I started training for endurance events 7 years back with Team in Training. Over past 7 years I have done 4 marathons, 1 triathlon and more than 50 half marathons. I have learnt a lot about me, about life and about leadership over these years. Here are few key learnings
- Its a marathon not a sprint(think long term): Life is like a marathon so no need to stress out about something at mile 1 when you still have 25 more miles to go. When people stress about something going wrong or something being urgent, I always remind them it is a marathon not a sprint. If you have a long term perspective on things you tend to make better decisions.
Lot of times you see teams in perpetual state of emergency, everything needs to get done yesterday. Problem with this is you just burn out the teams. When you have long term view of things(like a marathon) you focus on achieving success in long term and building a healthy team and culture to be successful.
- One mile at a time: Running 26 miles is a daunting task but if you just focus on one mile at a time it seems much more achievable. Last year while running NYC marathon, my legs started cramping at mile 8, another 18 miles seemed impossible to run. I kept telling myself to just focus on next one mile and then the next one. It took me forever to finish the race but I finished. I knew, I can finish the race if I continue to move forward and just get the next mile done.
Similarly in any effort you just have to focus on next mile or next task and make forward progress and you will get to the finish line.
- Great coaches and mentors enable you to achieve unthinkable success: When I started running in 2010, I could hardly walk a mile. I got introduced to Team in Training through a friend and since then I have worked with multiple coaches and mentors in the program. These folks give there most valuable resource to help others, their time. I would not have been able to complete my first half marathon or my latest full marathon without these coaches & mentors. They helped me through every aspect of running from how to pace myself to right shoes or nutrition. They are the reason of what I can do today.
This is no different in other part of life, finding and reaching out to right coaches and mentors is key to success. No one is good at everything, know what you need help with and reach out to people who are experts.
- Have a mission/purpose bigger than just the task at hand: Team in training is endurance training arm of Leukemia and Lymphoma society. You train for endurance events but you are also raising money to fund cure for blood cancers. When things get tough over time, the inspiration that you are doing this not just for you but for a greater good keeps you going. When you are at mile 20 and ready to give up but you cannot because you just cannot give up on mission. That is what keeps you going…
This is also the reason organizations built on higher purpose having passionate employees get lot more done.
- Enjoy the journey with great team: Humans by nature are social animal; having a great team is key for us to be successful. We go for our long runs every Saturday morning and I never miss that practice. Just knowing there are other team members waiting for you to run is such a motivation to get up on every Saturday whether it is rainy, snowy or sunny to go out to run. You just don’t want to let your team down and you want to be there for others. Also remember you will run 26.2 miles on race day but you will be running 100s of miles before that to train and you want to be around people you would enjoy those miles because you will not get a medal for those miles.
- Compete against yourself not others: I am confident I will never win a marathon. I don’t try to compete with anyone else when I run marathons. I compete against myself, it is to prove to myself I can finish or I want to beat my last time but it is all about setting a goal that I will be proud off. Similarly in work life I don’t try to compete with others around me, it is all about setting goals and meeting them.
- Getting to start line is the most difficult thing: If you get to start line you will get to finish line. We all are capable of way more than what we think we are. Taking the first step and getting to the start line is the most important thing.
Nowadays I focus a lot more on getting projects/initiatives to start line and I am confident a great team will get it to the finish line by focusing on one mile at a time.