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Massage Today
June, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 06

Going the Distance

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

Several years ago, I wrote an editorial about my experiences as a massage therapist at the Boston Marathon. (Click here to view this article.) This year, I was fortunate to again be invited to provide sports massage to the John Hancock Elite Athletes at the 111th Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon has run since 1897, becoming the world's oldest annually contested marathon. In terms of on-site media coverage, the Boston Marathon ranks behind only the Super Bowl as the largest single-day sporting event in the world. More than 1,300 media members representing more than 250 outlets, requested and received media credentials in 2007.

The Boston Marathon is organized each year by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). Among the nation's oldest athletic clubs, the BAA was established in 1887, and in 1896, more than half of the U.S. Olympic team at the first modern games was comprised of BAA club members. The Olympic Games provided the inspiration for the first Boston Marathon. A notable feature that deserves more advancement is the Boston Marathon Charity Program, which enables selected charitable organizations to raise millions of dollars for worthwhile causes. This year, approximately 1,230 participants, representing 21 charities, were expected to raise more than $9 million.

Since 1986, the principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon has been John Hancock Financial Services. Each year, John Hancock recruits approximately 30 of the world's top distance runners and brings these elite athletes to Boston for the marathon. They stay in the Elite Athletes Village set up at the John Hancock Conference Center. This year the elite runners came from Ethiopia, Italy, Kenya, Latvia, Mexico, Russia and the United States. It is this Elite Athletes Program that contracts the services of experienced massage therapists who eat and work in the Athlete's Village to assist the runners.

Even though this year's Boston Marathon was run in dismal weather with rain, cold and high winds hampering runners and spectators alike, 20,348 souls persevered and pushed on to complete the 26 miles, 385 yards that constitute a modern marathon. The elite athletes seemed less affected than the rest of the runners, but the conditions kept them from flirting with course or personal records. Many with whom I spoke had extremely long flights to get here, some in excess of 15 hours, not including extended layover times. Adding the nasty weather conditions, tired athletes and the innate difficulty of the Boston Marathon course all together, I like to think the skilled sports massage provided made a difference in their ability to effectively compete.

I asked one of the Kenyan runners on my table if he included massage therapy in his training regimen at home. He indicated that he did, but was quite adamant in his portrayal that it was "not of the same high quality" as he received in the Elite Athletes Village. That statement certainly made me feel good!

In my previous article, I stated: "I found one great similarity in the running elite - they all felt like filet mignon under my hands. The incredible muscle tone and conditioned bodies coupled with the intensity of their desire to excel made the work doubly enjoyable." Nothing has changed since I first made that observation - elite athletes have incredible bodies! Working with some of the runners destined to be in contention to win makes watching the race a lot more interesting. Watching someone who has been on your table break the tape at the finish line is a very exciting moment. Seeing one of "my" runners enter the Elite Recovery Area at the end of the race, wearing the laurel wreath of a Boston Marathon winner, is even more exciting and impossible to forget. He ended up again on my table for post-event care, and one of my tasks was to remove the "chip" tied to his shoelaces that is used to record official times. I ended up having to cut the laces to remove the chip since he had more knots tied in his laces than there are miles in a marathon! After four or so minutes of gentle compression, jostling and light stretching, he was hopping into dry clothes and off to meet the press. I am constantly amazed that elite marathoners can expend as much energy as they do, and have enough left over for partying after the race. That night, most of the elites were on the dance floor!

We are members of a most amazing profession. Personally, I have difficulty understanding massage therapists who say they are "burned-out." In the course of only a few days, I am able to work with men and women of all ages, performing various massage services such as a relaxation massage, perhaps a body wrap; assist clients through episodes of chronic neck, shoulder or back pain; help a woman regain comfort with maternity massage; and release a frozen shoulder. Then I get to drive to Boston to help enhance the performance of some of the world's most skilled distance runners. And I'm paid for it all! It doesn't get much better than this!

Thanks for listening!


Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters related to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue or online. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4109
Huntington Beach, CA 92605


Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

 

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