Delayed Gratification – Running Life Lesson #1

Delayed Gratification – Running Life Lesson #1

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My sophomore year at Anderson High School, I was racing in the Boys Varsity Cross Country Semi-State meet.  I was 15 years old and had grown much stronger from the gangly and awkward freshman I was the year prior, when I finished 75th in the State meet.


This was a big race and up to this point, I had not won any major races in my high school running career.  Some of the best runners in the state were competing that day and I was excited to run with the best.  The race went well and I was feeling good running with the front pack of runners through the 2nd mile of a 3.1 mile race (5K).  I decided to push the pace after the 2nd mile and made a move to see who might want to go with me.  I looked back after about 400 meters and to my surprise, the entire pack had dropped off my pace and I was running alone, and with a sizable lead!

My Dad was recording the race on video that day.  We get a kick out of watching it every now and then.  My Dad focused in on me running way out in front of all the other runners and then scanned the video in front of me to see who is leading the race.  He finds no one, and then he scanned the video camera behind me and finds the pack of elite Indiana high school runners trailing far behind.  “Oh!  I hope you know what you are doing, son!” my Dad yells in disbelief.  The camera begins to shake and my Dad yells again, “This is the one we have been waiting for!”


I extended my lead and ended up winning my first big race with ease, and running a personal best of 15:35 for the race.  The next day in the Indianapolis Star on the front page of the sports section was a big picture of me winning the race with the caption Rheam Sends Shockwaves through the State!

I started running and competing at eight years old.  I won some races and competed well, but I had not tasted a big victory such as Semi-State.  That race was my “coming out party” and vaulted me to one of the top five runners in the State of Indiana over the next three years and led to a full running scholarship to a Division I University Cross Country Program!

That Semi-State race my sophomore year, still ranks in my top ten “best days of my life”, 24 years later, why?  Because it taught me one of my most important life lessons, the power of delayed gratification.  It took me seven years and thousands of miles of running and training.  I experienced several races of losing and just not measuring up compared to the rest of the competition.  I had several frustrating days where I thought I should have ran well and stacked up very competitively with the other runners only to finish several seconds behind guys I thought I could beat.  When I made that move at the 2nd mile at 15 years old, I expected someone to go with me and I expected that I would probably lose.  What I did not expect was how my body would respond.

I trained and programmed my body to run a certain way for many years, and up to that point, it had not responded the way I wanted it to.  But on that crisp fall day my sophomore year, my body responded beautifully.  I felt relaxed; my body efficiently processing oxygen and my muscles felt incredibly strong.  For the first time, my body had another “gear” and no one else could match me!  I had several more races like that throughout my career.  Times when my body would respond to the many months of training it endured, but I will never forget the first time it happened on that wonderful Saturday morning.

I have learned to apply the principle of delayed gratification throughout many facets of my life.  The old Bible adage, “You reap what you sow”, is a principle that is as sound and predictable as the law of gravity.  I have come to understand that if I work towards a goal and make quality decisions along the way, then my victory will almost always come without fail.  I try to not get down on myself and continue to push on, because eventually, God will honor my work and I will catch my “second wind” and I will reap the bountiful harvest of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.  Here are some practical examples of delayed gratification ideas you should consider applying in your life:

  1. Save money now for something you can pay for IN CASH later.  Don’t use your credit card, instead pay in cash!
  2. Give yourself a self imposed car payment until you have enough money to pay for your new car in cash or at least put down a hefty down payment!
  3. Stop eating after 8:00 pm every night and watch your body begin to shed excess weight.
  4. Go out and walk a mile and increase the distance every day until you can consistently walk 3 miles without any problems, then begin running it!
  5. Start sowing verbal blessings of encouragement into your child’s life and watch him grow into a fine adult.
  6. Start reading the Bible every day and feel the peace of the Lord in your heart and the wisdom of God’s word in your soul!

Gratification is a wonderful experience especially when it has been simmering in a crock pot of the daily disciplines of good living.  Now go out and start training to win YOUR Semi-State!

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