Community Physical Education: On Using the Body to Power the Mind

    Physical Education: On Using the Body to Power the Mind


    Well howdy. I’m Diane Chesla and I co-direct the Niagara Falls International Marathon (NFIM) alongside my husband Henri Ragetlie. My foray into running happened in grade 6 when I trained super hard for my school’s annual 5k only to pass out right before the finish. That was my first taste for massive disappointment in sports. Being young and naive, I also thought passing out was beyond cool and that maybe there were secret powers my mind held that could help me win the next race.

    From that point on I never stopped trying to tap into the strength of my mind. Ya, I know, my parents were worried too & began to roll their eyes when I talked incessantly about the Olympics. I never quite made the Olympics, but I did go onto study Peak Performance in my Masters. I dove right in and explored all these neat psychological theories on mental attributes of succeeding in sport in addition to some of the lesser known ones tied to Eastern philosophy. 

    I worked with a few athletes in sport psychology after my studies, but I had this euphoric vision one day while running the Niagara Ultra 50k. And that was to create an ultra race on trails, make it super tough, but create this community of inclusion where all these like-minded individuals supported each other. I still reminisce with friends I made in the days of “dirty girls 24/48 hour trail race.” That race lasted 10 years. In those years I started a road race and eventually moved onto where I am today—with NFIM. 

    Along the way I’ve learned that event production is bloody hard. I can be a logistics pro, but there are SO many elements that are completely out of my control. And patience is one of my worst virtues, but I’ve learned that there are options for “getting things done.” Like, our marathon starts in Buffalo and runners return to Canada via the Peace Bridge. We bus people out to Buffalo from Canada early on race morning. Well, guess what? One year at 8 p.m. on the Saturday night I learned that we had no buses coming for everyone the next morning. And there was no answer at the bus company in Buffalo late on a Saturday night. 

    Well, something magical happened. I told only my husband what was unfolding and said I would take care of it. I was driving at the time so pulled over on the shoulder of the highway and began making phone calls. I was able to secure buses for the next morning to arrive at the scheduled time in Canada to pick up runners. No one knew of the massive glitch and no one lost an eye or shed a tear.

    Why am I telling you this story? From my personal interest and studies in the strength of the mind, I noticed something. We can use all these mental techniques to perform at our best in sport, but sport makes up only a small percentage of our time on this planet. We can apply these techniques to our personal life and we can certainly be über successful, but it’s not easy and the truth is that life presents real challenges involving emotional pain, setbacks and working with others with different personalities and goals. 

    The challenge is learning how to succeed in sport and then applying these lessons to our own life so that whatever we choose to do, and however far we choose to reach, we are happy and others around us are also happy. In my series of articles for iRun, I’m going to be exploring lessons learned from running & how we can apply these to our everyday life. Stay tuned and I hope to inspire readers to examine their own approach—to running and life.