Defining Moment: Be there when they need you

When times get tough, focusing on your teammate’s success can pull you through.

In 2018, Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years. An elite runner by any definition, the race was Linden’s first marathon win in 14 attempts (she once finished second in Boston by 2 seconds). But the defining moment of her race wasn’t breaking the tape; it occurred much earlier when she considered dropping out of the race. Instead of giving up, she focused her energy on helping out her fellow runners. 

The weather in Boston that day was miserable for anyone, especially marathon runners. Temperatures in the upper 30s, near gale force winds, and a steady downpour. When things got tough, Linden supported one of the race headliners, 2017 New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan. Linden paced Flanagan, blocking the wind for her so she could save energy for later in the race. When fellow elite American Molly Huddle needed a boost to catch up with the lead pack, Linden was there to help her make her up way to the lead pack.

Linden’s focus on her fellow runner’s success had a surprising benefit—it diverted attention from her pain and put her in a mental state focused on success. “Sometimes, when you pick it up and forget how you’re feeling and engage for a bit, it can turn everything around,” she told Runner’s World. “That’s what happened.”

As the race hit 20 miles and beyond, many of the front of the packers faded, and by mile 23, she had the lead for good.

Perhaps the most important 30 seconds of Linden’s race happened about an hour in, when Flanagan made a stop at a “portable facility.” Linden could have kept going, but in what the Boston Globe called “a move that demonstrated unity and respect, Linden held back so she could keep pacing Flanagan. This is where the miserable weather was a blessing–the race pace was very slow that day by Boston standards, and it relatively easier to catch up to the pack. In the end, the 30-second pause was no factor in the outcome. Linden won by 4 minutes with a time of 2:39:54.

The next time someone on your team needs a 30-second pause, resist the urge to move on without them. It could be defining moment in disguise, and a leadership opportunity that will benefit you both in the long run.

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