It's that time of the year again. You see them all over the place. These quiet unsung heroes. Early mornings. Late evenings. People out running, training and preparing for the Airtricity Dublin Marathon on October 28.
Every one of them has a purpose, a meaning – running for a good cause, helping the sick, the vulnerable and those who cannot run. And sure enough, last week a man who has been training for the past few months to run his first marathon came to chat about the race and his fears, worries and anxieties.
"What's the problem?"
"Fear and doubt," he said.
"But, look," I said, "have you any idea of all the positive support you will get from the people on the footpaths cheering you on?"
"No," he said, "I know that. But my enemy is on the inside. It's that voice in my head that keeps telling me I won't be able to finish. When I get to 15 or 18 miles, my mind is invaded by a posse of negative thoughts. I begin to doubt myself.
"It's been happening in training. These negative thoughts seem to drain my energy. The positive voices on the footpaths are really great, but it's the negative voices within my head around the footpaths of my mind that are drowning the other voices out."
I told him about something my fellow columnist Gerry Duffy mentioned a few weeks ago. When Gerry didn't hit a target he'd set for himself, he was very disappointed. Then, one thing struck him. He remembered a time when he was injured for a long time and couldn't run.
In his new book Tick, Tock, Ten, he discloses how one sentence changed it all. He says: "I don't have to run or take part in races." Instead, full of gratitude and appreciation, he says: "I get to run."
So, I simply asked my doubting friend to start off a run by appreciating and being thankful for the trees, flowers, singing birds in the fresh air and all the people he encountered on his run.
I then told him a story about a bunch of tiny frogs who once arranged a running race. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower. A big crowd gathered to see the race.
Honestly, no one in the crowd believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. There were negative statements such as:
"Oh, it's way too difficult."
"They will never make it".
"Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!"
The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one, except for one group which continued climbing higher and higher.
The crowd continued to yell: "It is too difficult. No one will make it. Give up now."
After a while, all but one tiny frog remained. He just wouldn't give up and eventually he reached the top.
Then all of the other tiny frogs wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it?
A contestant asked the tiny frog how it had found the strength to reach the goal while all the others failed?
It turned out the winning frog couldn't hear a word from those spectating 'energy vampires'. In fact, the deaf frog explained that the vibe it felt was encouraging and helped it to reach the top.
Now, back to my friend, the fearful runner. Appreciation and gratitude is working and has silenced the negative within him.
And just like the frog, whenever they do return, he pretends he's deaf and can't hear their negativity.
Declan Coyle is a director of Andec Communications. His motivational techniques have been used by several All-Ireland winning teams. email@example.com