Last weekend I ran my first half-marathon. It was a great experience, but I realized some things along the way that translate to everyday life and business, so I felt the lessons learned would make for a good article this week.
Over the past several months I have been running every week pushing a little further each time in preparation for this race. As some of my followers already know this all started with the Triathlon I did last year. So I guess now I am addicted to the adrenaline? Obviously this race would test my determination and commitment even more. In the weeks leading up to the race I had run the full 13.1 miles several times, taking roughly 3 hours each time. While this is not a great time, for someone who has never done this before and doesn’t have a history of running, I felt good about just being able to complete the overall distance and time wasn’t my primary concern.
On the morning of the race it was very cool with about a 25 MPH wind. It was still dark out and a slight rain began to fall as we were all standing at the starting position. I was shivering and asking myself; ’what the heck am I doing here?’ As I looked around I could see some of the same perplexed looks on other faces. Then, in what felt like only seconds, but in reality was nearly an hour, I could hear the National Anthem being sung in the distance at the front of the starting post. I could feel my adrenaline start to build. It was as though I was a kid again on the football field waiting for that first hit! Before I knew it we were on our way and the journey had begun.
Once my blood started pumping I had forgotten about the cold and the wind was refreshing. By mile 3, I was feeling great and passing people by the dozens. By mile 5, I realized that I had set my pace way too fast and was already starting to feel fatigue setting in. At this point I knew it was going to be rough to finish. Once I had reached the mile marker 5, the course spilt. On the left was the race route heading out and on the right was the race course heading back, with a turnaround at the 7.5 mile mark.
By the time I hit the half way mark I noticed many people cutting across the median and heading back on the right side return path. I can remember thinking to myself, what are they doing? They are only cheating themselves. I mean why even sign up for a race if you are going to cheat yourself? I further thought, now they will show great times they didn’t even earn. Either way this had nothing to do with me or my goal so I shook my head and continued on. I learned a long time ago not to judge what I do based on other people. While my main goal was to just finish, I was hoping that I would be able to at least match the three hour times that I had been setting during my training.
Despite all the training I had done, by the time I hit mile 10, I was in enough pain to question why I ever considered doing this. It felt like f o r e v e r before I came across mile marker number 11, and I was ready to quit and start walking, as many others had already done. However, “quit” has never been in my vocabulary, so I continued on pushing through the pain.
I started thinking about how earlier I had seen people cheating, and all of the people who had given up and started walking. While I knew that there was no way I was going to meet my goal of finishing at the three hour mark, I definitely was not going to quit. I stopped thinking about how much pain I was in, and the fact that I still had over two miles to go before the finish line, and started thinking about other times in my life where I had to push though the pain.
Throughout my career there has been many times where I thought about quitting. I have had some pretty painful personal experiences as well that I have had to endure. However, I have never given up and I have never run away. I spent the remainder of the race thinking about all the trials I have been through and what I have learned from the experiences. I thought about how much richer my life is due to pushing through, and what would have been lost had I ever given up.
Before I knew it, I could see the finish line! The adrenaline kicked back in and I sprinted across the finish line. I had done it! I finished the race, and to my surprise I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 34 mins. Nearly a half hour faster than any of my training runs.
In business, and in life, there are many times we can all feel like we are not appreciated, that we are not doing a good job, or that we should just quit. Sometimes when you think you are doing poorly, if you keep your head down and push through, you may just surprise yourself and find out that you actually rocked it out. Remember, it is true that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and that true leaders in this world don’t quit. They push through the pain. In the end you will have more enriching experiences and be a better person for what you have endured. As I have said before, it is only when faced with adversity that true character is revealed, and it is your decision to be a cheater, a quitter, or to push through the pain and find solace in the fact that you have done your very best.
[Side Note: In the race when I got to the turnaround point there was a marker that read your timing chip. So all of the people who decided to cut across and cheat, ended up with a “disqualified status” next to their number on the board for all to see when they got back to runners row. Now that is Justice!]