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Head Coach: Great life lessons in only 3.2 miles

By By Lane Johnson
Oct. 4, 2012 at 5:04 a.m.


Have you ever noticed that most events in life carry a lesson of some sort? Everything teaches us something. Then there are those rare occasions when a single event slaps us in the face with several lessons at one time.

Such was the case one Saturday morning about three weeks ago during the Victoria Corporate Cup 6.2-mile relay race. I was part of a five-person team. My leg was the first. All I had to do was run 3.2 miles, hand off a baton, and the rest of the team would take it from there. I've run 3.2 miles and longer so many times I could almost do it blindfolded. It never occurred to me, however, that I was about to be blindsided.

What began as just another day at the park soon became anything but familiar.

Just three steps into the race I found myself dead last and losing ground fast.

Not to worry. I knew from experience that a lot of inexperienced runners start out way too fast and fade quickly. But, about a half mile into it no one was fading except me.

Why hadn't I noticed before what was now clear as day? When we were lined up at the starting line everyone looked years younger than I. Never before had I felt so old, so out of place, so slow and so tired.

At one mile, the first lesson whispered to me. "When you are having a bad moment, fatigue hurts much worse than usual."

While the rest of the competitors continued to increase their distance, I was gasping for air. To make matters worse, I was also a distant last. A sense of embarrassment and humiliation began to surface. How was it going to look when I finally handed off the baton to a team who, for all practical purposes, were totally out of the race?

I considered dropping out. But, the only thing worse than showing up last was not showing up at all. Besides, in 30 years of racing I had never failed to finish. I had also never been last. There was no way I was willing to lose both streaks in one day. I had to at least finish.

The next thought horrified me. As I approached a crossing road along the route that I knew could shorten the distance considerably I had this strong urge to take it. Could you believe I was seriously considering cheating?

My integrity and ethics told me it was unacceptable, but my humiliation and pain suggested it was a pretty reasonable option. Then I remembered I was representing more than just myself. I was running on a company team. I couldn't jeopardize the honor of a whole company.

Lesson No. 2: "Ethics is not as much about honesty as it is about how many people you risk dishonoring in the process."

I resolved to do the distance and finish the race. All that was left was for me to figure out how to spin this thing so finishing last wasn't too humiliating. I was working on my "Yes, but" line when I noticed there was a runner ahead who was beginning to fade. Slowly, but surely, I was gaining some ground. This gave me a new purpose and with it new energy.

Lesson No. 3 livened my step. "No matter how tired, if you can find a new fight, there is always more energy for it."

With less than a mile to go, I found myself neck and neck with a young man probably 40 years my junior. Exchanging the lead several times we battled to not be last. It was a glorious fight. I out kicked him in the end and finished not last.

Though everyone else finished ahead of me, I felt like a winner.

Lesson No. 4: "When all seems lost, stay the course; there will be opportunities to win something."

I may have lost the race big time, but my streak remains intact. I have never not finished, and I've never been last. I went home a winner. It was a good day.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, look for the lessons. Life is ripe with them.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by e-mail at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.

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