Why one marathoner chose softness over a medal

Why one marathoner chose softness over a medal

Only a quarter-mile from the finish line of the 2017 Dallas Marathon, two runners, Chandler Self, a 33-year-old psychiatrist living in New York City, and Ariana Luterman, a local 17-year-old high school senior, were competing shoulder to shoulder. When Self’s knees buckled in the homestretch, all but ensuring she wouldn’t win, Luterman helped carry her across the finish line. A gold medal was just a few quick strides away for Luterman, a natural athlete—and yet she chose to be soft over glory. 

At NIVEA, we celebrate Luterman’s generosity and sportsmanship. Because we’re on a mission to make people soft—and not just skin deep. In fact, we believe there’s nothing more powerful. To challenge the common misperception that soft is weak, and to help create a kinder, more gentle world, we’re shining a spotlight on truly inspiring moments of softness, moments like the one at the Dallas marathon. 

Like so many important days, the day of the marathon started out like any other. Self is an accomplished runner and had whizzed through the Chicago Marathon eight weeks earlier, clocking a personal best at 2:52. To prepare for the Dallas race, she took two weeks off, and then trained for five weeks leading up to the big day. The night before, she worked an overnight shift in the emergency room of NYC’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital. 

When Self began the Dallas course, she was flying. Her family cheered her on as she pulled ahead of the rest of the runners. As the race progressed, Luterman, who was running anchor in a 13-personal high school relay, caught up to Self. The two were practically in lock step. No other runners were even close. 

Luterman herself was no stranger to marathons. She was a serious athlete who loved competing in triathlons, and competed in track and field, swam, and ran cross country. At 12 years old, she founded a nonprofit to provide free daycare and early childhood education to homeless children.

In the final 20-meter stretch, the race took an unexpected turn—Self’s legs began to wobble and then give way, and she fell to the ground, the audience gasping. Luterman immediately reached out to take Self’s arm, helping her to her feet time and again, as the two paced the last 200 yards. You could see the determination and desperation on Self’s face as her legs repeatedly betrayed her; Luterman could feel it too, and in those dramatic moments as they neared the finish line, she held Self upright so that she was able to lunge across it, miraculously coming in first place, with a time of 2:53. No sooner did Self win than marathon personnel whisked her away in a wheelchair to recover, but little matter—the race had been won, by a deserving competitor propped up by an incredible act of kindness. Of softness.  

Those 60 seconds were life-changing for both women, and shine brightly for us all. After the Dallas race, Self hired a running coach, so that she could become even smarter about the way she trains and recommit to her passion, and she would go on to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with her parents. She eventually moved to Dallas, where the defining marathon was held. Luterman, who went off to college, showed the world that it’s easy to make a difference in someone’s life—in her own words, it’s as easy as picking up someone when they are down. Here at NIVEA, we applaud Luterman’s act. And we beg to differ when she insists that there was nothing special about what she did. Because soft unites us all—and helps us move forward.