Provision #537: What’s Your Game?

Laser Provision

Last Sunday I ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Instead of running the race as fast as possible, I decided to play a different game. I decided to play the “perfect pacer” game. What’s your game? Are you winning or losing? Do you get “in the zone” while playing the game? If not, LifeTrek Coaching can help. So can this Provision, as you read the story of how I played the game while running through the streets of Washington, DC. Enjoy!

LifeTrek Provision


Although I promised you a Provision this week that reflects on my wife’s email journal from Russia, life again got in the way. Only this time it was pure joy.

Three weeks ago, many of you will remember my Provision titled Sympathetic Reactions. It described the reactions of our family to my son’s trip to the emergency room with chest pains. A year and a half ago, he suffered a spontaneous collapse of his left lung, and we were afraid it might be happening again. Although it fortunately turned out to be a false alarm, even the prospect of it happening again sent us all scurrying to Charlottesville, where he and his wife live and go to graduate school.

The only inconvenience three weeks ago surrounded my annual running of the Baltimore Marathon, as the leader of the 4:45 pace team. It was hard for me to turn my back on that, even though I never thought twice about my priorities. Family comes first, especially when it comes to something as repeatable as a marathon. There’s always another marathon (even as a pacer); there’s only one moment to be with a loved one in need.

Last Sunday I had my next scheduled marathon opportunity, at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. And, in honor of my comrades on the 4:45 pace team in Baltimore • who successfully ran the race three weeks ago without me • I decided to pretend I was back in Baltimore, leading the team. Instead of playing the “How fast can I go game?” I decided to play the “How close can I come to 4:45 game?”

In facing and making that decision, I found myself in the same situation as my coaching clients and, really, every human being. We all have to answer the question, “What game do I want to play?” The answer makes all the difference in the world. You’ll get a sense of this when you consider some of the many games that bring people to coaching (and that you may find yourself playing at different points in time). For example, there’s the:

  • “How can I make a lot of money game?”
  • “How can I meet the perfect mate game?”
  • “How can I retire as soon as possible game?”
  • “How can I expand my network game?”
  • “How can I find a new job game?”
  • “How can I run a marathon in every State game?”
  • “How can I write and publish a book game?”
  • “How can I make a difference in the world game?”
  • “How can I lose weight game?”
  • “How can I bounce back from tragedy game?”
  • “How can I organize my office game?”
  • “How can I get everything done game?”
  • “How can I meditate like a yogi game?”

Looking at the list, I hope you get the idea. With no disrespect intended to the players, it’s all a game. It’s all invented. We are not born and we do not wake up with a set of instructions. We decide on the games we want to play, and then we play them to the best of our ability (or not, as the case may be).

In coaching, we assist people to get clear about the games they are choosing to play. That clarity sometimes provokes people to stop playing some games and to start playing new games. Other times it provokes people to play the same games but in new ways. Either way, we assist people to play their games with full engagement. As a result, our clients end up with happier, more meaningful, and more successful lives.

That is a good description of LifeTrek Coaching at its best. I would invite you to learn more about and to experience the process for yourself by contacting us today, either by Email or by using theContact Form at our website.

My experience at the Marine Corps Marathon proved to be a case in point. Happily, my son and daughter-in-law were able to join us for the occasion. What a difference two weeks can make! Even more happily, the game I decided to play generated my full engagement and, as a result, the experience of flow. I was in the zone, from beginning to end.

Part of the secret was deciding to play the right game. Due to my 2007 travel, writing, and work schedules, I have not run a marathon in more than a year. I have not even had many races at a shorter distance. As a result, I lacked the self-efficacy to play the “How fast can I go game?” I honestly did not know how fast I could go which, in a marathon, can lead to disaster. The formula goes something like this: for every second per mile that you run too fast during the early miles of a marathon, you slow down by ten seconds per mile during the final miles.

I know, from personal experience, how that works. When I ran the Big Sur Marathon back in 2004, I went out too fast for my level of fitness, given the conditions and a nagging hip injury. I paid for that dearly at the end. It was all I could do to walk in from about mile 19, after seeing someone die of heat stroke at mile 18. I was completely undone, and I was pleased to finish at all.

Not wanting that to happen last Sunday, I decided to play a game that I knew I had a chance of winning: the “How close can I come to 4:45:00 game?” which I was scheduled to play just two weeks earlier in Baltimore. Only this time it would be harder. For one thing, I would have to do it all on my own. There was no pace team to fall back on and draw strength from. In addition, I would have to do it on an unfamiliar course with more than 20,000 other runners. Talk about full engagement! There was no other way to get this one done.

The day started out perfectly. When the phone rang, for my hotel wakeup call, I realized that I had been sleeping soundly for seven straight hours. I also realized that the clock in our room was set one hour slow. It’s a good thing I didn’t use that for my alarm clock, or I might have been late for the race itself!

Upon leaving the room, I was pleased to find out that the hotel was within walking distance of the starting line. Sweet. That’s always a nice treat. And the weather. Talk about perfect running conditions! It was 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) with a slight breeze at the start, and it was forecast to get no more than 10 degrees warmer over the course of the race. Unlike the Chicago marathon, which suffered mightily from extreme heat in early October, these conditions were made for running.

And run we did • all 20,000 strong. I’ve done many other big-city marathons, and the crowded conditions always make them both crazy and exciting. People bumping into each other, jamming up through the water stops, spectator-lined streets, traffic and security details, as well as the sights and sounds that are unique to each city (in this case, the capitol of the USA). There’s nothing quite like the energy of Big.

But maintaining an even pace under those conditions, per my Baltimore race plan, proved to be a real challenge. Perhaps that’s why I was unable to locate the Marine Corps pace teams, which are organized by ClifBar, at the start of the race. Maybe the logistics got in the way, or maybe they just don’t have the amazing leadership of the Baltimore Marathon pace team organization, or maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places. Whatever it was, I was on my own with this one.

So I got out my Baltimore pace band, marked in half mile increments, turned on my GPS pacing system by Suunto, and slowly got underway. It took more than five minute to cross the starting line, which was actually better than I expected. Then we started moving en masse, like a stream of human sweat and aspiration, from point A to point B. Here were some of the things I thought about and noticed along the way, which have relevance to all the games people play (including your own).

  • It helps to have a plan. There’s no way to randomly finish a marathon in exactly 4 hours and 45 minutes. That’s a long time and many miles (26.2) to go. In order to win the game, I had to break that down into manageable parts. My pace band made it simple: every 5 minutes and 26 seconds I needed to run or walk my way through a half mile. Do that 52 times, and I was just about done. Easy to say! But at least I had a plan.
  • It helps to have feedback. Once I had a plan, I needed to know where I stood along the way. Those are called milestones in project planning, and they loom large in any game. Where do I stand? Do I have time in the bank or do I have to make up ground? Is my heart rate sustainable or am I over working? My GPS pacing system by Suunto, my pace band, and the mile markers along the race route, provided the information for continuous course corrections • until mile 24.75.
  • It helps to not panic. That’s when I lost my pace band with the plan. Around mile 24.75 I felt a bit dizzy, so I started walking and consumed a 100-calorie energy gel. Within a minute or two I was back to feeling fine and running. But when I hit mile 25 I looked down and my pace band was nowhere to be found. I must have dropped it while reaching for the energy gel. The loss of that band was disorienting relative to the game I was playing. Fortunately, I only had 1.2 miles to go, but I was no longer sure where I stood. “How fascinating!” was all I could say to myself.
  • It helps to know math. Although I was not able to calculate it exactly on the fly, I was able to do some quick calculations, working back from a finish time of 4:45:00. “5:26 is about 5:30 is about 11 minutes per mile, so mile 25 would be 4:34 less a couple more minutes for the last little bit of the race.” I’m not sure how many times I ran that equation through in my mind, but I was glad I had the ability to do so.
  • It helps to have friends. I ran this race, in part, because my good friend from high school invited me to run it with him. If he had not made that invitation, so long ago due to the registration deadline, I would not have run the race last Sunday. And given that I had to bail out of Baltimore, that would have been a real shame. It would also have been a real loss. The presence of Jim and his family made the whole experience much more enjoyable.
  • It helps to have a fan club. My daughter-in-law, Michelle, had made large, bright red signs to encourage Jim and me along the way. Thanks to the fact that Jim was more familiar with the course than I was, he let me know ahead of time to look for my family in front of the Federal Reserve Bank building (around mile 7). They were there, sign clearly visible, with lots of pick-me-up energy. I saw them again 3 more times, and each time I saw their sign from a considerable distance. It beckoned to me with heart energy, and it gave me something to look forward to along the way.
  • It helps to have a signature presence. My approach to running a 4:45 marathon is to walk for a minute and to run for four minutes and 26 seconds, every half mile. During those walk breaks I breathe deep, through my nose, raise and lower my arms, and go through a series of stretch walking steps which make me look rather silly but which extend my leg stamina. At mile 10, someone ran up as I was walking backwards, and said, “Are you the 4:45 pace team leader from Baltimore?” I said yes, but not this year. He said, “I was in your pace team in 2006. We had a great time. And I have been walking backwards during my long runs ever since.” That brought a smile to my face. We ran together for a while, and reminisced.
  • It helps to have self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief that “I can do it” • whatever “it” may be. I did not have the self-efficacy to run fast, but I did have the self-efficacy to play the pacer game. Had I finished the Baltimore marathon two weeks earlier in 4:45:00, as planned, I would have tried to go faster at the Marine Corps Marathon (probably running with Jim for most of the race). But in the absence of a recent mastery experience, I decided to play a game that I would enjoy and that I knew • at least in theory • I could win.

So how did I do? On one level I did great. I finished the race after experiencing flow for almost five hours. What a rush! The race had timing mats at the following mile marks: 5, 10, halfway, 15, 18, and 22 plus the finish. Although my first two marks were off, thanks to the crowds and the slow start, by the halfway mark I was right on, and I stayed right on through 15, 18, and 22. I was smiling: my friends in Baltimore would be proud of me. 

But then I lost my pace band at mile 24.75 (that will never happen again, thanks to the magic of string). As a result, and notwithstanding my mental calculations, I started running too fast in the final mile and a half. That means I had to walk slowly up the final hill or I would have finished about 45 seconds early. At the end, I was barely moving at all (which is not how pacers like to play the game). And even after all that finagling, I still finished the race one second too soon, with an official chip time of 4:44:59.

Now that may not seem like a big deal, but I am famous in Baltimore for finishing the race in 4:45:00. I have done that for the last two years in a row, and I was intent on doing it again last Sunday in Washington, DC. I missed that mark, but I came pretty darn close. I’ll take it! It was good to get back in a racing frame of mind. And, as they say in baseball, there’s always next year. Baltimore, here I come!

Coaching Inquiries: What enables you to experience flow or be “in the zone”? When was the last time that you had that experience? How could you have that experience more often? Who could be in your fan club to support you in the process? What’s stopping you from making the necessary arrangements right now?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


I just read your poem called “Passion” and found my eyes tearing up. My soul connected with it; I feel all of those things. It’s like I’m having a hot flash and can’t get my clothes off fast enough. I want to be free of those limitations too. I feel that I am on the brink of the doings. 

I just wanted to share and thank you for your self-expression. I am inspired by your take on many topics to which I have been introduced through the Wellcoaches program. You have not been one of my instructors, but as I listen to the mp3 recordings, your voice speaks truth to me. You do so with an authenticity and practicality that is unique. Thank you for doing what you do. Also, I want to mention that your articles on Listening were absolute genius to me.

Thank you for your contributions to our planet. (Ed. Note: Thanks! The listening articles originally started out as Provisions, which you can read online by going to the Provision Archive. Enjoy!)


Thank you for sending me Megan’s Russian Diary. As a Russian myself, now living in the USA, it was so educational to look at this whole situation and people’s behavior with “American eyes” 🙂 That is sad for me that your friend lives so far away; it would be so nice to get in touch with her. If she would like to connect by phone, or if she needs any help, I’m very much willing to offer mine! Thank you very much to your wife for her courageous journey!


As the “Mama” in this story, it was fun to re-read Megan’s Russian Diary. Doing so helped me appreciate how far the kids have come in just a few months’ time. Especially Ksusha • she certainly has common sense now! I think she just must have been so overwhelmed with what was happening that she couldn’t digest it all. Thanks for all your support.



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
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Provision #455: My Own Race

Laser Provision

Last Sunday I ran another marathon, although this one was unlike any marathon I had ever run. This one was part of a much-longer training run that my friend, Jim, and I had concocted for ourselves. Could we finish? Having never run this far before, I frankly had no idea. But we did have a plan and the experience proved to be unique beyond compare. Once again, there were so many life lessons learned along the way that I could not keep from sharing a few of them with you for your own trek of life.

LifeTrek Provision

OK, it’s time for me to come out of the closet on something that’s been brewing for quite a while: on Saturday, April 8, 2006 I will be running the Bull Run 50-Miler in northern Virginia. You can view the description of the race at their Website: www.vhtrc.org/brr. The race is pitched as a classic Civil War battle between the North and the South, with each runner having to pick whether they are on the Union or Confederate side.

Given my doubts about the prospect of successfully running such a distance, I was hard pressed to pick my side. Should I sign up for the side I wanted to win? Or should I sign up for the side I wanted to lose? Should I sign up for the region of my birth? Or should I sign up for the region where I now live? Should I take a stand on principle? Or should I just fill out the application, without taking the whole thing so seriously?

So many decisions before we ever get to the starting line! The actual decision to run this race was made many months ago, when Jim, a high-school friend of mine, challenged me to get serious about our talk to run an ultramarathon. At one time, we thought it might be a fitting way to celebrate our 50th birthdays • 1 mile for every year. Unfortunately, we waited too long for that and there are no 51-Milers to be found (unless, of course, we decide to tack on an extra mile at the end of this one).

The Bull Run 50-Miler was chosen last fall, due to its date and proximity. The date gave us enough time to prepare, but not so much time to chicken out. The location made it easy both for us and for family members (our SAG • Support and Gear • team) to get to the event. All that remains is the small matter of actually running 50 miles.

To my delight and surprise, the training has gone far better than I had any reason to expect. You may remember my recent saga at the Lost Dutchman Marathon in Arizona Click. After a two-month break from running, to let a soft-tissue injury fully heal, I ran that marathon with less than a month of real training. Although I finished the race, it was more of a struggle than usual and it made me question my ability to go almost twice that distance at the Bull Run 50-Miler.

But as in eating an elephant, one bite at a time, I knew there was only one way to get ready for a 50-Mile (or 65-Kilometer) race in April: one step, one mile, and one day at a time. At first, the way back was slow going. It was my cardio-vascular endurance, more than my muscle strength, that had been most impacted by the two-month layoff. I could feel it when I did interval training. Talk about sucking wind! And I wasn’t even going fast, at least in terms of what I was used to.

I knew that this too would pass, and within weeks I was able to build up my mileage using the Jeff Galloway method of run-walking every mile. 4:2 has proven to be both a sustainable and an enjoyable pattern. Run for four minutes, then walk for two minutes. Doing that for two hours, four hours, six, eight, and ten hours adds up to 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 miles respectively. So that is what I’ve been doing in my spare time in recent weeks, when I wasn’t coaching people, facilitating Appreciative Inquiry processes, teaching classes, giving speeches, entertaining guests, or writing Provisions.

Last Sunday, Jim and I did our final long training run before the big event — 40 miles in 8 hours. To make it more fun, we decided to incorporate the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia into our course. Starting at 4:30 in the morning, we ran about 14 miles to get to the starting line of the marathon and then ran the marathon to finish with our target mileage. Although I have now run 33 marathons, this experience was unique beyond compare. It was my own race, with my own rules and my own goals, generating a measure of freedom and pride that I have not always felt.

My Own Race

Although we were mindful of the marathon start time, it was a relatively insignificant part of our day. Jim and I started at 4:30 AM with plans to run 40 miles in 8 hours. The fact of the marathon was more of a curiosity than a compulsion. I had mapped out a course from our hotel room to the start of the marathon, with some sense of how long it would take us to get there. But if we had arrived 15 minutes earlier or later, it would have been irrelevant. We were running our race; not their race.

That’s not to say we were not thrilled to arrive right on schedule. We had just enough time to take a short break, to get ready, and to experience the swell of the crowds pushing to the starting line. But it was their starting line, not ours. We had registered for the race, and we were wearing our bib numbers and electronic timing chips, but that was just to be fair to those from whom we would be taking water, sports drink, and energy along the way. We had no intention of getting caught up in the mentality of their race.

To my delight, it worked. More than ever before, I ran this race as a participant-observer rather than as just a participant. I did more looking around and more thinking about the meaning of life than I often find time for during a marathon. I was, in a word, more mindful of what was going on. I was in the race, but not of the race. I was in their world, but not of their world.

What a good way to live! We should all be participant-observers more often. To quote the famed running-philosopher George Sheehan, “You win, the experts agree, if the game is played in your rhythm. You lose if it isn’t. Every basketball fan knows that. ‘We put on the press,’ a coach once told me, ‘not so much to create turnovers, but to upset our opponent’s rhythm. To get them moving and not thinking.’ Most basketball fans know that, too.”

“But how many of us know that the same thing is happening in our lives every day? How many of us see that we are letting someone else set the rhythm of our lives, or that we face the equivalent of the Boston Celtic full-court press when we get out of bed each morning?”

“The clock is where it all starts. This mechanical divider of time controls our action, imposes our workday, and tells us when to eat and sleep. The clock makes every hour just an hour. It makes no distinctions between morning and afternoon. Aided by electric daylight, it doles out apparently equal minutes and seconds until The Late Show. And then, Good night.”

“The artist, especially the poet, has always known this to be wrong. He knows that time shortens and lengthens, without regard to the minute hand. Knows that we have (inside us) a beat foreign to this Greenwich metronome. Knows also there is an ebb and flow to the day that escapes the clock, but not us. And realizes that this rhythm, this tempo, is something peculiar to each individual, as personal and unchanging as his or her fingerprints.”

That’s what happened for me and to me during the Shamrock Marathon. I was setting the rhythm, not them. I was setting my own peculiar tempo based upon my plan and real-time feedback. While others were just starting, I was one-third done. While others were hitting the wall, I was long past the wall. While others were pushing to qualify for Boston, I was pushing to see if I had anything left at the end.

What fun to design and run your own race! It is both exhilarating and challenging to seize not only the day, but the hour, the minute, and the moment. It is, in many respects, the secret of flow. Not to meet someone else’s challenge, not to measure up to someone else’s expectations, but to accept a challenge and to measure up to expectations of one’s own making. True to Bandura’s theories on self-efficacy, the more we own the challenge and the expectations, the higher we set the bar. One mastery experience leads to another until we suddenly find ourselves running distances and accepting challenges we may have heretofore never attempted or even imagined.

What a metaphor for the long run of life! In every human endeavor, whether it’s going to work or going to school, whether it’s raising a budget or raising a family, we can set our own challenges and expectations. That’s not to say we can avoid the challenges and expectations of others. It would have been wrong, for example, for Jim and I to have been disruptive to the race just because we were on a different quest. But by staying within certain bounds we were able to run a race within a race • and that made all the difference.

I have always had a knack for creating my own projects and setting my goals. There are no shortages of challenges and expectations for me to play with and meet. I am naturally curious and self-directed in motivation. Even something as simple as mowing the lawn can be turned into a work of art. Even getting this newsletter out, in and around my other commitments, has become a game I both appreciate and enjoy. Being in the race but not of the race last Sunday reinforced the value and the opportunity of approaching life in this way.

My Own Rules

This was probably the most fun part of running my own race. Within the bounds of not being disruptive to other runners and of not being unfair to the race organizers and volunteers, I was completely free to make up and to follow my own rules of the road.

I decided when the race would start (at 4:30 AM). I decided when the race would end (after 40 miles). I even decided when the clock would be running and when the clock would stop. This would, of course, be unheard of if I was running their race. In their race, they decide when it starts (at 7:30 AM), when it ends (after 26.2 miles), and the clock never, ever stops. They want to measure how long it takes up to get from the start line to the finish line, stops and all.

As a result, when you are running their race and playing according to their rules, you never want to stop at all if you can help it and if you must stop you want it to be for as short a period of time as possible. Need water? Grab a glass and go, while running or walking your way through the maze of cups and volunteers. Need to find a toilet? Heaven forbid! If you must, then avoid lines and get done as quickly as possible. Everything is rush-rush-rush when you play by their rules, which is how I usually run my races.

Not this time! This time, according to my rules, the clock stopped when I stopped, and the clock started when I started. That way I could stay on my 4:2 pattern without missing a beat. What a liberating way to go through a race! I could care less as to when we stopped, how often we stopped, or how long we stopped. Even though I was following my 4:2 pattern, I was completely oblivious to the metronome of chip time. The only metronome that mattered was my own.

As I approached the finish line of the marathon, I literally had no idea what the clock would say. Since they had not thrown me off the course, I knew it would be less than 7-hour time limit. But beyond that, I had not been paying attention to their clock. You can imagine my delight, then, when the clock said 5:14. Not bad for the last 26 miles of a 40-miler! Especially considering that I ran the last mile in about nine minutes. I marveled out loud as to how I did not feel any different than I usually do at the end of a marathon. Here’s to going slower and the 4:2 pattern!

Let this be so in our everyday lives as well. Let us work and play, study and learn, according to our own rules, not the rules of others. It’s possible. As long as we fit our rules along side their rules, without being disruptive, unfair, or inconsiderate, we can become masters of our experience.

My Own Goals

The same can be said for goals as for rules. My goals were to finish, to maintain my energy, to enjoy my experience, to stay with Jim for at least most of the race, and to not interfere with my training, by way of getting injured, for the 50-miler in the weeks ahead. All those goals were met or exceeded. But none of those goals could be found in the race packet the night before. There were plenty of tips, but the goals were mine to set.

And set them I did. As one mile gave way to the next, I found myself not only celebrating my progress but reframing my goals on the run. By the time I got to mile 34, it started to dawn on me that I had a lot of energy. Far more energy than I ever expected or had any right to enjoy. But there it was, calling me to finish strong. That was a whole new idea that was not in my head when I started my race. To finish, at any pace, would have been a gift. To finish strong was an extraordinary blessing.

I stayed with Jim until we were less than two miles from the finish. Then, I just had to see what my legs could do. “See you at the finish,” I said, before picking up the pace and abandoning the 4:2 pattern. Faster and faster I went, marveling in the experience and taking great comfort in the fact that I could obviously have gone further if I wanted. So that’s what I did. After finishing their race, I turned around and went back to meet up with Jim so that we could finish our race together. And, much to our delight, he too had a lot left in his legs • picking up the pace beyond what I could keep in the final meters.

So let that be a lesson to you! Make up your own races, rules, and goals in the midst of life. Don’t just be a participant. Be a participant-observer so that you can take in the full sweep of the experience. Pace yourself so that you have energy left at the end. Set your own challenges and expectations. Find ways to enrich even the littlest things in life with attention, curiosity, and passion. It’s really not too difficult, if you try.

Coaching Inquiries: What races are you running right now? How many of them have you chosen to run and how many of them have been chosen for you? How could you become more at choice with your life and work? How could you pace yourself to maintain your energy, enthusiasm, and drive? Who could join you on the race to make it more fun?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Thanks for the video of Chris Bliss juggling three balls to an old Beatles’ tune. Want to see a truly great juggler doing the same thing with five balls? Click Here.


Thanks for sharing the “Bliss”….it was wonderful!


The video of Chris Bliss was the the most fun juggler I have ever seen. Thanks.


Whew! 50 miles? That is a long long way to run. I can’t wait to here how it turns out. Just finishing a race of that magnitude is an amazing achievement in itself. I wish you the best of luck.

I remember a while back reading one of your Life Trek Provisions when you were training for a marathon and you described your training methods. The main thing that caught my eye was the “walk/run” philosophy you deployed. I loved it and I instantly related because I employ the same type of training protocols in my workouts. I am not a marathoner nor do I have intentions of ever being one, but I AM all about high intensity interval training That goes for both cardio and weight training. 

I also read about the way you eat and I can relate to that as well. I don’t follow the Paleolithic Diet to a tee, but it definitely makes sense and some days end up being Paleolithic just by chance. I am very disciplined though, and I am all about organic and all natural.

One of my future plans is to get warning labels on packages with HFCS and trans-fatty acids in them. Similar to what you see on a pack of cigarettes or tobacco. This warning sign would also go under every and all fast-food restaurant chain’s signs in big, bright, neon colors… “Caution: This restaurant prepares food that contains trans-fatty acids. This is a deadly form of saturated fat that has been shown to cause obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Enter at your own risk!!!” (Ed. Note: I love your sentiments. If you don’t already know about the Center for Science in the Public Interest Click, you definitely get to know them. They are responsible for getting trans-fatty acids listed on our nutrition labels.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #451: Pleased To Be

Laser Provision

Are you pleased to be? Pleased to be alive, to be consciously engaged, to belong to a community, to control your experience, to love and to be loved, and to appreciate life? That was my experience last week as I ran the Lost Dutchman Marathon in and around Apache Junction, Arizona. The story of this race may be a diversion from our series on Appreciative Inquiry (AI), but not much of one. From Hamlet to my own musings on death and dying, this Provision may assist you to become an agent of celebration, conscience, and change.

LifeTrek Provision

Time for a brief intermission from our series on Appreciative Inquiry with another running tale. As I write this I am flying home from running The Lost Dutchman Marathon, which follows a route near the Superstition Mountains about 35 miles east of Phoenix, Arizona Click. The weather was fantastic and the contrast from the cold, winter storms of the east coast of the USA could not have been more dramatic. Phoenix has seen no rain for more than 125 consecutive days, and the 5th running of The Lost Dutchman Marathon was no exception. It was clear and crisp at the start, with temperatures rising dramatically only for those who took more than four hours to finish the race.

This time, that was me. I have been recovering from running for most of last year with an injured right leg (primarily the gluteus and hamstring muscles). After finishing the Atlanta marathon on November 24, 2005, I decided it was time to give it a rest until things felt completely healed. That took about two months, during which time I ran no more than a total of about 50 miles or 80 kilometers. The leg healed up just fine, but left me with only about 4 weeks to get ready for The Lost Dutchman.

“Yikes!” was my thought exactly. Given that people lose fitness about three times faster than they gain fitness, during which time it’s also easy to gain a few pounds or kilograms, I was more than a little concerned that my two month break would make it difficult for me to finish The Lost Dutchman. I had continued cross training, of course, but I had also traveled quite a bit and my usual routine was routinely interrupted.

My biggest concern was to not push myself too hard, too fast, in an effort to get ready for the marathon. It was tempting to do so, and it almost happened, but I avoided problems by following the rule to never run two days in a row. I would run one day, then cycle the next. Run another day, then weight train the next. Run one day, then elliptical the next. It worked. I was able to run/walk The Lost Dutchman, with no sign of injury, all the way through to the end.

Tragically, at the same time as I was working to bring myself back to life, in the days prior to the race, two acquaintances, men about my age died in the prime of life. One died from a brain tumor while the other died from pneumonia. Both left young children and surviving spouses in the household. The news was both sad and sobering.

It also provoked much thought and soul-searching. Even though we all know that death will come, it’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around the notion of my own death. After more than 50 years of life, my own death still seems a bit curious and surrealistic. It’s not that I’ve had no pain or health problems and it’s not that I’ve never been around or with people who have died. Having spent 20 years as a pastor, including nearly 15 years in the inner-city of Chicago, gave me plenty of contact with death and dying. It’s also not that I have never grieved the loss of a loved one. That too has been a part of life.

But my own death seems somehow disconnected from the death of one and all. The idea that my life will someday be over, that the sun will rise and I will not be there to greet the day, that Sunday will come and I will not be there to send out a Provision, that races will be staged and I will not be there to cross the finish line, that my wife will look for a hug and I will not be there to reciprocate, that my children will have some big news and I will not be there to share it, that clients will call and I will not be there to answer the phone • the whole idea that my life will end just seems hard to fathom.

“Why not?” I want to retort. Why not live forever? Why not renew my body, mind, and spirit, as I always have (with occasional help from medical personnel and loved ones), ad infinitum? Why not generate health, healing, and wholeness across the corridors of time through full engagement with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Why not turn death itself into yet another project to be worked on and resolved?

I’m sure I will find that out soon enough, but I’m in no rush to hurry the process. And perhaps that’s why my own death still seems to be an oddity. I love life, and that’s enough for me. My days are filled with happiness and meaning, giving me energy, hope, and resolve.

Not everyone is so fortunate. That was the problem, you may recall, for the legendary Danish Prince Hamlet, who waxed eloquent in Shakespeare’s play with some of the most well-known lines in the English language:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep.

Hamlet (3.1.64-68)

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.” It’s a question of life and death. And, when it comes to Hamlet, just about everyone ends up dead. There is no happiness and meaning here, no reason to consider death from a distance, because life is but “a sea of troubles,” filled with “heartache and a thousand natural shocks.” For Hamlet, death becomes “a consummation devoutly to be wished,” Oppression. Pride. Unrequited Love. Injustice. Were it not for “the dread of something after death,” something both undiscovered and undiscoverable, those who “grunt and sweat under a weary life” might well take action to end it all.

Today, more than 400 years after those lines were penned, not much has changed for many people. There is weariness and tragedy that cannot be denied. And it prompts both suicide and homicide in proportions so epic as to startle even Shakespeare. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can make choices to be fully engaged with uplifting the course of life, regardless of how difficult or easy things may be. We are not condemned to repay evil for evil, like Prince Hamlet. We can, instead, become agents of celebration, conscience, and change.

That was my experience in the Lost Dutchman Marathon. The first seven miles of the course were more or less downhill, at which point I was feeling ebullient. My leg was not hurting in any way, shape, or form; my breathing, heart rate, and perceived exertion were ideal; my mind raced to the finish line, celebrating the possibility of a sub-4 hour marathon. Such are the delusions of grandeur that beset most marathoners at this point in the race. Everything seems so effortless and easy that one forgets all about the last seven miles.

Midway through the race, it became clear that I did not have the endurance to maintain my pace over the length of the race. No surprise there, given my recent training history. But instead of getting discouraged, I quickly reframed the experience from a sub-4 hour finish to an enjoyable training run in and around the desert peaks of Arizona. My leg was holding up fine, and that became my entire focus. It had been so long since I could run pain free, that each stride became an exquisite opportunity for gratitude. My pace was irrelevant. My relief at running pain free, combined with the remarkable scenery, was all I needed to keep my head in the game.

It was a matter of conscience and change. To get through life with a positive attitude one needs to make constant adjustments to dynamic conditions. As conditions change, we can either play into their hand or invite them to play into our hand. I choose the latter. Why rail against the conditions? They are what they are. Better to make the best of what we have to work with. And in this case, I worked with my body to not only enjoy the experience but to receive energy for the journey.

I certainly needed that at the end. My conditioning and fitness were not what they should be to finish strong. As the day got hotter and as the hills got steeper it required not only muscle memory but every trick I had learned in more than 30 other marathons to get myself through with enthusiasm and spirit. That is the real problem when we play into the hand of circumstance and conditions. We become dispirited and discouraged. We slide down a slippery slope that ultimately robs us of energy, dignity, and grace. We die before our time.

That’s an easy thing to experience at the end of a marathon. I know. I’ve been there more than once. Invested in a particular outcome, struggling to maintain a pace, one loses the joy of running and can barely make it to the finish. Not so when we invite the conditions to play into our hand. By releasing the outcome, new opportunities present themselves and new strategies surface for making the most of our experience.

At the Lost Dutchman Marathon I decided to break up the final five miles into very short intervals of running and walking. I would pick out a stick, a bush, a water stop, another runner, or a marking on the road and run or walk to there. Run to one mark, walk to the next. Run to another mark, and walk to the next. Not only did this approach conserve my energy, but it also gave me continual stimulation in picking out the next mark as well as more opportunities to look around and to enjoy the scenery.

Do you see what was happening here? I was working with the conditions • the condition of my body, the condition of the course, the condition of the landscape, and the condition of the experience • to become an agent of celebration, conscience, and change. I wasn’t just reacting to the conditions. I was interacting with the conditions in order to make my way successfully through to the end.

Isn’t that what we all want out of life? Who wants to go through life with a curse, like Prince Hamlet? Who wants to die without living from that place of celebration, conscience, and change? “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” That line kept passing through my mind as I ran the marathon. Whether it was because of the premature deaths of my two acquaintances, or because of my pain-free run, or because of my working with the conditions, whatever it was I found myself pleased to be.

Pleased to be alive. Pleased to be working with the conditions. Pleased to be with friends. Pleased to be able to move, at any pace. Pleased to be making a contribution. Pleased to love and to be loved. Pleased to belong to a community. Pleased to control my experience. Pleased to be an agent of celebration, conscience, and change.

That was an incredible amount of pleasure to experience during a marathon. It was not exactly ecstasy, but it was incredibly fulfilling and meaningful. To be pleased with one’s engagement with life: what more could a person want? No matter where we are on the journey, no matter how close we are to death, there’s no reason to not take that spirit all the way through to the end. Happy, healthy, dead. That’s how I hope to go. Appreciating the best life has to offer, constantly finding ways to serve and to be served, to love and to be loved.

From that framework, life becomes a joy and death loses its sting. That is the framework I experienced in the desert of Arizona and that is framework I wish for you and for all in the living of these days.

Coaching Inquiries: How do you feel about your way in the world? Are you pleased to be? How could you make your life more meaningful and fulfilling? How could you become an agent of celebration, conscience, and change? Who could assist you in becoming consciously engaged with life?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


I really connected with Erika’s last Pathway, “Get Beyond Guilt” Click. I especially like the line “accepting the role of martyr serves no one.” Reading her story helped me to think about people that our church is enabling to live their cycle of martyrdom. Good stuff; thanks.


I read Christina’s most recent Pathway, “Wake Up To Thanks” Click, and loved it! What a great way to start the days! Just thought I’d let you know that I enjoyed it. 


Did you agree to list my country (Iraq) in your country List? (Ed. Note: Yes, it has been listed there for quite a while. Go There Thanks.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #409: Painful Pleasure

Laser Provision

April 18, 2005 witnessed the 109th edition of the Boston Marathon, and I stood at the start with more questions than answers as to whether I could finish the race. An injury several weeks earlier had still not healed completely, and only time would tell as to how my hip and legs would hold up. One thing for sure: it was going to test my mettle the entire way. Want to know how the story ends? Read on for the blow-by-blow description.

LifeTrek Provision

I had not planned to interrupt this series of Provisions on spiritual wellness with yet another race report, but my experience on Monday at the Boston Marathon was profound enough that I just can’t help myself. So, once again, with apologies to those who have absolutely no interest in running, I want to share a few reflections on the experience. As will become obvious, they make their own contribution to this series.

For those who don’t know, Boston is both the oldest continuously running marathon in the world (since 1896) and the only one to require a qualifying time to enter. Based upon your age and gender, you have to run a particular time in another certified marathon to be accepted into the Boston race. And that time is a tough standard, representing about the top ten percent of marathon runners.

I ran my qualifying time in December at the White Rock Marathon in Dallas, Texas. I actually missed the time by 2 minutes, finishing in 3 hours and 37 minutes, but the Boston Athletic Association graciously let me in anyway. You may remember my description of both the run and the unexpected acceptance in my Provision, Unpublished Grace Click.

My running and training for Boston was right on schedule and very encouraging until just a few weeks ago. That’s when I pulled a muscle in my lower back that led to hip, gluteus, and quadriceps problems on my right side. By employing a combination of rest, cross-training, stretching, icing, deep tissue massage, and visualization of the race itself, I did my best to heal up in time.

Nevertheless, the day before the race, when I went for a walk and a short jog, my hip was still pretty uncomfortable and unstable. Having run Boston once before, that made me pretty nervous as I stood in line at the start. This course pushes runners who are in their best shape, let alone those who are injured.

I was nervous enough that I had mentally prepared myself to drop out of the race at the halfway point, where the friends I was staying with lived, if the situation became desperate enough. I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I knew for sure was that this marathon, like many others, would be a kind of painful pleasure in which I, as well as many other people, would push ourselves to the limit for reasons never fully known.

How do you explain, for example, the experience of William Coulter? This was his 22nd Boston marathon and is very likely to be his last. Coulter has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The 70-degree Fahrenheit (21-degree Celsius) conditions meant that hydration and overheating were problems for many runners. All the more so for Coulter, whose condition makes it impossible for him to take anything by mouth. The solution? Coulter stopped every two miles to hydrate through a feeding tube inserted in his stomach. He finished in 5 hours and 41 minutes.

Or, again, how do you explain the 30-year-old tradition of “Team Hoyt,” the father-son team that competes in countless athletic contests including marathons and triathlons. What is unique about this father-son team is that the son is confined to a wheelchair. Son Rick was born in 1962 with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, leaving him unable to talk or walk. But in 1977 they stumbled upon a release.

The local community was raising money through a 5-mile benefit run to support a local lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Son Rick told his father that he would like to participate, and father Dick agreed to push him around the course in his wheel chair. So Team Hoyt was born.

“I don’t feel handicapped when we are competing,” Rick reports, “I feel just like the other athletes.” Dick Hoyt is now 60 years old and a heart-attack survivor. But they keep right on going with 50 athletic events scheduled for 2005 including this, their 24th Boston marathon. The wheels on Rick’s chair were imprinted this year with the exclamation, “It’s a Good Life!” And they ought to know. They finished in 3 hours and 41 minutes. (TeamHoyt.com)

Or what about Brandon Stapanowich of North Carolina, who collapsed just before the finish line after running a spectacular race. Unfortunately, collapsing before the finish line is not to finish, no matter how spectacular the run. So, under the watchful eye of race officials and security, Stapanowich got himself together enough to crawl across the line, on all fours. It made for a great photo opportunity. He finished in 3 hours and 10 minutes.

And then there was the one-legged runner who I passed at mile 25. That meant that for 25 miles this man was running faster than me, with one leg and a prosthesis. Talk about pushing oneself to the limit! Such events are filled with as many questions as answers.

That is certainly how I thought of the race as I took my first few tentative strides shortly after 12:00 noon under bright, sunny skies with a mild headwind. Was my injury healed enough to permit me to finish the race, let alone to run strong? Or was the pain going to prove too intense for either one? Time would tell, soon enough.

Especially since the first mile of the Boston Marathon is the steepest downhill grade of the course. Running downhill makes every stride even more jarring, not to mention stressful to the quadriceps, which could well have aggravated my condition. You can imagine my delight then, when I got to mile one in relatively good condition with a relatively good time. “Wow!” I thought to myself, “maybe I can do this.” So on I ran.

Unlike most other marathons, Boston is fully Web enabled. Every 5 kilometers you run over a pad that detects a computer chip attached to your shoe laces. This records your time which is then uploaded instantaneously to the Boston Marathon Website. I knew that family and friends around the world, including my wife, would be tracking my progress on line. And that brought me great joy.

As I went over the 5K, 10K, and 15K sensors, I thought of the people watching me online. My wife tells me that it was exciting, almost like being at the race (with none of the logistical challenges). At one point, she and a colleague whose son was running compared notes on how their runners were doing. I felt the encouragement and support of my family and friends as if they were on the sidelines cheering for me.

This year’s race was won by an Ethiopian, for the first time since 1989. Speaking through an interpreter, he described his experience in these terms: “I have made a big preparation for Boston. I participated last year, but I was not up to condition. For this year, I had a long thought and I practiced day and night. I was dreaming of winning the Boston Marathon, and I did what I was dreaming.”

That pretty well summarizes my experience as well. Running a marathon takes many “long thoughts.” It certainly takes practice. And where would we be without a dream? In my case, the long thoughts required me to constantly revise the dream. One month ago I was running so freely, quickly, and easily that I imagined beating my time from 5 years ago.

After my injury, I imagined healing up sufficiently to finish without suffering as much as I did one year ago when I ran another tough and hilly course on an equally hot day with a similar injury at the Big Sur Marathon in California. That day I finished in 5 hours and 10 minutes, having to walk in from about mile 19 (Big Sur Story). Would the Boston Marathon produce a similar result? Not if my long thought, practice, and dream had anything to do with it.

This is where I have gotten smarter over time. Seven years ago I would have pushed myself harder in the weeks leading up to the race. If the schedule called for 8 miles, I would have run 8 miles. And by the day of the race, I would have been good for nothing. This time, instead of running 8 miles I went for a 30-mile bike ride. Instead of doing hill training, I went for a walk. I made constant adjustments to give my hip every chance in the world to heal.

And the adjustments continued right through the race. Whereas I was surprisingly on pace at the halfway point to achieve my original goal, of breaking 3 hours and 48 minutes, the increasing pain in my hip made it clear that the dream had to be revised. I wanted to finish, regardless of the time, without hurting myself further.

So I paid attention to how I was feeling, consciously relaxing my gluteus and quadriceps muscles as much as possible. I also took delight in the sights and sounds of the race.

After we had crested Heartbreak Hill, around mile 22, I overheard one runner saying to another, “We are on pace for a 4:05 to a 4:10 finish.” At that point, I looked at my watch, did a few mental calculations, had a long thought, and said to the guys next to me, “Not if you stay with me. We can still break 4 hours.” At which point I took off with a new challenge that was just within reach of my abilities.

That’s the formula, writes University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, for finding flow. And that’s what I found at the end of the Boston Marathon. My running was not exactly effortless, with my ever-increasing amount of pain, but it was within my grasp to achieve my revised dream. And nothing else, at that point, could have gotten me to pick up the pace. Instead of self-destructing, like I did at the Big Sur Marathon, this identification of a challenge that was just within my reach became a rallying cry for greatness.

So I took off with renewed energy and resolve. I knew what I had to do, and mile by mile I determined what adjustments needed to be made in my pace. I also determined that I would do well not to walk again through the water stops, since there was every chance in the world that if I did I would not be able to start running again.

To my surprise and delight, I was able to get faster and faster. My mental imagery lifted me up and pulled me forward. Whenever we passed a building that cast some shade on the course, if felt as though the coolness was a gift being offered to me and me alone. When we turned the corner on to Boylston Street, with only 3 tenths of a mile left to go, the arch of blue and white balloons marking the finish line was calling my name.

I finished in 3 hours, 59 minutes, and 19 seconds. Goal accomplished. Race won. I, like the Ethiopian, did what I was dreaming. My hip was throbbing painfully, but at that moment all I could feel was pride for my strong running and finish.

So that’s the life lesson I took away from my experience in the Boston Marathon. Sometimes painful pleasures are the best. They may take long thoughts, much practice, and big dreams • they may have to be revised in mid stream based upon your awareness of current conditions • but when you can get yourself into that zone where the challenge is just within reach of your abilities, well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time that you had a long thought? Is there anything worth practicing for, day and night? What are you dreaming of? What sacrifices might your dream require? How can you avoid either overextending or underextending yourself? How can you get into the flow of the trek of life?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


I was watching your times yesterday at the Boston Marathon and, when you slowed down, was wondering how you felt about it all. Sounds like you had to “go deep” to make it. Congratulations on your accomplishment and determination. It takes a lot of grit and faith to pull that off.


Thank you very much for your review of the Provisions you’ve covered so far concerning spiritual wellness. It was nice to read them all together. The Provisions made me think of someone who consistently reminds everyone of her many sacrifices. She keeps a tally of all that she does for people, leading to the superior thinking and negative thinking modes as well as the anxiety mode while demanding everyone else become miraculously cured success stories by thinking positive.

As I read your Provisions, I really thought a lot about how much energy she wastes on being superior, negative, and anxious as your Provisions make abundantly clear. Thanks again for a wonderful newsletters and the well thought out Provision series. It is definitely a keeper!



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #402: Personal Bests

Laser Provision

It’s time for another Provision in my peripatetic series on “Running as a Metaphor for Life.” In the past few weeks I’ve run two races with clients and friends • a marathon and a half-marathon • each of which has resulted in a number of “personal bests.” If it’s been a while since you’ve experienced a personal best in life, then perhaps you should read on to learn the secret of how and why they happen.

LifeTrek Provision

We’re going to take a break this week from our series on spiritual wellness in order to reflect on two of my recent running experiences: three weeks ago I paced a friend to his second marathon finish in Birmingham, Alabama while one week ago I ran the Colonial Half Marathon, here in Williamsburg, Virginia, along with a client. In different ways, both races represent personal bests from which we can all learn valuable life lessons.

The Birmingham marathon was a challenging course, to say the least. My review of the elevation maps for three different marathons, two of which are legendary for their hills, suggests that Birmingham may be a more challenging course than either Boston, on the East Coast of the United States, or Big Sur on the West Coast.

From mile 3 to mile 7, the Birmingham course rises 300 feet (or 91 meters), most of which comes between mile 5 and 7. From mile 19 to mile 21, it does the same thing all over again: different hill but more or less the same distance and grade. Just as challenging, when it comes to a runner’s quadriceps, are the steep downhills which immediately follow each ascent.

To compare and contrast, Boston • which is famous for its “heartbreak hill” at mile 20 • has only one such monster climb, from mile 16 to mile 21, again of about 300 feet. Big Sur, on the other hand, throws in its one big hill from mile 10 to mile 12 • climbing about 500 feet (or 152 meters) followed by an equally quadriceps-killing downhill over the next three miles.

All three races have their share of smaller ups and downs along the way, so I would at least put them on a par with each other with, perhaps, giving Birmingham the “toughest-course” nod because of its two big hills. Throw in a little inclement weather, such as too much heat or wind, and any one of these courses can set back even the strongest of runners.

You can imagine my friend’s nervousness, then, as he prepared to run his first marathon after a seven-year hiatus. The course was challenging, and the weather forecast predicted both wind and rain. When we woke up in the morning, at 4:00 AM, to have our traditional pre-race bowl of carbohydrates, we had no idea what to expect weather-wise.

Fortunately, the predicted downpour didn’t materialize and we experienced only occasional sprinkles and wind gusts. That gave us some confidence as we prepared to run 26.2 miles (or 42.2 kilometers) through the streets of downtown and suburban Birmingham. As if finishing wasn’t motivation enough, the race sponsor • Mercedes Benz • promised to raffle off a brand-new car among the finishers. What a refreshing change of pace from having all the prizes go to the fastest runners.

So at exactly 7:03 AM • how’s that for an official start time • we took off along with 2,600 other runners in the full and half marathon races. Our goal was to maintain a ten-minute per mile (or 6.2-minute per kilometer) pace. Had we been able to hold this pace throughout the race, we would have finished in 4 hours and 22 minutes • an improvement over my friends’ last marathon seven years ago.

Everything was right on track through mile 16. We got through the first hill and the half-way mark within seconds of our goal pace. At mile 16, we were still going strong when we hit a “little hill,” climbing 100 feet in 1 mile. We lost about a minute there and the big hills were yet to come. Up we climbed through miles 19 to 21. By the time we came down, at mile 22, my friend’s calves had started to cramp up and we decided to walk in rather than to risk a DNF or “Did Not Finish.”

It was a tough final few miles, since our running apparel was no longer able to keep us warm against the wind at our walking pace. But press on we did, lifting our spirits high through conversation with each other, interactions with other runners, thanking volunteers and spectators, and, of course, enjoying the occasional entertainment that would pop up along the route such as a great Elvis Presley imitator.

We finished in about 4 hours and 52 minutes, receiving finishing shirts and medals (but not winning the new car). A few days after the marathon, I received the following note from my friend: “As you know, I ran one other marathon and finished with a better time, but I think that because of your involvement, this was a much more positive and meaningful experience for both me and my wife.”

“The fact that you elected to stay with me at the end, rather than to run ahead and finish in order to get out of the cold, meant more to me than you may know. It helped me to ‘enjoy’ those final miles more than I ever would have on my own and to finish with a smile. Thanks for coming and making such an investment in our lives. By the way, I think it’s a hoot that I crossed the finish line before you • oh, if they only knew!”

Now that’s what I call a personal best. I’ve been there, more than once, at the end of a marathon where the body breaks down and the legs stop running. It happened to me, less than one year ago, at the overheated Big Sur marathon. I walked in, dehydrated and tired, after more than five hours on the course.

It’s hard to enjoy that experience, let alone to finish with a smile. Most runners dream of finishing strong, so when the mind says “Go!” and the legs say “No!” most runners have to deal with at least some measure of disappointment.

But that’s what our combined forces were able to avert over the final 3.2 miles of the Birmingham marathon. We kept our spirits high and the run in perspective. He was finishing his first marathon in seven years and there was every reason to celebrate the experience. There was no need to ruin it with the crush of expectations. Better to simply embrace the experience for what it was: a day of two personal bests.

Two weeks later I ran the Colonial Half Marathon in Williamsburg, Virginia to yet another personal best and yet another lesson in expectations. This time I had a client come in for the event who can easily push me and who is a more natural-born distance runner than me. His low resting and aerobic heart rates enable him to get stronger as he runs longer, as evidenced by his recent 60 kilometer (37.3 mile) ultra-marathon in little more than six hours.

The half-marathon event is just short enough to keep me in the game with this fellow and there’s nothing like a little competition to sweeten the pot. The day before the event, the two of us went out for a warm-up run of about 5 miles (8 kilometers) and I effortlessly posted a couple of 6:45 miles. Now that’s fast for me, and the ease with which they came emboldened me to change my expectations and race plan for the next day:

I would pace myself for a personal best time, even though I had not come close to this time in almost five years and even though this, too, was a challenging course with plenty of elevation.

Of course there was more than just a couple of fast miles to make me alter my expectations and change my race plan. In the past six months, I have lost weight, thanks to the Paleolithic diet Click, I have increased my strength training, thanks a new home weight-machine, and I have ratcheted up my aerobic training, thanks to my dream of qualifying for and running in this year’s Boston marathon.

But was I ready to run a half-marathon at a sub-7:30 pace? Expectations formed over years of slower running said, “No.” Indications from recent training said, “Let’s go.”

So I let go of both my expectations and of my plans for a slower race. I replaced them with inspiration and a 3:15 marathon pace band that I never thought I would wear again. A pace band indicates where you should be in a race, mile by mile, based upon your projected finish time. The best races are run at an even pace, with your fastest miles being run in the second half of the event rather than the first. A pace band can keep you from going out too fast at the start.

To my delight, I was more or less tracking to the pace band for the entire race. Talk about a confidence builder! When you are working a plan, and when your incremental targets are being met, it becomes a self-fulfilling, self-reinforcing prophecy. The “can-do attitude” becomes more than just an attitude; it becomes a reality-based description of what’s going on. Each mile feeds on every other mile, as you put together a string of personal bests.

At mile 9, I experienced a spontaneous act of generosity. My wife was scheduled to meet me at that point and to hand me a new water bottle. But I came through before she had the water bottle ready, and I was not willing to stop and wait. Saying something about not seeing the water bottle, I waved and ran past.

Feeling badly, my wife picked up the bottle and tried to catch me. But I was going too fast for her. Seeing this scene, one of my running buddies, a woman who had just run 20 miles the day before in training and was not running the race, offered to lend a hand. She took over where my wife left off, grabbing the bottle and picking up the pace until she chased me down.

Talk about unexpected blessings! Neither one of them had to do that. They could have let me finish the race relying upon the too-few water stops. But between the two of them, they enabled me to stay on pace to the end, fully hydrated, with the bottle I was planning to carry.

Isn’t that what we all want out of life? To string together training and plans, effort and experiences, achievement and camaraderie into a chain of personal bests? When I crossed the finish line in little more than 1 hour and 37 minutes, I had much to celebrate and appreciate. Everything and everyone had come together for one perfect run. To be running as well as I have ever run, at the tender age of 50, is, indeed, a personal best.

My client also had a perfect day, achieving his goal time even though he had stretched his left Achilles’ tendon and calf muscle during our run the day before leaving him a bit uncomfortable during the race. He was pleased to finish strong and he was especially pleased, after the race, to weigh in at the most optimal weight of his entire adult life. As in Birmingham, it was once again a day of two personal bests.

Is this stretching the definition of “personal best?” Between two races and three runners, only once did one of us cross the finish line as fast or faster than ever before. But to limit the concept of “personal best” to the time on the clock at the end of a race is to succumb to the results-only, “winning-isn’t-everything-it’s-the-only-thing” orientation of our entire culture.

What about those who endure and keep on going through injury, pain, and difficulty? What about those who stay together through thick and thin? What about those who notice the highlights and the lowlights of each and every step? What about those surprising and delightful moments of spontaneous generosity? What about all those other things make up the trek of life? Don’t all these things have to be folded in to any viable definition of personal best?

Of course they do! So stop being so focused on the bottom line. Take off your blinders. Eliminate tunnel vision. Look around to see the entire field of view. Do that, and you’ll be surprised at just how many “personal bests” come your way.

Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time that you had a personal best? Does a results-only, winning-is-everything mindset interfere with your attitude and performance? Are you training to be successful in the game of life? How could a coach assist you to get on track?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


I am a law student in Nairobi, Kenya. Your Provision to “Avoid Unexamined Thinking” amounts to nothing less than matchless scholarship! I can’t just wait for another day! I feel obliged to write a congratulatory message in show of the overwhelming gratitude harbored by my heart. If only I had another way to thank you, I could have! But I humbly beseech thee to take this as it is: the “exclusive’ way at the moment. May portentous blessings of our Lord God flow liberally into your life. 


I’d been receiving your newsletter for a long while but never came around to reading it due to paucity of time. However, this time it was different. I’m going thru a difficult phase, and your Provisions came just in time! ‘Rule No.6’ made me realize that most of my troubles are actually self-inflicted. ‘Got Feedback’ was great too and I plan to implement it with my juniors and my husband with whom I had a massive row last night! The Potassium / Sodium Balance is going to benefit my Mom and family. Thank you for sending such wonderful and practical compilations. I’m keen to read about your Provisions on parenting (my son is turning 1 two days later) and honestly can’t wait to receive your next newsletter.


Thanks for your Provision on anxious thinking. I’ve been an “anxious” thinker for most of my eighty years • particularly about my family. Every life has its share of anxiety, but I find myself always taking my anxieties to God in prayer. I don’t always get the answer I want, but I feel better having done so. I feel better facing my anxieties, although it probably doesn’t feel that way to anyone else. I believe everybody faces their anxieties in a different fashion. I vocalize mine (and probably make everyone in my family nervous}, while my husband doesn’t show his anxieties very much, and that makes me nervous. Life is a question, isn’t it?


Thanks for your encouragement to Avoid Anxious Thinking. I hope at some point you will also reflect on the dangers of Pollyanna thinking. Many of the low-income folks I work worth know that “everything” will probably not be alright until Jesus returns. We need to remain positive in the midst of it, and also be realistic. It reminds me of the frequent mistranslation of Romans 8:28. Paul does not claim that a deterministic God ordains everything that is. Paul affirms that even in the most horrific contexts God is working with us to secure the good. This feels more affirming than claiming that “everything is going to be all right.”


I’ve really been enjoying the last few weeks’ of Provisions. They have been very helpful for me. I thought you might enjoy this comic which jokes about anxiety!



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #391: Unpublished Grace

Laser Provision

With all due respect to our readers in the Southern Hemisphere and Equatorial Regions of the planet, who are basking in long days and bright sunshine, I want to pose a question that is most timely for the rest of us, who are watching earnestly for those glimmers of light to mercifully illuminate the darkness: Can grace be grace if it is part of a published policy? Answer: Not if you want my grace-filled experience of qualifying last week for the Boston marathon. Read on for the rest of the story.

LifeTrek Provision

If you read last week’s Provision Click, then you know I was in Dallas, Texas to celebrate my 50th birthday by visiting special friends and running the White Rock Marathon in a Boston-qualifying time of less than 3 hours and 36 minutes.

After visiting friends in Waco from our Chicago days, we headed up to Dallas to join two friends who came in from around the country to run the Marathon and Half-Marathon. Walking past the spot where President Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22, 1963, on our way to a carbo-loading, pre-race dinner, I was reminded again of the tussle in life between the forces that drag us down and those that lift us up. As for me and my life trek, I seek to be among those who lift up.

One might even say that was part of my reason for seeking to celebrate my 50th birthday by running a Boston-qualifying marathon. For those who don’t know the rules, let alone the legend and the lore, perhaps I should mention that Boston is the only marathon in the world that requires you to run a fast, qualifying time in another marathon, on a certified course, within 19 months of their marathon, as a prerequisite for entry. If someone tells you they qualified for Boston, you can assume that they are in the top 10% of runners for their gender and age group.

The qualifying standard, combined with the fact that Boston is the oldest continuously-run marathon in the world (it was first run on April 19, 1897), make Boston something of a prize for marathon runners around the world. “If you qualify, you have to go, right?” is the way one of my running buddies puts the question. And so it must be, since the logistics are not conducive to great running. The first Boston marathon had 15 entrants, and that’s about right for the narrow road from Hopkinton to Boston.

This year, 20,000 runners will make that trek, running en masse, like a herd of buffalo, for more than 26 miles or 42 kilometers. Having run the course once before, to celebrate my 45th birthday, I can testify to the fact that it remains crowded the whole way. But the inconveniences pale in comparison to being part of the history of running.

With helicopters hovering overhead, real-time Web splits being posted every 5 kilometers, more than a million people lining the course from start to finish, let alone baseball being played at nearby Fenway Park by the long-suffering but now “World Champion” Boston Red Sox, it’s easy to become one with the energy, the crowds, the hoopla, and the tradition. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this, if they were able?

Of course “able” is the operative word. Even for experienced runners, the Boston qualifying standards raise the bar to a new level of fitness and performance. It’s one thing to train to finish a marathon. More than two million people now do that every year. It’s another thing to train, and to finish, a marathon in a Boston-qualifying time. That kicks everything up quite a few notches.

One doesn’t just decide, “OK, this time I will try harder.” Instead, one has to start months ahead of time in order reach the starting line at an ideal weight, with an ideal level of conditioning. It can be, at once, an exhilarating and intimidating prospect. Having done it once before, I knew what it would require. Did I have the desire, the design, and the discipline to do it again? That was the question.

The answer was unknown just months ago. I had, for years, talked about celebrating my 50th birthday by getting back to Boston. But I had also watched my weight creep up from my ideal running weight. I was running marathons every year, but they were slow marathons to pace other people. So those extra pounds were tolerable, even if they weren’t helping me in the health and wellness department. But those pounds were not going to get me to Boston.

As a Wellness Coach, those pounds were staring me straight in the eye. And I wasn’t sure what to do about them. As those of you who read our Wellness Pathways know, I had been a healthy, fish-eating vegetarian for many years, since losing almost 70 pounds in 1998. I was doing everything right, or so I thought, consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat organic dairy, olive oil, and filtered water. Sounds healthy, right? Yet I was still gaining weight. So what’s a Wellness Coach to do?

What any coach would advise his or her clients to do! Throw out the playbook and try something different. I needed a different design to my diet that would assist me to reach and then to maintain my optimal body weight. I thought I had figured that out back in 1998. But in July I caught wind of something new.

I attended a lecture at The Chautauqua Institution given by S. Boyd Eaton, an anthropologist and an expert on evolutionary nutrition from Emory University in Atlanta. He made a persuasive case that our bodies are not designed to eat the products of agriculture.

For millions of years, our genus evolved and thrived as hunter-gatherers • eating fresh, lean meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. With the agricultural revolution, only a few hundred generations ago, we developed and started to eat new foods that promote weight gain and chronic disease conditions.

The solution? Go back to a hunter-gatherer diet. Get rid of grains, dairy, and oil. Recognize them as processed foods that harm rather than help the body. Avoid farm-raised (and farm-fattened) animals as well as all the extras we now like to add to our foods, such as sugar and salt. Stay with the things that we were meant to eat: lean meat (from organic, free-range, grass-fed ranches), wild fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

The solution sounded simple enough. But would it work? And what about my vegetarian instincts? Those had become part of my identity over the years. Was I willing to give them up as part of a grand, new, eating experiment?

Such resistance to change is what every coach has to deal with when working with clients. Old, familiar ruts are like an old pair of running shoes: even when they no longer serve us well, we like them very much, thank you. No one likes to change, let alone at the age of 50. But after hearing The Chautauqua Lecture, I read multiple books on the subject and became persuaded of its wisdom. Why not give this a try, just for a week or two, to see what happens?

That is the quintessential coaching dynamic. We inform, inspire, and investigate. We overcome resistance through education, motivation, and experimentation. We recommend new practices as learning exercises • to see whether or not we like them and if they work • long before we settle into new routines. We get clients to try new things for just one week, just one day, or even just one hour. Then we review the dynamic to keep what works and to discard the rest.

By mid August I knew it was time. Having persuaded my wife to try the new practices with me, we jettisoned grain, dairy, and oil products from our diets and from our house. We started a new regimen of eating and I started a new, more rigorous, schedule of marathon training to get ready for my big day in Dallas.

Much to our surprise, the weight rolled off effortlessly. With no serious hunger pangs, I lost almost 30 pounds and my wife • who was not marathon training • lost half that over the course of the next few months. “I wish this wasn’t working so well,” was my wife’s occasional quip, “because I liked some of those old foods.” But we both could see and feel the difference.

I felt it most dramatically in my running. Conventional wisdom says that over the course of a marathon your performance will improve by 2 seconds per mile for every pound that you lose. And as the pounds came off, I certainly saw that in my training. Suddenly paces that had been a push became easy, while paces that had been out of reach became reachable.

And it wasn’t just a matter of speed. I also eliminated my little aches and pains at those higher speeds. And my blood pressure came down. Just like the doctor ordered, all the things that we know would happen as a result of weight loss did happen. So we’ve decided to keep eating this way, on a permanent basis. We now view it as a healthier and more natural way to eat.

That got me to the starting line in Dallas at the right weight, with the right training, to go the distance. But I was still nervous. It had been almost 5 years since I had run anything close to this time. Was my 50-year-old body up to the task? Would my run-walk strategy pay off or be my downfall? Only 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) would tell.

The run-walk strategy has been made famous by running guru, Jeff Galloway. He believes that anyone will run faster, if their goal is slower than 2 hours and 50 minutes, by introducing short walk breaks at regular intervals for the first 20 miles. But when you’re fresh and ready to go, it’s a little nerve wracking to start walking after one mile as hundreds of people pass you by.

Still, on a sunny and warm day in Dallas, I passed the half way point in exactly 1 hour, 47 minutes, and 29 seconds • that’s a perfect halfway split for a 3:35 marathon. I didn’t know it at the time, but out of 207 runners in my age group, I was in 41st place at the halfway mark. Not bad, but not good enough for Boston. Would my weight loss, training, and run-walk strategy enable me to maintain my pace and make up the difference in the second half? As the sun and the heat poured on, I was beginning to get nervous.

The problem became especially clear after mile 20, where I lost a minute of time as the course climbed up about 150 feet (46 meters). That climb didn’t look like much when I saw it on paper the day before. But I didn’t have the legs to keep up the pace. My wife met me at the top of the hill with a welcome water bottle and a high-five. “Are you on pace?” she asked, “Can you make your goal?” “It’s not impossible,” I responded, “but I’m going to have run the best final 5 miles of my life.”

So I picked up the pace and took off, to see what could be done. I was surprised that my legs were as strong as they were, because they usually tire out in the final 5 miles. This time, in spite of a tight left hamstring, they were holding on. Each mile got faster, but by mile 24 I knew my goal was out of reach. Under 3:36 was just not in the cards. There would be no Boston marathon for me in April, 2005.

But I kept running, and I kept getting faster. I have no idea why I did that, other than that I was running for me, from the inside out, rather than for Boston or any other carrot on a stick. There was nothing out there for me to win. There was only my satisfaction of having given it my all, right down to the very end. So run hard I did, with my last mile coming in at a 7:30 pace.

I’m not sure I’ve ever run the final mile of a marathon that fast, not even when I finished one in 3 hours and 18 minutes. I knew I was flying because no one was passing me now. Those early walk breaks were paying big dividends. By the end, I had moved up into 20th place • the top 10% of my age group and gender • passing 21 competitors in my age group who had been ahead of me in the first half of the race.

I finished in 3 hours, 37 minutes, and 53 seconds • less than two minutes short of my goal to qualify for Boston. But I felt great about the race, the course, and the day. I had lost the weight I wanted to lose, I had followed the training schedule I wanted to follow, and I had run the fastest marathon I had run • by almost 10 minutes • in almost 5 years.

It was in short, a very good day. I had achieved all my goals except one. I had not qualified for Boston. Or so I thought. On Monday afternoon, I got a phone call from a running buddy who said he had heard of Boston letting people in who had come very close to their goal time. He encouraged me to give the Boston Athletic Association a call.

I ruminated about that for several days and then on Friday I dialed their number to see what they would say. “Oh, sure,” the voice on the other end of the phone cheerily proclaimed, “we have an unpublished 2-minute grace rule. You can’t do it through the Web site, but if you mail in your application we’ll accept it, no problem.”

I was almost speechless in my astonishment. An “unpublished 2-minute grace rule”? Given that I had come within that time frame by only 6 seconds, it was a good thing I had run those final two miles so fast • all the while despairing over the impossibility of my qualifying for Boston. But I had qualified after all. Amazing grace!

Now that’s the way grace ought to be. It ought to be unpublished. Out of sight. A total surprise. Leading to astonishment, awe, and wonder. Otherwise we may be tempted to play fast and loose in the game of life, failing to give it our all, reasoning that God has gone on record as being in the forgiveness business. But that kind of grace, like publishing the “2-minute grace rule,” is no grace at all. It just becomes another rule, another way to qualify, another way to run, and another way to live.

But when the rule is unpublished, oh, what grace divine! It arrives totally unexpected, like a strange and curious gift, that one hardly knows what to do with. Do we accept the gift? Or do we proudly refuse anything less than the higher, published standards? Everyone has to make their own decision. And I made mine when I decided to make that call. As Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, is fond of saying, “I’ve tried it two ways, asking and not asking, and I always get more by asking.”

There’s a coaching principle here. If my running buddy had not raised the possibility, I might never have thought to call. And if I had never called, I might never have received that unpublished grace. And if I had never received that grace, I might not be going to Boston next April. In this season of merciful illumination, may we all open ourselves to the art of possibility and take it upon ourselves to ask for unpublished grace. I’m going back to Boston! And it feels great.

Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time that you went looking for unpublished grace? Are there possibilities that you have failed to consider and explore? How would you like to celebrate your next birthday? What would it take for you to be in the best shape possible for life?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Since late 2000, if I remember well, I have been reading your Provisions every Sunday through AvantGo. In fact, I look so much forward to reading your articles that it is often the only reason to turn on my computer on Sunday. Your Provisions are part of a broader “diet” of spiritual growth and a quest for enlightenment and fulfillment in life.

In the past 4 years, you have become a person with a meaning for me. I have become connected to your journey • your marathons, your relocation to Williamsburg, your children’s progress, as well as your relationship with Megan (Your stand on sharing names as in a partnership was truly an eye-opener for me. My wife and I made the decision to each keep our own family name. Your article on the issue struck me as if by lightening: a symbiosis where the whole of the relationship is larger than the parts each individual brings to the table). 

I am Dutch and living in Colombia, South America. My transition from a Nordic culture to a tropical culture has been one of ups and downs and that’s where your Provisions and reflections have been food for the soul. In those 4 years I have not only emigrated to Colombia, I have also worked for a time in New York and some 2 years in Taiwan. Those changes of culture and work transitions, while traveling some 9 months out of every 12 in a year, have generated a need for spiritual reflection and you have quenched my thirst. 

During that time I also have become father of a beautiful son. Given the experiences with my own father, being a father myself now has a very deep meaning to me and this experience has helped form a clear proposition for the relationship with my son Daniel. Because of him I have cut back drastically on traveling, which has entailed another transition. Your Provisions have helped create a mindset of taking a step back to reflect on what life is about and how to deal with the questions that drive us in life.

You take a stand that I admire: you share your religious background without ever imposing your beliefs or position. Past experiences in religious circles have made me wary of religion. Nevertheless, people who know me have stated repeatedly that they consider me a highly spiritual person. Your Provisions are food for the soul in a wider quest for love, enlightenment, service and fulfillment in life.

Moreover, in a broader way, your coaching reflections have helped me to see the broader benefits of coaching. Even to such an extent that I have taken courses of coaching myself • in particular with Joseph O’Connor, Timothy Gallwey, and Robert Hargrove. I read extensively on the subject and develop new coaching ideas. I have started my own business in Colombia in internationalization and business coaching.

Being in a startup phase in a new field in country that is only starting to wake up to the benefits of coaching is not easy. When reading your Provisions I feel that my own work becomes more doable. A sincere thank you for that. You are an example for me to make “selfless” contribution to the wellbeing of others.



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #375: The Olympic Moment

Laser Provision

The games of the 28th Olympiad conclude today in Athens, Greece. As always, these games have much to teach us about the meaning and measure of life. Tears have flowed freely over both great accomplishment and great disappointment. Tears may indeed define the Olympic moment, which I learned something about myself just two weeks ago as I ran a marathon in Alaska. The story follows.

LifeTrek Provision

We’re going to take a two-week break at this point from our series of client interviews on what the experience of LifeTrek coaching means to them, in order to feature a few reflections, this week, on my recent trip to Alaska and, next week, on the publication of my wife’s new book, Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools Click.

Our trip to Alaska was, in part, a celebration of my wife’s accomplishment. This excellent book has been many years in the making. We also wanted to visit friends, to see a new part of the world, and • inveterate runner that I am • for me to run a marathon in Anchorage.

The marathon took place at the end of our trip, just as the Olympic Games were beginning in Athens, Greece. Between our travels and the Games, August has been a great month filled with drama, beauty, and inspiration.

On that score, with its glacier fields, mountain ranges, and wild animals, Alaska did not disappoint. We were able to see both the tallest mountain in North America, which is most often hidden from view by clouds during the month of August, and a very active glacier that was calving right before our eyes on several occasions. “Calving” is when enormous chunks of ice break off and crash into the sea with great noise, splash, and waves.

Given that a glacier can easily do nothing visible to the naked eye for long periods of time, the captain of our boat remarked that the glacier “had been kind to us” during our brief visit. It had indeed. The drama of nature returning not only ice but the mountains themselves to the sea was a humbling reminder of the awesome forces at work all around us • whether we hear, see, and feel them or not. We are but specks on the canvass of a universal stage. Click for Pictures.

Which is my segue to the Olympics. The first Olympic games were held almost 2,800 years ago in Greece as part of a religious festival. They grew in such importance as to include athletes from diverse city-states and social strata, to mark the passage of time (the four-year interval was called an Olympiad), and to interrupt such otherwise uninterruptible activities as the conduct of war.

So that’s at least one way to define an Olympic moment: it’s when we put our differences aside in order to compete and have fun together in tests of strength, speed, coordination, agility, flexibility, and balance. That too is a humbling reminder of the awesome forces at work around us. So many people and backgrounds, so much ambition and effort. No one country, let alone any solitary individual, can ever contain it all. We are but specks on the canvass of a much larger stage.

Unfortunately, the Olympic games were abolished by the Roman Emperor Theodosius more than 1,600 years ago. The games were viewed by the fledgling Christian State as a pagan cult and a pernicious threat to orthodoxy. Differences were not to be set aside; they were to be suppressed and ideally obliterated.

It took 1,500 years and almost a century of striving for the Olympic games to be revived, in 1896, with the noble vision of waging athletic contests to promote international understanding and peace. “Leave your petty politics and vain quarrels,” wrote the poet Alexander Soutsos in 1833, “recall…the Olympic games…where athletes and kings came to compete.”

And so they do, having this year beckoned some 4,000 athletes from 130 countries back to where the games began. Wars may not have ceased, and hostilities have at times been evident, but the Olympic spirit lives on.

One moment I will not forget from this year’s Olympics was the bronze medal finish of 31-year-old Deena Kastor in the woman’s marathon. Unlike other events, the marathon represents such a sustained expenditure of energy for such a long time that it has a way of stripping to you to the core. In those final miles, which go on interminably, you are laid bare • whether in triumph or tragedy • for all the world to see.

Kastor ran her own race, moving slowly up through the field. At the 5 kilometer mark, she was in 28th place in a field of 82 runners. By the halfway point, after 13. 1 miles, she had moved up to 12th place. And then the real race began, as she gradually increased her pace to pick one runner off after another over the next 20 kilometers. Her closing 4.5 miles was the fastest of anyone in the field at any time during the race. It was a thing of beauty and wonder to behold.

And for those who were watching on television, there was plenty to behold. When Kastor passed Elfenesh Alemu of Ethiopia at the 40 kilometer mark, the tears had already started to stream down my cheeks, if not hers. I knew then what she did not know: that she had earned herself a spot on the medals platform. Had the race gone on much longer, she would have taken gold. That’s how fast she was running.

But she didn’t know for sure that she would get a medal until she ran into the grand old stadium where the Olympics were reborn more than a century ago. And that’s when her emotions overwhelmed her. “I couldn’t contain myself,” she said, “I couldn’t believe that everything had worked out so perfectly. That all my work in training had paid off. That I was becoming part of Olympic history. And that the power of dreaming was about to come true.”

That was hardly her experience a few months earlier at the Olympic trials, where she felt like the race was never going to end. Here, however, she just kept getting stronger. “I kept waiting to feel bad,” she recalls, “but I never did. At the finish, I had quite a bit left. I’d like to say I could have gone another 5-K at the same pace. I was so elated with my run that the endorphins were really flying.” And so she ran, flying around the track for a lap and a half, with mouth open and tears streaming down her face.

I know both of those feelings. You may remember my Provision after I ran the Big Sur International Marathon in April Click. It was a tough day on a tough course for an injured runner like me. Within a mile after seeing a fellow contestant die at mile 17 in 85-degree heat (30 degrees Celsius), it was all I could do to walk in and finish in 5 hours and 10 minutes.

That experience left me with more than the normal amount of jitters as I stood on the starting line in Anchorage. Even though my injury was behind me, and even though I had had some good training runs, there was still a twinge anxiety as to whether my days of sub-4-hour marathons were over. Like Kastor, I too took off wondering if and when I would start feeling bad.

But it never happened. The course was flat and the weather was relatively cool, at least for someone from southeast Virginia. That assisted me to feel strong the whole way through, running only three minutes slower in the second half than I did in the first half. Knowing that I was on pace for a sub-4-hour marathon was great incentive to keep running strong, especially in those tough final miles. I ended up finishing in 3 hours and 57 minutes.

Mile 22 has been described as the halfway point in the marathon, because it takes about as much focus, determination, grit, and effort to get through the last 4.2 miles as it does to get through the first 22. When the goal is within reach, the body rises to the occasion. Otherwise, things can fall apart fast.

One thing that helped immensely in the Anchorage marathon, as opposed to the Big Sur marathon, was my cheering squad. On the day of the Big Sur marathon I never saw a familiar face, let alone heard my name, slapped a hand, or received a kiss. “The loneliness of the long distance runner,” to quote Alan Sillitoe, was what I experienced.

Anchorage was a totally different experience. Not only was my wife along for the journey, but so were our friends and their 9-year-old son, Paul. Being familiar with the city made it easy for them to meet and cheer me at many different points. The cheering was so raucous that one runner, as I passed him, asked me, “Are you Bob?” When I said yes, he replied, “I wish I was Bob!”

It made a huge difference. To hear people shouting, at considerable distance, “We want Bob! We want Bob!” made me want to arrive in short order and with a smile on my face. Gifts of water bottles and hand slaps spurred me on. At one point, my cheering section donned left over “Sponge Bob” party hats and starting cheering, “Go Sponge Bob! Go Sponge Bob!” to the amusement of other runners and spectators. If only I had been in costume!

As with Deena Kastor, it was an emotional experience for me to finish strong. As I came up the final hill, I too had a few tears over a well-run race. And I had to laugh at myself as well. Four years ago I ran the Boston marathon in 3:46; I was demoralized by the times I had to stop and I was upset with myself for not running faster. Now I look at that time and think, “Wow! To run that hilly Boston course in 3:46 is great!” How perspective and the passage of time change things.

In the end, I’ve decided that tears are another way of defining the Olympic moment. Tears have been shed in joy and in sorrow, in triumph and in tragedy, in victory and in defeat. They are, you might say, the universal human language. They transcend culture, race, gender, age, orientation, and belief. They remind us, in no uncertain terms, that even we specks are important on the trek of life.

So here are a few lessons I took away from experience of the past two weeks:

  • One bad experience does not, necessarily, produce another.
  • Training and hard work do pay off.
  • Interruptions can be treated as refreshing breaks.
  • Having people to support and cheer you on really makes a difference.
  • Stay hydrated • life is lubricated by both sweat and tears.
  • Don’t take yourself so darn seriously.

Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time that you cried in victory or defeat? What did it teach you about the meaning and measure of life? Who coaches and cheers for you on the sidelines? How could you get more support and accountability in pursuit of your goals?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.


I really enjoyed Christina’s last Parenting Pathway on the First Day of Kindergarten! I left my 19-year-old daughter at the University last night. I too rocked her before I left. If I had not practiced many of the suggestions in her article when she was 5, I would not have had such a rich and fulfilling day yesterday. Nor would she have been able to say goodbye to me with such peace and tranquility. Keep up the good work.


Do you think it would be feasible to provide coaching to me down in Australia? We have a few hurdles such as time-zone differences, currency, and international phone costs to overcome, but I am interested if you think it is possible. I appreciate your thoughts and love your Provisions. (Ed. Note: LifeTrek Coaching is not called International for nothing. We have had clients in Australia before, and in other countries around the world. I look forward to speaking with you soon.)


I have enjoyed the client interviews, but I get the idea. Coaching is a great benefit to people! When are you going to resume writing the lead Provision article on a weekly basis? I appreciate your reflections, insights, and perceptions on the course of life and I’m anxious to get back on track with your weekly wisdom. (Ed. Note: After this week and next there will be one more month of client interviews, to demonstrate a bit more of the diversity of our coaching projects. Then we’ll be on to a new series. Thanks for the affirmation.)


Congrats on your sub-4-hour finish in Alaska. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
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Provision #180: Let Go, Let God • Part 4

Laser Provision

It is possible to work smarter rather than harder, lighter rather than heavier, and stronger rather than weaker. It all depends on our preparation, attitude, orientation, and approach to life. I learned this all over again at yesterday’s Richmond marathon. Read on for the details.

LifeTrek Provision


Time for another installment of the series within the series • Let Go, Let God — or my reflections on 26.2 miles worth of life. For those of you who are not marathon runners and have no interest in running, I beg your pardon. I will try to keep the running details to a minimum and the life lessons to a maximum. They are, indeed, here for the picking.

Five weeks ago after running a disappointing marathon in Cleveland, Ohio, a marathon where I pooped out in the second half of the race, I wrote about my experience and about my intention to pace my best friend from high school to his first marathon in Richmond, Virginia. The Richmond race took place yesterday under perfect conditions with a perfect outcome. Our primary goal was to finish; our secondary goal was to finish in less than 4 hours. We did both, running the first half in 1:58:49 and the second half in 1:59:32 for a total of 3:58:21. That brought us in somewhere around 900th place, out of a total of 2,020 runners who finished the race. Not bad for someone who just decided to do this three months ago.

Jim was, of course, already running at that point. Running was proving to be a great emotional release for some of the changes he was going through. “You want to really let it all go?” I asked him one night on the telephone. “Why not run your first marathon? With my wife teaching at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, I’ll be running the Richmond marathon on November 18. Why don’t you get ready for that one and I’ll pace you to the finish line.” Jim took the bait.

I sent him a training schedule, modified by the time we had to work with, and checked in with him from time to time by telephone and e-mail. We covered all the bases: training for endurance and training for speed, clothing, shoes, nutrition, race registration, injury prevention, pre-race and post-race strategies. Still, the day before the race when we drove the course, there was the nagging recognition that 26.2 miles (or 42.25 kilometers) is truly a long way. Having never actually run that distance before, and with a somewhat truncated training schedule, could he do it? Let alone in 4 hours?

The two weeks before the race, Jim had had a bad cold. And I had been dealing with a variety of hamstring injuries. Jim had spent more time sleeping, to shake off his cold, than anything else before the race. Given that he was tapering for the race, sleeping was as good a strategy as any. I had also backed off from running, substituting cross training such as water running and swimming as well as cross-country skiing and elliptical cross-training machines. Backing off was exactly what the two of us needed. The Spirit had a way of speaking and ministering to our spirits; by race morning we both felt better than either one of us had in the past two weeks.

The Spirit did a number on the weather as well. It was wet and windy the day before, but November 18 arrived to cool and clear skies with a very light wind • near perfect conditions. The course was also well designed for both runners and spectators. The hills were enough to provide challenge as well as relief, without too much for the everyday runner. The course covered urban neighborhoods, downtown skylines, and wilderness areas with flowing rivers and changing leaves. It was, in fact, the best variety of city and stream that I have encountered in a marathon course.

My job was to simply keep the pace, making sure we did not go out too fast in the first part of the race and that we did not slow down too much in the second half of the race. What a tremendous shift in focus from my self to my running partner. Instead of pushing, pushing, pushing for my own personal best, I relaxed at the prospect of running “an easy marathon.” This relaxation gave me the ability to run smarter rather than harder, lighter rather than heavier, and stronger rather than weaker. These are core lessons that can be applied to every aspect of life.

Smarter not Harder. If there’s a watchword in business today, it’s working smarter rather than harder. Few people know what that means, however, and downsizing companies have often glommed onto this as a justification for the impossible demands they place upon the survivors. There comes a point where no amount of smarts can get the job done. But when the job is appropriately scaled, there are things you can do to make it easier.

First, you can pace yourself from the beginning. Going out too fast will cause you to poop out in the end, before the job is done. Going out too slow will make it impossible to ever catch up. Second, you can enjoy the sights and sounds along the way. These often occur in our peripheral vision, outside our immediate focus. Catching these sights and sounds can be as simple as looking to the left or right once in a while, rather than always straight ahead. There’s a river out there, if we but take the time to look. Third, you can stop to stretch and be comfortable. Too often we get going on a project and, like a ball rolling downhill, we build up so much momentum that stopping becomes practically impossible. Frequent short stops, from the beginning of a run or a project, enable you to avoid the frenzy and maintain your equilibrium.

Lighter not Heavier. Pushing, pushing, pushing quickly takes all the fun out of just about any activity. There’s no better way to run • or to go through life • than to let go of the push and to catch hold of the pull. We push when we reach beyond our capacity. What causes that? It may come from friends and family, who have their own ideas of our capacity. It may also come from ignorance, either of our capacity or of the project demands. It may finally come from ambition, either positive or negative, that pushes us beyond our own (and sometimes anyone else’s) capacity.

Laughing is a good way to lighten the load, even if nothing is particularly funny. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you is a true adage. At one point in the race I asked for someone to tell a joke. My request was met with dead silence and looks of incredulity. Joke at a time like this? Yes! I traipsed out one of my old jokes, got a few laughs, and moved on. We definitely need to laugh more. Gratitude is another way to lighten the load. Every time you notice that someone or something is being supportive or nice, find a way to say, “Thank you!” Even a hard heart can be softened by expressions of appreciation. When running a marathon, I especially like to thank those who bring music or organize cheers. I also like to thank God for beautiful sights, sounds, and smells. Giving thanks pulls me to the finish line more than anything else.

Stronger not Weaker. Being relaxed makes an incredible difference going into a race or a project. It fills you with a sense of strength, a can-do attitude, and a quiet but confident resolve. We know the outcome before we begin. By the time I reached the starting line of the Tow Path Marathon, I had already psyched myself out as to my ability to run a sub-3:25 marathon on that particular day. As a result I was tense, jittery, and insecure. Yesterday was a very different experience. At the starting line I knew two things: (1.) a sub-4 hour marathon was no problem for me, and (2.) if we didn’t run a sub-4 hour marathon it didn’t matter because I was running to support and pace my friend. One thing was certain: my finish time wasn’t up to me. Barring injury, I would stay with my friend to the end. This enabled me to disinvest myself from the outcome of the race.

Talk about an empowering, strengthening, and freeing position! We should all be so lucky, at the start of every race or project. To know, first of all, that it is entirely within our capacity to reach the goal and to know, second of all, that not reaching the goal in no way diminishes our identity, worth, or value. The goal can be important, but it’s not that important. After all, it’s not like we’re setting world records here. We’re simply having experiences to learn and grow, as best we can, through the trek of life. If we prepare properly, assess our capacity honestly, and keep the results in proper perspective before the race, we will have far more strength along the way.

These three lessons highlight the power of relaxation. Next week we’ll get back to Gallwey’s three conversations. In the meantime I trust and pray that you too will have the experience of working smarter rather than harder, lighter rather than heavier, and stronger rather than weaker. It is a wonderful way to be.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #176: Let Go, Let God • Part 3

Laser Provision

Sometimes the biggest value of taking on a significant challenge is not what you accomplish but what you learn about yourself. The Tow Path Marathon was such a challenge for me and it offers important life lessons for us all. Enjoy the race regardless of the outcome; don’t set yourself up with unrealistic expectations; go with the flow even when the flow isn’t going with you.

LifeTrek Provision


Long-time readers of these Provisions will know that from time to time I interrupt a series to reflect on and draw the life lessons from my latest race. After a couple triathlons during the summer, pure fun with no expectations, I began training for two fall marathons. The first one, the Tow Path Marathon in Cleveland, Ohio, I decided to run competitively while the second one, the SunTrust Marathon in Richmond, Virginia, I decided to run with my long-time buddy, Jim, to help him through his first marathon experience.

The Tow Path Marathon was this morning. A month ago I ran a personal best time in a half-marathon at 1:37:20. That performance emboldened me to think that I could get back to my personal best marathon time of 3:18:46. Two weeks ago I suffered a chink in the armor when I pooped out at about mile 12 in a 30K (18.6 mile) race. That indignity could be blamed on the distraction and worry of having to replace the hard drive in my computer. So I still hoped for the best at the Tow Path Marathon.

Unfortunately, my computer problems continued as I took to revising the LifeTrek Web site to coincide with some new advertising I’m doing for ministry coaching. Although the Web site revision was a minor problem in comparison to a crippled hard drive, it was enough to distract my focus from the Tow Path Marathon up to the day before the race. In the absence of a settled mind, I lost more than focus • I also lost sleep. Along the way I lost the confidence to run another great marathon. I didn’t want to admit that to myself, but it came out in my professions of anxiety about the race.

The morning started out well enough: drizzly 55-degree Fahrenheit weather was near perfect as far as marathons go. A tad warm, but the drizzle was offsetting. The course was flat, with no significant hill challenges. The race was well organized with well-attended water stops and generous perks both before and after the race. Indeed, I’ve never seen a race with three hot-tubs setup just for runners. Talk about an incentive for finishing!

My performance during the first half gave me a clue that all was not well for the long run. I could not sustain my pace. I’d run a mile or two at pace, and then slip back for a mile or two. Then I’d pick it back up, only to fall back again. By the time I got to the halfway point I was almost 3 minutes behind where I wanted to be and 5 minutes behind the split in my personal best marathon. Things slowly unraveled from there, to the point where I ran several 10:20 miles at the end of the race. I followed a 1:42 first half with a 2:05 second half to end the race in 3:47:45 • exactly one minute slower than Boston, on a much easier course.

So what’s the lesson? First, don’t go for a personal best when you’ve been unable to focus on the run. We’ve been talking about the power of focus, one of the major themes in Tim Gallwey’s bookThe Inner Game of Work, and it proved to be true again. Without preparatory focus in advance of a major contest, one is unlikely to find performance focus in the heat of a major contest. Multitasking doesn’t work well with computers, despite the claims, and it’s even harder on humans. To be your best, to get into the zone, one needs to engage with the contest as though it was a fish on the line. Turn away for a moment, let go of the line, and you’re likely to lose the fish.

But the first lesson is not as important as the second. Don’t go for a personal best every time you run. Running guru Jeff Galloway suggests that one should not strive for a personal marathon best more often than every 12 to 24 months. In between he urges alternatives like pacing friends, supporting causes, or running just for the fun of it. Jeff tells the story of going from a 2:38 marathon to a 5:10 marathon in one year. To celebrate his 45th birthday, Jeff trained for and ran a sub-2:40 marathon. Later that same year he paced a friend to his first marathon finish in 5:10.

Surprisingly, Jeff enjoyed the 5:10 marathon as much as he did the 2:38 and he experienced none of the recovery challenges that go with competitive running. Whereas it took many weeks to get back to smooth and fluid running after his 2:38 marathon, it took only three days after his 5:10 marathon — providing Jeff with a different kind of pride, the pride of marathon endurance.

Jeff writes: “Before committing to a time goal program, be sure to evaluate the risk-reward ratio. To finish a marathon requires very little interruption in your lifestyle. The extra time required for a time goal, however, can take its toll on family, career, and other areas of life. Training ‘to finish’ takes about one-third to one-half the time required by most time goal marathoners. The extra mileage and speed training will also produce more aches, pains, doubts, negative messages, and, possibly, injuries.”

“There is a high burnout rate among time goal marathoners. They often become so focused on the goal that they miss the joy of the body responding to an early morning run or the glow of a trail at sunset. If the satisfaction is derived solely on the clock at the finish, most of the joys of running slip by, under appreciated.”

That would certainly have been true today. The Tow Path Marathon is run along the tow path trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. It is one of the most scenic trails you can find, with marshes, boardwalks, flowing rivers, and abundant wildlife. The leaves were at their fall foliage peak, making the wonders of the trail all that much more spectacular. By mile ten, when I knew it was not my day, I let go of the finish time and started to embrace the present time. It was a necessary and beautiful shift to make.

For one thing, it salvaged the rest of the race for me. Had I been focused only on the finish time, I would have dropped out at mile 18 in order to try again later at another marathon. But then I would have missed the beaver that dashed across the trail in front of me at mile 20, or the peppermints laid out carefully by someone on a table at mile 24. I would also have missed the overall sights and sounds of a great fall run, let alone those hot tubs and pierogies at the finish. I would have also have missed the joy of finishing at all, which is an achievement in it’s own right each and every time.

There are at least two ways to go through life. One is competitively, with the drive to conquer. The other is cooperatively, with the wisdom to enjoy. Competition is not all bad. Both Gallwey and Galloway recognize that competition has its time and place. Human beings have ambition, and that ambition is not to be denied.

But one cannot be competitive all the time without suffering the consequences of burnout, frustration, injury, and disappointment. There’s just too much that’s outside of our control, not to mention the dynamics of aging. We cannot run personal bests every time we run • or go after any project • every time we try. Sooner or later we all slow down.

Better to strike a balance between competition and cooperation. And I like Galloway’s balance: competition every 12 to 24 months. The rest of the time relax, go with the flow, and enjoy the simple things in life like beavers and peppermints.

Sometimes the biggest value of taking on a significant challenge is not what you accomplish but what you learn about yourself. Today was such a day for me. I learned that you can’t short-change speed work or be distracted from the task at hand and expect to do your best at the end of a marathon. I learned that it’s not only unrealistic but also unhealthy to press for a personal best every time you run or go after any goal in life. I learned that it’s OK to finish, in any time, as long as you enjoy the experience along the way.

So I end this reflection as I did after my Boston Marathon with the quote from the late Dr. George Sheehan, sage of running and being: “No matter how old I get, the race remains one of life’s most rewarding experiences. My times become slower and slower, but the experience of the race is unchanged: each race a drama, each race a challenge, each race stretching me in one way or another, and each race telling me more about myself and others.”

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #157: Let Go, Let God • Part 2

LifeTrek Provision

“Win as if you were used to it,lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.” • Golnik Eric

It is ironic that my lastLifeTrek Provision began with the question, “How does one go about growingspiritually when pressed with problems?” My answer was straightforward enough:trust in God, hope for the best, and find your passion. Little did I know thattwo days later I would come face-to-face with my own set of problems, whiletrying to run my first Boston marathon.

Those of you who’ve been onthis mailing list for a while will remember my tip entitled “Let Go, Let God,”following my exhilarating run at the Las Vegas marathon on February 6, 2000. Iset a personal record of 3 hours, 18 minutes, and 46 seconds and had the time ofmy life. Everything was effortless, magical, and glorious. I had the sense ofbeing in the race but not of the race and of God running the race through me.By letting go of the controls I was able to enjoy the spectacle of the Masterat work.

After Las Vegas I ran anothermarathon in early March, as part of my training for Boston. I ran it “easy,” inslightly under three and a half hours. That had become my new standard, or so Ithought, even though it was a stretch only months before. I had gotten used towinning. For Boston I defined winning as a sub-3:25 marathon • anything thatwould qualify me for next year’s race. Secretly I hoped to do better than that,much better, but anything less than 3:25 would have been accompanied with the”thrill of victory” rather than the “agony of defeat.” As it turned out, asub-3:25 marathon was not to be.

First, by the time I got to thestarting line, my legs were hurting. On Friday my right leg started acting up.It felt like a pinched nerve or knotted muscles. On Saturday I bruised theinstep of my left foot in our hotel room while stretching out on the bed. I washopeful these problems would leave me by race day. They didn’t.

Second, my legs and mind weretired. The four marathons I had run in the previous five months, and thehigh-mileage training for Boston, had taken their toll. I was hopeful thattapering my mileage in the three weeks prior to Boston would enable me to fullyrecover. It didn’t.

Finally, my bladder wasoveractive. I’m used to running races that start in the early morning. Bostonstarts at noon, so I adjusted what I ate and drank by four or five hours hopingthat everything would be the same in terms of energy, hydration, and bladdercontrol. It wasn’t.

By the time I got to thestarting line my sense of being “pressed with problems” had already begun.Injuries. Fatigue. Pressure. I already had a sense that winning might not be inthe cards. I was in the seventh corral, which meant there were 7,000 runners infront of me, 1,000 runners with me, and 10,000 runners behind me. The narrowstreet never really cleared out. It was crowded the whole way, and the firstmile was pretty much stop and go. At nine minutes I had already lost some time.

The pace picked up, however,and by the second or third mile the crowd was moving at about the pace I wantedto run. There was only one problem. As the runners around me were speeding up,I was slowing down. That phenomenon was more pronounced at Boston, with itsstrong caliber of runner, than at the other races I’ve been a part of. I’m usedto finding my place in the pack fairly quickly. At Boston I never really foundthat place. I seemed to be losing ground the whole way. And that took apsychological toll, as I began to “feel slow.”

By mile five, even though I wason track for a sub-3:20 marathon, I could tell that I just didn’t have it in meto maintain the pace. For one thing, I knew I’d have to make at least one pitstop. For another, I knew that my energy was fading rather than building. Ifaced a moment of truth. Like a woman in labor with the urge to push, I was arunner in distress with an urge to quit. If I couldn’t win, then why run?

The crisis took me back to LasVegas and the wisdom of the race. “How does one go about growing spirituallywhen pressed with problems?” I thought about my answer to my client: trust inGod, hope for the best, and find your passion. I thought about the tradition ofthe Boston marathon. I thought about all that had led up to that moment andabout the many reasons to run. I did my yogic breathing and let go of one dreamin order to find another.

“Win as if you were used to it,lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.” • Golnik Eric

If I was not in the groove tohave an exemplary performance, perhaps I could get in the groove of a fantasticexperience. If I was not running to win, perhaps I could run for fun. If I wasnot particularly fast, perhaps I could become particularly astute, enjoying thesights and sounds of the same course that had been run by some of the greatestrunners of the past century. If things weren’t working out the way I hadplanned, then perhaps I could forget the time and have a good time. I made myfirst pit stop.

From there on out, things gotbetter. It’s amazing what happens to your energy when you’re no longer holdingit in. My energy began to flow in different directions. I cheered for runnersthat passed me, encouraging them as they went by. I valued the volunteers,spectators, and special attractions as though they were there just for me. Fromthe band on the roof to the wild frenzy of Wellesley, the Boston marathon was asight to behold. I related more to my family, who met me at two places alongthe way, stopping to kiss my wife and to say a few words to my parents ratherthan to run by with a hurried wave.

These shifts notwithstanding, Inever found it possible to completely forget about my original race plan. It’shard, as a runner, to get winning totally out of your mind. But I did losetrack of the time. For Las Vegas I put tape over my watch and ran with a senseof exhilaration. For Boston I decided that I had moved beyond the tape, but Iquickly couldn’t bring myself to look. I didn’t want to know. Given how I wasfeeling and running, I feared that I would not even break four hours, and then whatwould people think? What would I think? Silly stuff. But those were the gamesmy mind was playing.

The fans at Wellesley College,coming at about the halfway point, provided an incredible boost and pushed meoutside of myself. You could hear them cheering long before you could see theiranimated faces and outstretched arms. The din built slowly from the distance,perhaps from as much as a half-mile away, until I found myself in the midst ofthe most wonderfully enthusiastic crowd that I have ever experienced in a race.It was emotional, bringing tears to my eyes and vigor to my step. That, alone,was worth the entire race.

Boston is famous for heartbreakhill, which comes a little past mile 20. The hill got its name back in the1930s, when it “broke the heart” of a famous runner who passed the leader onthe way up but then didn’t have enough left to maintain the lead. For me, thehill was something of a non-event. I had run so many hills during the first 19miles on Boston’s rolling course that I barely noticed heartbreak as anythingdifferent. If I hadn’t run it the day before, I might not have realized it washeartbreak until it was long past.

Like many before me, I too hada hard time getting down from the hill. The temperature dropped about 10 degreesduring the course of the race and the headwind coming off the ocean, gusting upto 20 miles per hour, grew stronger as we lost the protection of the hills. Itwas a chilling experience. About 500 runners received medical care forhypothermia. My third pit stop at mile 23 was a time not only to relieve myselfbut also to warm up and to refocus my energy. I’m glad I took that stop. Itmade the last few miles a more enjoyable and feasible experience.

Coming down Boylston Street atthe end, having been passed by so many runners, I sheepishly looked over myshoulder to make sure I wasn’t the last runner to finish the race. Sure enough,there were runners as far as the eye could see. It was hard to imagine thatwith all my stops and discomforts I could finish in a time of 3:46:31 –slightly slower than midway back in the pack. But there was the time and therewas the line. My long road to Boston had come to an end.

So how do we “go about growingspiritually when pressed with problems?” Trusting God means accepting thepresent moment as a gift, whether or not it’s exactly the moment we would havescripted for ourselves or for our loved ones. That can be hard to do when wehave a lot invested in the outcome or in making things right. I’m reminded ofReinhold Niebuhr’s prayer, “God, give us grace to accept with serenity thethings that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should bechanged, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

Trusting God also means lettinggo of guilt and regret. It’s easy when you don’t feel as though you did yourbest to be hard on yourself and to miss the wonder of it all. Having wanted a”winning” time, it’s hard for me to talk about the race without expressing somemeasure of disappointment. But the reaction of others makes it clear that I’mthe one who feels that way. It’s my problem. Others are quick to cheer and tocongratulate me on a job well done. Let that be a lesson. Our expectationsprovoke the guilt and regret that take all the joy out of an experience; theyare not inherent to the experience itself. Trusting God means removing ourexpectations from center stage.

Hoping for the best meansallowing the present moment to surprise us. There is so much that’s good andperfect about each and every moment. Mile by mile we journey through the raceof life. We have our good days and bad days, our triumphs and tragedies, ourfits and starts. Through it all there is never reason to give up hope.Synchronicities and serendipities abound, if we but have the eyes to see andears to hear. When I turned the corner onto Boylston Street, my eyes saw thefinish line but I could not see the clock. As I ran, I felt the surge thatcomes with getting close to the mark. And I remember smiling as the clockfinally came into view. Not as good as I had wanted, not as bad as I hadfeared. Perfect.

Finding your passion meansbeing all you can be in the present moment. Running less than the ideal raceforces a healthy kind of soul-searching. Why do I run? If it’s just for the braggingrights of hanging another trophy on the wall, then running will not longendure. Time is an ever-flowing stream and it is not always kind to athletes orother human beings. But if I run for the experience of it all, for the mysteryof seeing what I can do at a particular point in time and space, for the thrillof doing what I love and loving what I do, then there is hope that in every run– and every day • there will not only be fun but fulfillment.

The late Dr. George Sheehan,sage of running and being, put it this way: “No matter how old I get, the raceremains one of life’s most rewarding experiences. My times become slower andslower, but the experience of the race is unchanged: each race a drama, eachrace a challenge, each race stretching me in one way or another, and each racetelling me more about myself and others.”

So the race goes on. Boston2000 is in the history books, but will always be a part of me. I’m learning tocelebrate and share the experience for what it was and what it meant. I’mlearning to lose, as though I enjoyed it for a change. You can learn that too,even when the experience is difficult. Forget the time and have a good time.Forget the destination and enjoy the journey. Forget the push and enjoy thepull of God.

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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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