Throughout my adult life, jogging has been my physical fitness activity of choice. I love breathing in the fresh air, seeking to stay healthy and taking advantage of our little “friends” called endorphins. Admittedly, I also love to jog so I can enjoy a bowl of ice cream or a piece of caramel cake without feeling too much guilt. For me, a three-mile run is just perfect. It doesn’t take too much time, and it’s a good enough cardio workout to make my cardiologist happy.
While I have never desired to run a marathon, several years ago I decided to train for a half marathon. You might even consider this goal to be a Bucket List aspiration. In any event, I trained as best I could, given a hectic work schedule at the time. Prior to the actual race, the longest distance I had run without stopping was 8 miles. I thought…. If I can run 8, I can make it through 13!
I was supposed to jog the race with a work colleague, but she regrettably injured her leg prior to the event and was rendered unable to run.
So there I was on that cool Saturday morning in April, ready to tackle this race all by myself. I wasn’t too concerned, however, because I planned to listen to my favorite music on my Walkman.
Ready, set, go!
The start of the race was both exciting and chaotic. The adrenalin rush brought smooth sailing early on. Then as the crowd started to thin out, I realized my Walkman was not working. Well, this was not good as I needed the music to keep myself distracted from the fatigue that would be inevitable.
After about 6 miles, I started feeling sorry for myself. There I was with no running buddy and no music. The most challenging half of the race was still ahead. So I started to focus upon other runners who were close by, but who looked like they were struggling. I jogged to catch up with them to chat for a moment and to encourage them.
Hydration was vital, and both water and Gatorade were greatly appreciated. Yet I noticed when I completely stopped for this liquid refreshment (as opposed to merely slowing down), it became more and more difficult for me to start again.
As I began the last few miles, I couldn’t help but notice the spectators who were lining the streets. They were holding signs and enthusiastically cheering, “Keep going! You can do it!” Every single word of encouragement from complete strangers provided a bit more energy to finish the race.
And I did finish the race in two hours and twelve minutes. While this performance probably won’t be meaningful for anyone else, for me, it was a major victory. Done! Mission accomplished in completing a goal I had never previously attempted.
So what lessons did I learn about leadership from my Bucket List experience?
Leadership Lesson # 1: You can do things you’ve never done before and go farther than you ever imagined in pursuing your goals. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you. You just have to try!
Leadership Lesson #2: You should anticipate obstacles and seek to remove them before they present a problem. Why had I not realized in advance that a Walkman might not have good reception in the midst of skyscrapers and thousands of runners? I should have used other technology available at the time.
Leadership Lesson #3: You can achieve more faster if you are surrounded with a great team. When my jogging partner was injured, I should have been proactive in finding others with whom to run. There’s simply something magical about the positive outcomes that can happen when team members share mutual support for one another.
Leadership Lesson #4: Encourage others, even if you don’t know them. Everyone can benefit from a kind word, particularly in this day and age. Strike up a conversation with a stranger and focus upon them as opposed to dwelling on your own challenges. Be an encourager, especially when others appear to be struggling.
Leadership Lesson #5: Resilience matters. When you’re tired, try to persevere. I found that it was easier to keep going and benefit from momentum as opposed to stopping and having to exert more energy to start up again. I am amazed at the commitment of healthcare employees and so many other essential workers who have demonstrated incredible resilience in the battle against Covid-19. Countless lives have been saved because of their dedication to “keep on keeping on”.
Leadership Lesson #6: When your goal is accomplished, be kind to yourself and celebrate. Take a break to rekindle your passion for the purpose of the work. Savor the moment. In my case following the half marathon, a much needed long, hot bath was certainly in order to soothe my sore muscles.
Through that special Bucket List experience, I actually ran two half marathons in one day…. my first and my last! I’m certainly grateful to have had the opportunity to run this particular race, and I was extraordinarily grateful to have finished.
And now I’m back to my three-mile comfort zone and loving it! I must confess, however, that as much as I enjoy jogging “in the moment”, the very best part of running for me is… when it’s over!
So please excuse me now…. My treadmill is calling me once again!