6 Steps that will Propel You Across Any Finish Line

IMG_5082Last weekend I competed in the Cedars of Lebanon Sprint Triathlon with a herd of wonderful friends. A triathlon is a race that starts with swimming, continues with biking, and finishes with running. This year I swam, biked and ran faster than I have in any other race and took third in my division (“My division” = people who no longer look cool, even in a convertible). However, posting my best time was not the highlight of the day. The highlight of the day was… crossing the finish line with my friends, no matter what my personal time.

Doing life with friends makes the race a lot more fun.

Doing life with friends makes the race a lot more fun.

Whether your goal is physical, spiritual or corporate, there are 6 steps that can propel you across finish lines you never dreamed possible.

This year I had the privilege of Koaching (yes, my friends call me “Koach Ken”) several of my friends from the couch to the finish line. Some of them where afraid they would drown during the swim, some didn’t think they could run the full distance, one hadn’t been on a bicycle for years, but they all finished!

How did they do it? They each took these 6 critical steps to make it happen:

1. Hear the starting gun and respond to it.

The starting gun is not on the race track, it is in your head. You will never make it to any finish line until you hear the starting gun in your head and respond to it. Here is what it sounds like, “I can and will do this!”

Daryl, has competed in this race the last two years. I have never met him because I have a hard time catching him. Daryl’s legs have been amputated below the knees. He swims, bikes and runs with enthusiasm. When I am tempted to complain about my aching feet or moan about how hard swimming is, I think of Daryl (I can and will do this!).

Brenda hadn’t trained like this for years.  She got sick several times during her training, and was sure paramedics would have to retrieve her body from the bottom of the pool.

Brenda crosses the finish line three times for the camera!

Brenda crosses the finish line three times for the camera!

Her smile as she crossed the finish line could have lit up a stadium. In fact she crossed the finish line three times to be sure we got a picture of it. What was her race time? Enough to get to the finish – that is all that mattered. She had done what she thought was impossible. She responded to the starting gun (I can and will do this!).

Shelly had a neurological disorder that made swimming in cold water very painful. The outside temp was 48 degrees when the swim started. Shelly’s team took first place. Each of these people heard the starting gun, “I can and will do this!” months before the day of the race.

Then they took the second step…

2. Tell lots of people about your goal.


Too late to turn back now. Martha came in second in her division. It was her first race. “Cold water make swimmer go fast!”

My friend Danny de Armas just finished running the Boston Marathon. He told his entire congregation about his goal to finish this race. There was enormous energy and hype surrounding this race because of last years bombing tragedy. Danny got caught up in the spirit and ran faster than he should during the first part of the marathon. (See step 5)

With just a few miles remaining Danny hit what marathon runners call “the wall.”  He felt as though he had no energy left in his body. He was wracked with pain and wanted to quit. At that moment he cursed himself (in a gentle baptist way) for telling so many people. He could not quit because he had told too many people. They were all following his progress.

Danny, age 52, finished the marathon in 3 hours and 28 minutes. I can barely tie my shoes in 3 hours and 28 minutes.

Share your goals and plans to reach them with people who will hold you accountable.

3. Execute a plan to reach your own personal finish line.

As the Koach of this wonderful gaggle of friends, I offered them a choice of training plans that would take them from wherever they were physically to where they needed to be to compete and finish this race. You have to execute a plan.

I once stood gazing at the top of a 14,000 foot mountain I had dreamed of climbing. Without a plan I would still be standing there gazing at the top of that mountain.

In my book, Fully Alive, I confessed that the only way I could reach the finish line at the summit would be to…

Step over the branch in front of me. I could do that!
Then I would have to climb the next ridge. I could do that!
Next I’d have to cross the stream on the other side of the ridge. I could do that! ”

With that kind of commitment, one day I found myself standing at the top of Mt Harvard with a spectacular view in every direction.

Divide your task into bite-size steps until the action is small enough to put on the calendar and accomplish.  Hear the starting gun ..(I can and I will!) and go. The small finish line you cross today leads to the big goal you are aiming at for tomorrow. Make a plan and work the plan.


One of my favorite moments. Celebrating the finish with my daughter Taryn!

4. Identify your weakness and make it a strength. 

Swimming is not a sport. For me swimming is a survival exercise. Yet in my training schedule there were special days designed to “work on your weakest skill.” Since I am good at biking, on those days I went to the pool or ran along country roads. I timed myself and tried over the weeks to better my running and swimming technique, in order to get faster. It worked. I swam faster and ran faster at 67 years of age than I ran in last years race.

Don’t run from your weakness. As my friend Michael Hyatt says in reference to skiing, “lean into the hill.”

5. Run with endurance.

Pace yourself.

I learned this at a high school track meet – when the starting gun fired I took off like a shot. After the first turn I was in the lead! Then, one by one, runners began to pass me. By the time I reached the halfway point I was out of gas. I tried to keep going but my legs made a motion against it. My stomach also rebelled and seconded the motion.

Evidently the sandwich I’d eaten earlier in the day did not want to run with me any more either.

Before I knew it I was kneeling on the infield grass. The sandwich came up first, followed by a grape I had eaten when I was seven. I left the stadium in defeat without finishing the race. Pace yourself. Life is not a hundred-yard dash, it’s a marathon.

The prize goes to the one who finishes well, not to the one who’s first out of the blocks. The whole pitiful story is in my book, Fully Alive.

6. Celebrate every finish line you cross. 


Celebrating a good race with friends at the finish line.

I wish you could have seen the faces of the people who finished this weekend. Smiles and tears and laughter. My biggest regret as Koach Ken, was that I did not plan a celebration together, a group picture, a dinner with toasts to all who finished.

I learned a lesson. Celebration is as important as preparation, because tomorrow another race will present itself. The encouragement of celebration will spur you on to another finish line, all part of the race of life.

Even God knows the power of celebration and when I break that final finish line tape, I can’t wait to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Would you like to join Team Fully Alive coming this fall?
Would you like to train for a sprint triathlon, 5k or 10K Walk/Run?
Click here to learn more about Team Fully Alive and how “Koach Ken” and my team can help you!



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