There was the cheerful group of Brits who chalked messages on the south and north bound lanes for "Muppet" and engaged themselves with other bystanders as they cheered and clapped for the runners. Of course they were the loudest when their muppet, Chrissie Wellington (first place finisher in the women's division) came by.
Later in the day, I stood near two women who spoke no more than three words an hour. They didn't clap or cheer like the rest of us, they just watched. Then the younger of the two stepped toward the road and waved to a runner who slowed down to talk. The man told her that he was having a terrible race because his body had peaked four weeks ago! As he slowly made his way back onto the course, she appeared as dejected as he sounded and took hold of the older woman as they slowly walked away.
Much later, a friend and I were in touch by phone as we followed her son's progress through a GPS system. He slowed down, even stopping at times because of a digestive problem but his mother was sure that he would finish. "He's been through so much more than this before, this is nothing. He'll pace himself and walk if he has to, he'll just be in a bit later than he expected."
I began to think about the words I'd heard all day, the athletes' stories told in news articles and by race commentators. We tell and hear stories throughout our lives. Some we believe, some we remember and many, we live. Through the course of a lifetime, they become so intricately woven that we don't know if a story told to us has become us or vice versa.
Others have wondered too as "researchers found strong correlations between the content of people's current lives and the stories they tell. Those with mood problems have many good memories, but these scenes are usually tainted by some dark detail. By contrast, so-called generative adults - those who score highly on tests measuring civic-mindedness, and who are likely to be energetic and involved - tend to see many of the events in their life in the reverse order, as linked by themes of redemption. They flunked sixth grade but met a wonderful counselor and made honor roll in seventh. They were laid low by divorce, only to meet a wonderful new partner. Often, too, they say they felt singled out from very early in life - protected, even as others nearby suffered." (1)
Do we seek and huddle with people who enjoy the same stories, much the way sports fans do? Psychologists think that the stories we tell are shaped by the beliefs that guide our questions. If this weekend's athletes and their cheering sections are proof, I'd tell you to look around at the people who surround you. Don't they reflect who you think you are?
"Oh, and you know what?" my friend continued about her son, "he injured his calf muscle a few days ago but we didn't mention it...it's not part of the story." About an hour later, I watched him run across the finish line with no perceptible limp or hint of fatigue.
That's my story.