One day while running, I started thinking.

You see when one is busy with the everyday busy-ness, sometimes your “running time” becomes the only time for tuning out problems, reflecting and doing some deep thinking.

I reflected on the unexpected life lessons I routinely experience while running. Who would have thought that logging in 20 to 30 miles a week of somewhat monotonous running would reap such benefits, besides the sore muscles, that is?

The first thing I learned by running was COMMITMENT.

Running requires a commitment. You are either in or out. There is no in between.

Another lesson – we all need a TRIBE.

When you find your “TRIBE” (a group of like-minded people with the same goals), you don’t want to let them down. You feel connected to the group. They become your friends. They become like family. Or like a team (Go Red Line Running!).

Once you make the commitment, you learn about HABIT.

With the tribe encouraging you and the connectedness you feel to everyone; this next lesson is somewhat easy to incorporate into your life.

The next unexpected benefit is what tends to happen when you mix your commitment with habit in the environment of a tribe = RESULTS.

Janie J with her Red Line Racing team mates on the podium after sweeping their age groups in the 800 meters.

Yes, results. You see, once you make the commitment to run, and make it a habit, and have a group of encouragers, you will see some results. They come in the way of expanded endurance, faster times, and the glee from accomplishing your goals.

Then there is race day where all your training is put to the test. Results keep you coming back for more. It’s the icing on the cake that makes you want another piece.

Another unexpected lesson for me has been the effect of ENCOURAGEMENT to one’s running capabilities.

This was a new concept to me. I had no idea that a few fist bumps, or hearing  “go Janie go” or “lift your arms” or “keep pushing – you are almost there,” would actually make me try harder and go faster. It works in reverse too. You can see how others perk up when you push them to do better and congratulate them on giving their best effort.

PERSEVERANCE is a definite lesson from my running experiences.

This lesson might not be totally unexpected. We expect to get better with increased practice. We expect to see results if we put in the time. But the perseverance, wow! I complained when it was literally freezing, and we went on a six-mile jog with ice on the road. I complained when it was dark, and we ran all out and could barely see the track in front of us. (Luckily, I am not as fast as the others, and wore glasses to see where I was going!)

Then there were the nights when it was literally 100 degrees at 6:00 pm and we still had track practice. My face was beet red, and I was sure I would pass out any minute. But not wanting to be a sissy, I kept with it.

Hearing stories of other athletes who had to shovel snow off the entire 400 meters of the track before they could even run helped set things in perspective. Hearing how Roger Bannister (the first man to break the four-minute mile) trained while going to medical school put our plight in perspective also.

We figured it could be worse, so we stopped our grumbling.

Janie J after winning her age group for the 800 meters at the Visalia Senior Games. She also won her age group for the 1500 meters.

Mastering one’s PACE was a very unexpected lesson.

What does pace have to do with running/racing and life? I found out very quickly that when you’re racing 800 meters (two laps around the track), that if you ran the first lap all out, you would run out of steam (or actually breath) on the second lap. This would quickly put you into oxygen debt and you wouldn’t be able to recover in time to finish well.

Life can be like that too. We need to pace ourselves and realize that some things just take time. We have to learn how to retain enough stamina to finish the race. In life, you can still focus and work towards your goal, but remember to take care of yourself, smell the roses, and pace your efforts so you can reach the finish line.

There are two final unexpected lessons from running.

One is that all that is required is YOUR BEST EFFORT. If you prepare well by accepting the commitment, incorporating the habit into your life, completing the training and learning to pace yourself, you will have good results. Whether you win the race doesn’t really matter. (OK, it does matter, but there is more to life than winning!).

The remaining fact is if you do your best, give it your all, you will not be disappointed! Someone may be better or faster, but if you have put forth your best effort you should be proud. As it is in life, all that is required is your best effort.

The last lesson I have learned is that LIFE IS A JOURNEY.

Everyone has their own path, their own way of getting to the finish line. What works for me may not work for you and that is okay.

Cathy Ferguson, an Olympic Gold Medal Winner, said it like this: “Winning is not about 1st place. It’s about doing the little things so you can win the big things in life.

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