a bucket list item, one that I was only going to check off once. As these things often go, I enjoyed the experience of training and racing so much that I jumped right back into another half marathonthat May, and then ultimately decided to go all the wayand signed up for my first full marathon that October.
Running a half marathon already sounded crazy at first, and now, I was planning to double that distance and go for 26.2 miles?! The idea of running a full marathon was both exciting and daunting at the same time. However, I figured that if I was to invest 4 months of grueling training, I might as well set an outlandish goal and see if I can use my first race to qualify for the Boston Marathon.So there I was, training for my first marathon and already I was dreaming of taking on that most iconic of races. As the positive thinker, Norman Vincent Peale, had once said, “Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” By aiming for something inspirationally lofty, even if I don’t achieve it, I would still be somewhere much, much better than where I started.
I knew that if my training efforts were to be focused solely on the particular goal ofmaking it to Boston, it surely would have been disheartening and fraught with self-doubt, because then my only options are to either succeed or fail, win or lose, all or nothing. This is anego-based perspective that can be very harsh and unforgiving. It isself-defeatingto measure success byone single outcome and nothing else is good enough.
So rather than fixating on qualifying for Boston, instead, I got clearas to what it would take from me to achieve that goal; in other words, what way of being must I embody in order to set myself up forsuccess. This led me to think about the tremendous dedication of those Bostonian athletes who trained in the rain, heat and snow, it didn’t matter,there would be no excuses. I knew that I had to embody the same strength of will and dedication – I had to set a powerful intentionoftrainingstrongandgiving100% tomydailytrainingprocess. Intentions help to set my level of energy and establish the course of action that best supports whatever it is that I am trying to accomplish. With that intention in mind, Iwas able to align my energy and focusmy efforts toward maintaining a high level of dedication in my training, to committ to eating well, sleeping early, waking before dawn, and putting in the high mileage required for my rigorous training sessions.
An intention is less about the actual result or outcome, and more about the inspiration and aspirations of a person. I was inspired by the Bostonian athletes and aspired to train just as hard as they do. By staying focused on trainingstrong and giving it my all, I was able to prioritize my time and energy to be in alignment with that intention. Each time that I brought my best to the table, I felt like that, in and of itself, was a victory even before I reached the finish line. For someone who was NOT a morning person, every morning that I made it out of bed, hit the trail and did the lonely work, I felt like a total bad-ass.Overtime, I became another unrecognizable version of myself. I woke up at dawn. I ran in the rain. I showed up on the track, ranhard and continued to push and expand my physical limits. And on those occasions when I had to skip a training run or splurged on an indulgent dinner with friends, I did not beat myself up because I recognized it was a temporary transgression, and my intention was still there to guide me back and move me forward towards my goal.At all times, my focus was on the intention of training hard and giving a 100% effort, and the success of reaching my goal and qualifying for Boston was merely a byproduct of that intention.
As you can see, the setting of intentions is a powerful practice thathelps to ensure success by:
1. Focusing on progress, not perfection. I can fall off the horse, and still get back on again. I can skip a training and still hit it hard the next time.
2. Cultivating positivity. I get to celebrate what things are going well along the way, and acknowledge milestones as Imovealong toward my goal.
3. Moving me out of my head and connectingme with my heart’s desire. Intentions are not ego based. Intentions are not based on winning or losing, but rather, intentions are heart-centeredand are driven by a person’s conviction and way of being from moment to moment.
Setting intentions has been life changing. Having a strong intention keeps me focused on my motivations and aspirations. It is the path towards my goals, but more importantly, it sets the stage for who I choose to embody in order to attain those goals. Sometimes though, life throws obstacles and occasionally takes me off my trajectory. When that happens, I begin again, adjust my bow to account for life, and draw inspiration from within to find the strength to pull back the string and try once more.