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Massage Today
April, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 04

How Far Does Your Touch Reach?

By Doreen Rossi, LMT, NCTMB

April in New England: The City of Boston is preparing for opening day at Fenway Park, tulips and daffodils are beginning to bloom, and one of the most prestigious events in the running world - the Boston Marathon - will take place.

As the marathon approaches, I think back on this time last year, when I had the privilege of volunteering my services as a massage therapist for the benefit of these elite runners.

It was my second year dedicated to caring for this small team of elite athletes. It's heartwarming to walk into the nerve center of the organization and be greeted by so many familiar faces - an occurrence that makes a year seem not so long - and it is even more gratifying to be recognized by the athletes. There are many New England massage therapists who have gone to the Boston Marathon at one time or another to volunteer pre- or post-event massage services, during which time therapists hear some of the individual stories of the runners.

In the center, we are fortunate to have the opportunity for greater interaction with the athletes, as opposed to providing a brief massage under the tents. Here, we see the athletes coming in up to a week early to acclimate to time changes and weather conditions, and to recover from jet lag. On their schedules are media events, planned appearances and course tours. The massage room is available to all elite athletes. In a corner of the building is a quiet, secluded room with privacy partitions, dim lighting, and music. This is their massage room, where they can truly unwind from a harrowing flight and scheduled commitments. As with any performance, nerves can be frayed. We work out the kinks and knots, enhance their stretching routines, loosen their tight muscles, and sometimes, simply help them relax.

As the week prior to the marathon draws to an end, Friday is typically the last day any athlete will want deep tissue work. On Saturday, some athletes will come in looking for moderate relaxation, and - on rare occasions - some will need deeper work for a stubborn muscle. Sunday may bring in a few athletes in need of quiet escape and more relaxing touch. Then, on Monday (race day), we see "our" elite athletes board the buses that will take them to the start of the race, 26 miles away in Hopkinton. As they anticipate the feat before them, we break down our quiet room and move our location to set up for their return to the finish line back here in Boston.

Our race day location is in the ballroom of a local hotel and consists of an athlete recovery and triage area. Here, we offer post-event massage. Although only one man and woman can win the marathon, some athletes are pleased they have achieved their personal goals; some believe their performance was a good workout; and others write it off as a bad day. Either way, our job is done for one more year. We head back to our private practices while the athletes begin to think of the next race to focus on.

Having been a part of the team for just two years, I cannot begin to comprehend the far-reaching impact each therapist's touch has had on the many athletes that have passed through this treatment room. In listening to the stories of my colleagues, whose experience with the Boston Marathon elite runners range from five to 15 years, the impact is significant!

This year, we had the privilege of meeting and working with Benjamin Kimutai from the Kenyan team. In addition to being a premier distance runner, Benjamin is also a massage therapist. He came prepared with his stretching rope, ready to be an active participant in his own treatment. This was only his second marathon, but he finished just behind the winner.

In a post-marathon media interview, he stated that regular massage therapy is an important part of his preparation and training. One never knows how far-reaching touch can be. Did the massage team for elite runners at the Boston Marathon have something to do with the addition of sports massage at the Kenyan training facility? I'd like to think so. Just like I believe that our touch had a lot to do with the athletes being able to "get down" on the dance floor six hours after completing the grueling event.

During the week I spent in the elites' massage therapy room, athletes of all nations came in for some kind of treatment. Clearly, there are no language barriers in massage therapy. People of all nations have been on our tables - literally, "in our hands" - and have plainly made their needs understood. This helped me realize that the touch of massage therapy can undeniably transcend language barriers and reach across to other nations.

 

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