“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 International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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