Career Lessons from Running the Marathon
I ran the 2015 New York City Marathon. And by run I mean walk in pain for eight hours and 21 minutes. It was definitely worth it. Training for and running the marathon isn’t about your career. It’s about your life. But everything in your life can benefit from the marathon experience. My marathon experience reminded me of the following:
Don’t wait until you’re ready. Make a choice to do it and then get ready. Commit.
Many of our peers are perfectionists who won’t do anything (or share anything they have done) unless they are relatively certain their work is objectively awesome and deserving of a national or global prize. It’s great to have high standards. I certainly have mine. But when your standards and fears of judgment keep you from new challenges and opportunities, it’s time to re-evaluate. What is your career dream – the one that scares and exhilarates you? Have you directed that movie? Have you enrolled in that leadership development program? Have you answered the call when someone asks you to write a career-related blog? Commit! I had dreamed of running the marathon for years. It took a leap of faith and a credit card deposit for me to finally be on the path.
They say running the marathon is a celebration of your training. Training is not for the faint of heart. Training means running 5 days a week, including a long run each weekend and cross training an additional day. It means early mornings for which you must use whatever motivation you can find. In Mindy Kaling’s Guide to Killer Confidence she writes, “Confidence is just entitlement….Entitlement is simply the belief that you deserve something. Which is great. The hard part is, you’d better make sure you deserve it. So, how did I make sure that I deserved it? To answer that, I would like to quote from the Twitter bio of one of my favorite people, Kevin Hart. It reads: My name is Kevin Hart and I WORK HARD!!! That pretty much sums me up!!! Everybody Wants To Be Famous But Nobody Wants To Do The Work!”[i] What is the marathon training equivalent for your career goal? Train Hard. Get Ready.
I finished at 7:27 p.m., three minutes before the course closed. My injured ankle flared but ebbed back when I slowed down and held it together long enough to cross the finish line. It’s a very different journey to do the New York City marathon at my pace. There are no crowds. Water stations are broken down – (A fellow walker and I went into a Duane Reade near mile 17 for Gatorade.) But there are still a few individuals who stop going about their day and call your name – (Thank you to the work crew on the Verrazano!) There is a stoic camaraderie amongst the walkers – the ones who are hurt but refuse to stop. We pull up beside one another for a moment to acknowledge each other. I walked with one man for about 30 seconds. He was wearing a lone survivor shirt. “Hello”, I said. “Hello” he responded. “This is going to hurt,” he said. “Yes,” I responded. “But we’re still in it.” “One step at a time.” And then I moved forward. I saw his family five miles later. They cheered for me then asked, “did you see a guy in a lone survivor t-shirt?” “Yes,” I said. “He’s limping but he’s coming.”
Hard Work and Persistence are Not Enough. You Need Friends.
You can do it alone but it’s so much better with a community. For the marathon, I was inspired by the Team for Kids and Black Girls Run communities. They helped keep me motivated and gave extremely helpful insight during training. For about ten miles during the race I partnered with a woman I didn’t know but who had a similar pace. We helped keep each other on track. I reached out to friends to ask them to be on the course and they showed up with Gatorade and snacks. My friends were critically important for me to successfully complete the race. You need help. If you don’t like asking for help, get over it.
The sun setting on a clear fall day over the city is a gorgeous view from the Queensboro Bridge. That’s easy to miss when you are attempting to run up the Queensboro Bridge at mile 15 out of 26.2. Be present, especially in the rough times. You may find something beautiful.
Have fun out there.
Regina on LinkedIn
[i] Kaling, Mindy. “Mindy Kaling’s Guide to Killer Confidence.” Glamour Celebs, 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.