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October 10, 2011

Similarities Between a Half Marathon and a Marathon Work Project

Yesterday I ran my 2nd half marathon.  I have run off and on throughout my life, but officially became a “runner” when a good friend convinced me to join her running group over two years ago.  “It will be fun” she said, “and you’ll get to meet lots of great people.”  So that year, I ran my first marathon in San Francisco along with thousands of other women who may have been enticed by the Tiffany necklace you receive by a fire fighter (dressed in tuxedo) at the end of the marathon.  Did I meet lots of great people?  Yes.  Was it fun?  Yes, but not absent of some pain and struggles along the way.

For some reason, I continue to run, which also provides a lot of time to think.  And since I run slowly, I have more time to think than some of my fellow runners.  As I was running yesterday, I began to compare this experience to goal-driven situations in the workplace.  Each situation seems to be comprised of similar components:

1)      A plan – Whether training for a race or planning a project, each needs to have a plan with specific goals and objectives.  For my half marathon training, the plan was laid out for 18 weeks with daily objectives.  For my work projects, I have similar timelines set in place for daily, weekly, or monthly milestones.

2)      Follow the plan – It’s great to have a plan, but following it is when real discipline comes into place.  For my half marathon training plan, it is folded up in my purse so I can access it at any time.  But, because it wasn’t in front of me every day, I didn’t always complete my daily mileage as outlined.  For my work projects, the same is true.  I do best when I have my timeline posted in front of me in my office to continually remind me of the step(s) I need to take each day to reach the end result.

3)      Support and encouragement – There are days during my training when I didn’t feel like running.  That’s when having a running partner or running group helps.  I had fellow runners I could call or text to encourage me to complete my daily run.  The same is true with work projects.  If I am having a difficulty completing a task, I can take a break, talk to my manager or coworkers, and receive support and encouragement.

4)      Evaluation – Once the half marathon was complete, I thought about how I did.  In yesterday’s case, my time wasn’t as good as I would have liked.  What can I do differently next year to improve my time?  Perhaps I didn’t push myself enough on my long runs, or I didn’t eat the right foods during my training.  When I complete a work project, I also like to take time to evaluate.  What went right?  What lessons were learned?  By documenting the outcome of each step of the process, I can apply that to the next project I’m assigned to.

5)      Celebration – When I finished with the half marathon, celebration was in the air!  There was a band playing, food tents, massages being given, pictures being taken, and families and friends celebrating their accomplishments.  Do we do this in the workplace?  Probably not as good as we should.  It’s important to stop after a big project is completed and join together as a team to celebrate.

So yesterday I did accomplish my goal.  I received the medal I proudly wore around my neck for the remainder of the day.  I hope to use the lessons learned from this experience and apply them to other areas of my life.  After all, each represents an accomplishment.




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