Twenty-six point two miles, 138,336 feet and 1,660,032 inches. For an average person, these numbers mean nothing, but for a marathon runner, every inch is a battle of mind over body, something the Marathon Psyching team knows a lot about.
Every year, there are 570 marathons held in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of people taking on this grueling endeavor. These participants push their bodies to the absolute limit, but sometimes, the mind gives out before the body. That’s where Dr. Jasmine Hutchinson, professor of Exercise Science, and her team come into play.
“We are there for the mental side for the runners…It is a big mental thing when you are running that far,” stated Hutchinson.
Hutchinson and two graduate students, Erica Beachy and Dolores Christensen, came up with the idea when they heard about a psych team in Toronto, Canada. The trio headed up to Toronto and brought back, what Hutchinson says is, the only marathon psych team in New England.
“We heard about this and thought, ‘That’s cool,’” said Hutchinson, who combines her passions for psychology and physiology through the psych team. “So we went up to Toronto and actually worked with them this summer and volunteered at the Toronto Marathon with their psych team, thought it was really cool and brought it back here.”
Right around the corner is this year’s Hartford Marathon, which will be held this Saturday at 8 a.m. Hutchinson, Beachy and Christensen will be up bright and early with their team of 28 graduate students from the Exercise Science and Psychology departments to help the runners with whatever they need. This ranges from pre-race jitters to mid-race mental blocks and even losing a running buddy last minute. Whatever a runner needs, the psych team provides it.
“I love being able to teach the athletes sport psychology skills and cognitive strategies that I have learned about in the classroom that will help them get through the race,” said Beachy. “However, I also love what the athletes teach me. Each runner is different. They all have unique reasons for running and different strategies that help push them to complete this mental and physical challenge of endurance. Hearing their stories and witnessing such passion and mental toughness is so inspiring.”
While the team works hard on training their students to help runners, promoting themselves can be a struggle.
“I think the most difficult part of the job is making the runners aware of the Psyching Team, especially with this being our first year,” stated Beachy. “We are only able to provide support and interventions to the runners that we speak with. We are far outnumbered by runners, so it is really important that a runner who is experiencing distress knows that they can look for us.”
Although marathon running is an individual sport, it takes a team to help that athlete get ready for the race at hand. While the marathon psyching team is still a new entity, they hope that the athletes get as much out of them as they do from the runners.
“My hope is that our team grows each year and becomes a tradition that unites the Hartford Marathon and Springfield College,” said Beachy. “At Springfield College, we have such a focus on service to our community and I believe giving away sport psychology to the athletes is a way that we can fulfill that mission.”
Andrew Gutman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org