On Friday of last week I had a disastrous run. And it all started out so wonderful. The weather was great • we’re in the middle of a January warm up with occasional moments of sunshine and 60-degree weather • so I put on my running shoes, stretched, and set off on my normal six-mile run. My first three miles went very well, at a 7•-minute pace. They went so well that I started to think of running a longer route. I knew that I had a 15-mile race coming up, and that I should be extending my mileage in order to prepare for the race.
So what did I do? In the middle of the race, I changed race plans. I decided to double my mileage: from six miles, to twelve miles. Things were flying by so fast that I figured I’d be done in no time. Well, I was done in no time, but not the way I expected.
By changing the race plan in the middle of the course I had not prepared myself mentally or physically for the second half of the race. I took in no water or sustenance. And I certainly was not building for the recommended “negative split” • running the second half of the race faster than the first half.
As a result, I started to slow down until I crashed between mile nine and ten. I got dizzy and weak and had to start walking. Fortunately, I was close to a friend’s house where I stopped in to get a drink and even discovered an available power bar. I eventually picked up and finished the run, at about a 10•-minute pace. I ended up feeling sore, tired, and discouraged.
Two days later, I set out to run 15 miles and it was a breeze. I took in fluids, nourishment, and ran a negative split. In fact, I finished the run at a 7•-minute pace (averaging 8• for the entire course). I ended up feeling loose, energized, and refreshed. It gave me new hope that when it counts, at the 15-mile Winter Run this Sunday, I could come close to my goal of an 8-minute pace for the entire course.
What’s the coaching life application of these two running experiences? Know the race before you run, and then run the race accordingly. The game of life is a marathon, not a sprint. We therefore need to pace ourselves if we hope to finish the race in style, with strength and courage.
Remember to take in fluids and nourishment along the way, at regular intervals. In other words, don’t try to get everything done on the basis of adrenaline and sheer will power. That formula cannot be sustained! In fact, that’s a formula for disaster. If you’re not taking proper care of yourself on the marathon of life, you’re going to have problems along the way.
Fluids and nourishment can be taken literally as well as figuratively. Eat and drink at regular intervals, sitting down, with time to enjoy your meal and your company. Don’t eat on the fly or at your desk while you try to squeeze another task into an already crowded day. Fast food is not soul food. Meals are a chance to take a mental and physical break from the busy-busy pace of life. Squander that chance and you’ll end up burning out before the race is over.
There are other ways to take in fluids and nourishment when it comes to the game of life. Meditation and exercise are the two classic sources for spiritual and physical renewal. It’s good to do both, according to a regular pattern that works for you. They provide a kind of mental vacation from the stresses and strains of life. They help to renew us • body, mind, and soul.
Meditation is nothing more than quiet time, when you’re not trying to accomplish anything on your to-do list. Just sit, relax, be quiet, and breathe. Exercise can play that same function if you’re involved in a repetitive aerobic activity such as running or walking. As you get into the activity your mind leaves the to-do list behind.
Running a negative split also has an important life application. Life should build to a successful conclusion, rather than peter out through sheer exhaustion and personal depletion. This can happen when we run the race well, early on. We save the best for last. Old age becomes our golden years, not because we’re mellow and tired but because we end life with enough reserves to finish in style: caring for self, others, human society, and the natural world.
In scripture, the letter to the Hebrews urges us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” To do that we need to know the race before we run, and then we need to run accordingly. If you hope to finish the race in style, learn how to pace and nourish yourself along the way. “Just say no” to those people, projects, and urges that produce frenzy and sprint-like living. Establish appropriate boundaries. Persevere when the race seems endless or difficult. Trust the process and the victory will come.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
LifeTrek Coaching International
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