How to… Run as if to Win the Race

Lessons from Jr. High Cross Country
My oldest son comes by running naturally. My husband and I have both been distance runners since we were about our son’s age. Our son has never not known us as runners. Somewhere along the line, he picked up our love for running.

Running for the past 25 years has certainly taught me a lot of life lessons that have contributed a great deal to who I am today. Yet even after all these many years of running, experiencing it through my son’s budding love for the sport has brought new perspective I failed to learn on my own.

Watching my son develop as a runner has taught me the following 5 lessons about how to run a successful race:

  1. Watch your form. Coordination is not the strongest ability for most junior high boys. Yet as they learn to run with good form and to stay relaxed at the same time, as they make good form a habit, their speed naturally increases. Watching this transformation illustrates the importance of fundamental habits, which really find application in every area of life.
  2. Make your move before it’s too late. Toward the end of the race, there’s often a point when a runner must take off to catch the runner in front of him. Too soon, and he’ll lose steam before catching him. Too late, and he’ll run out of time. This ability for timing comes with experience. As I watch these boys learn this ability, awareness of my own timing in many areas of my own life increases.
  3. Get off to a fast start. As the season progressed, my son learned that he usually finished about where he started. For this reason, he worked to get off to as fast a start as possible and to hold that place as best as he could to the finish line. This consistently worked well for him. Too many times in life, my hesitance and slow start in some area led to disappointment in my final result. My son’s example gives me inspiration to be a better starter so I can be a better finisher.
  4. Practice how you want to race. Only when my son began to increase his effort in practice did his race times begin to really improve. He learned a valuable lesson about focus and effort with daily habits and routines, much like his younger brother did this year in football. The overlapping Life Lessons Learned from Rocket Football and running a successful race contribute greatly to my own personal growth more than I ever expected them to.
  5. Realize that running is mostly mental. Sure, physical strength and ability matter too, but one’s mental strength often trumps another’s purely physical ability. This year, my son learned that he could be a top runner. When he realized this, he started runner faster and believing for even more success with running in the future. Watching him develop mental strength leads me to realize the importance of my own mental strength, especially its impact on my physical ability as well as how crucial continually growing mentally is in my own life.

A successful race does not necessary mean getting first place. But it does mean running your best. When one learns to do that consistently, he finds that running defines more than just his physical ability. And its lessons apply to more than just running, both for the runner himself and those watching his growth too.

DISCUSSION: What one point above can you immediately apply to your own life? How will you apply it?

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10 thoughts on “How to… Run as if to Win the Race

  1. You said "A successful race does not necessary mean getting first place". I agree and in addition I think success is really hard to measure. I offered up if you are continuing to improve then you are being successful and realized even that measure is not always accurate because so many things go into how we measure something and what we leave out. I have a tough time measuring success based on an outcome. Outcomes are certainly an indication of success. So in my effort to try to measure if I am successful and mostly not knowing I think I have to ask this: Am I doing the fundamentals correctly; am I putting in practice time on whatever it is to be better; am I striving to do better than the last time; am I asking for an independent evaluation; am I fulfilling my obligations; am I honoring God by my effort; am I looking at different ways to do something, am I being disciplined in all areas of my life for each affects the other, am I able to build on my effort, am I staying true in the face of defeat; and am I making a positive impact on others by my actions. I really do not know how to measure success.

    • Measuring success becomes difficult because we are so set on comparisons. We can always find someone more successful as well as less successful. Basing success on comparisons keeps us from assessing our success based on God's will for our own lives. No two people have the exact same path to follow, so why do we insist on exact comparisons? Being inspired or motivated by where others are is one thing, and I think a good thing, but using where they are and if we think they are successful skews the view of our own success. In addition, our assessment of others' status is usually not correct anyway. Only God knows, so we need to focus on Him as we determine success or lack of it in our lives.

  2. I've noticed that if I work out regularly–for me, it's primarily cycling–my mind is more likely to be convinced my body can do it. I have a stronger, more prepared mental edge. If I spend time in prayer and study before difficult times, my mind is more likely to be convinced of God's presence and power at work and I'm more likely to get through it. I have a stronger, more prepared faith.

  3. Kari, from my years as a coach I can share at least this point regarding a 12 year runner… this is a great age to learn form running. Habits he learns now at this age will benefit him as he gets older and less "gawky or gangly" as most 12 year old boys tend to be. As his muscles and skeletal system mature, he will become much faster. Oh yeah, here is an adage with a lot of wisdom too: Practice does not make you perfect, but perfect practice gets you a lot closer to perfect. Right techniques engrained now at this age will reap big rewards later. Good points…

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement and advice Coach! He's almost 14 and growing taller and taller. Definitely better with coordination, but still struggles with it for sure. He has terrific coaches, plus my husband and I have quite a bit of experience. Though, my husband is more of a "racer" than I am. Running has always been a struggle for me. Anyway, I really appreciate your experienced wisdom. Confirms that he is on the right track!

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