Learning Opportunities: My Journey to the Boston Marathon

Every moment presents an opportunity to learn, grow and evaluate. My journey to the Boston Marathon has been no exception.

From the much talked about “listening to your body” components, to program designs, to nutrition, I have had subtle and not-so-subtle reminders of each. Some made significant impact while others I interpreted as soft guidelines (a.k.a. my continual over consumption of peanut butter).

During this training cycle, one memory stands out among the rest. It happened a few week ago, between two tough workouts. I headed down to United Cycle to chat with Beto, their running expert. My original intent was to get tested for a new pair of kicks and to learn the rationale behind their shoe wall. These events were outweighed by the lessons I learned and the affect our conversation had on me.

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The highlight was witnessing someone describe their passion. It is never the words used but the excitement in their voice that tells that story. Tone is where enthusiasm lives. I heard passion when I asked Beto to explain his role at United Cycle. As a runner of over 42 years, Beto spends his days finding the perfect shoes, asking people their goals and making sure it all comes together before they head out the door. He has become an expert in his field, not only due to his race hardware but from the continual commitment to educating himself on what is happening in the sport of running and being able to communicate that to customers, friends and the Edmonton running community.

As he was telling me all this, I became proud of my morning workout and pumped up for the workout to come in approximately 18 hours. He has a way of making you realize your potential and feeling special about whatever goal you are about to take on.

My First lesson of the day: share your story. Sometimes it acts as motivation for someone else and sometimes it just feels good to know someone is excited about your journey.

Next, I asked about the shoe wall. At first glimpse, the shoe wall may not seem complex or substantial but that is far from reality. Beto took the time to give me insight into how it has evolved and the rigorous test the shoes must make it through before landing on the wall. Since inception, the shoe wall started with details and remains the core concept today. Beto is never sold on fads, he backs up his recommendations with genuine rationale and doesn’t push brands. He listens to you and bases his recommendation on the information you have provided him, not a trend.

My second lesson of the day: focus on myself. Do what is best for me and what will help me in my race. Remembering that will help me push myself but also enjoy every mile of the journey.

Lastly, we talked about goals. We briefly chatted about racing but rather than sharing personal goals he told me an incredible story about a woman that came in for shoes. It started with her son calling and asking for Beto. Beto had previously assisted this gentlemen and he wanted to ensure that when he brought his mother in on the weekend, that he would be there to assist. That Saturday, Beto was paged to the front and was greeted by a man and his entire immediate family, including an elderly woman holding a cane – his mother. This did not deter Beto from finding a shoe perfectly matched for this woman. He asked about her capabilities, and learned it had been years since she walked without a cane. Beto asked why she wanted shoes – he made it clear that it was her question to answer, not a family member’s. She responded and he came back with two options. The first she liked, the second she loved. She stood up, put the shoes on and passed her husband the cane. As she made a lap around the shoe section, her entire family had dropped jaws – she hadn’t walked without assistance for years. She left with more than one pair and continued to enjoy her day without her cane.

My third lesson of the day: life is full of surprises and it is up to us to find them.


It isn’t every day that we learn so much from one conversation or that we leave a conversation feeling so inspired. It is a rare experience, one we sometimes take for granted. Even as I write this, I have a smile on my face. There is something about Beto that really make you feel good about yourself, has you believe you are capable of great things and I am excited to share my Boston experience with him when I come back.

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