Written by: Vanessa Barris

I run to strengthen my body and my mind. I run for the challenge, for stress relief and to teach myself perseverance.  I have my most clear thoughts when I hear the methodical sounds of my sneakers on the pavement…. So, I did what any respectable “hobby” runner does and I signed up for my first marathon. 26.2 miles. I could feel the pain in my knees the day I put my name on the roster, but I was determined to push myself. Push my own physical and mental endurance past what I knew to be possible.

I approached this marathon business like I do my work. I am a list maker, a planner. I knew exactly what the end-goal was (finish without dying of course) and I knew exactly how many weeks I had ahead of me to train. Perfect. I did my research and picked a plan of action that worked best for me and vowed to follow it religiously. What I did not realize, was how wrong I was in thinking a plan would work seamlessly and in fact how much this event actually mimics the unpredictability of business and life for that matter. Sure I planned to train X days a week, building myself up methodically to X miles. But I did not account for the roadblocks, the naysayers, the competition itself.

Roadblock #1. On my journey to the race day, I hurt my knee badly which made it near impossible to run more than a mile at a time. I was icing and also considering throwing in the towel. But I immediately switched my focus. In my field quitting isn’t an option, you have to keep going and keep searching even when resources seem exhausted. I was exhausted. But I did what I needed to do, I rested my knee, got back up and kept going.

Roadblock #2. On race day in New Orleans it was pouring down rain, like Florida rain in mid-July. It didn’t stop any of the other racers from charging on right out of the gate in front of me, so in my poncho, I went forward.

I lost my focus quickly though. I started watching runner after runner pass me and the more I watched, the less clarity I had. I put my head back down to the pavement and tuned it out. In this race and in my everyday life, I know there will always be someone ahead of me, doing the same exact job I am in what looks like a more graceful and quick manner. But every time I stop and see this as competition vs. motivation I lose focus. I also knew there were plenty of people behind me, watching me and thinking the same thing exact thing about me. If you stop too often to worry about what everyone around you is doing, you lose focus and fall behind.

In my orderly plan of this race, I didn’t account for the unexpected. I also didn’t let myself anticipate the overwhelmingly positive takeaways in the amazing energy I found in my fellow runners. Being surrounded by people who share the same enthusiasm and collaboration for the common goal is so empowering. While everyone always wants their best time and to be the first across any finish line, we all make each other better when we keep each other motivated and moving towards the goal.

At the end of the day, I did it. I kept my head down, focused and crossed one little line drawn in the road. I was even really satisfied with my race time (although that could have been the momentary bliss I felt because it was over!). I made a plan, scrapped it and reworked a pretty jagged blueprint, but I found that I pushed myself and persevered and that is my biggest takeaway. In business, in hobbies, in life, know your goal and do whatever it takes to get there, bruised up bones and all.

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