In 2007 I read a magazine article – it was an interview with John Stanton, the founder of Running Room (Canada’s largest specialty sports retail store). The article was about his success as a Canadian Entrepreneur- how he was able to grow his business from his first store in his garage out of Edmonton to over 100 stores nationwide in 25 years – in an industry which at that time was a hobby (Long-distance running). He inspired thousands of Canadians in changing their lifestyle, and inspired them to push beyond their natural limitations and compete on the same level as Elite Athletes.
After I put down the magazine and reflected, I was more impressed with the message of his interview i.e “Anyone can train and run a marathon”. I looked at myself in the mirror – I resembled a brown version of Shrek at that time (no kidding) and I said to myself “This guy is crazy, he just wants people to go to his stores and buy more stuff”. But something in me wanted to visit one of his stores, maybe I can join a running group.
I let that idea sink in for few months, I did not take immediate action but the thought was always in my mind – I need to visit one of the Running Room stores and check out one of their running groups. But I did not take any action for a few months.
As Spring had sprung in 2008- I decided to pay their store in Toronto a visit. I wanted to get an education on their programs and on what they actually sold.
The first clinic/program was called “Learn to Run”. I was actually insulted when the store manager Steve suggested I LEARN to Run.
“What am I, a toddler?” I thought to myself. “I know how to run”.
I argued with Steve that I wanted to run in a more senior category (10K). He advised against it and he suggested that I start with the fundamentals. Reluctantly I signed up.
And I am glad I did. I remember one of the toughest workouts was on one Sunday Morning where we were supposed to run for 3 minutes and take a 1-minute walk break. I still remember to this day how difficult that particular run was. I realized that this journey was not going to be easy.
But with constant practice, persistence, and with the support of the group, I endured and continued my practice. Over the next few months, I spent hundreds of dollars on running gear- specialty shoes, gels, water bottles, race sign-ups, GPS watches (and initially I thought running was cheap). It turned out more expensive than having a gym membership.
Slowly and surely I graduated from one program to the next- Learn to Run – 5K -10k -Half-Marathon- Marathon. I trained 3 to 4 times a week and it changed my lifestyle and more importantly my mindset. In May 2009 I ran my first Marathon and it was one of my proudest moments.
Though I stopped long-distance running and moved on to other fitness programs- there are few key lessons & insights that I have learned from Training for a Marathon- which I think have been vital to my life and career.
1. It Never Gets Easier, You Only Get Better
The first few weeks of the training program were the hardest- it was exhausting!! I trained and overcame the obstacles. But here is the fun part, as the training program progressed – so did the difficulty. Every step was harder than the previous step. It was like playing a video-game – each level is tougher than the previous one. But the reward comes from progressing from one level to another.
It draws a perfect analogy to your career.
We all start off as a beginner or a new graduate or an intern, we start at the bottom of the food chain (Corporate Ladder). That is where we all start, and then over time as our skills improve so do our positions, and so does our career.
Nobody will ever tell you that once you are a middle manager, it is easier than being an intern. Or being a C-level executive is easier than being a manager. The challenges & complexities increase as you move up the chain. The good news is that you develop multiple skills along the way to make yourself more competent. It never gets easier, you only become better.
2. You Can’t Do it Alone
Right from the beginning, I had help. I learned from the wisdom & experience of numerous people I encountered during my 1-year Training for the marathon. It started with Steve (The Store Manager), then Peter (The Clinic Instructor), my running buddies, and the support group I encountered.
Another advantage was the accountability factor. If I missed a workout, folks in the group would ask me “Nissar, we didn’t see you on Wednesday, what happened?”.
Ouch!! That Hurt! I did not know to want to let my group down. Nobody does.
That is the power of accountability. We tend to strive & aim higher when we have a peer group to report to. In another article, I write about The Power of the Peer Group.
In your working life, it is important that you align yourself with individuals who will help you proper your career – mentors, coaches, like-minded individuals.
This group is hard to find but they are out there. Seek them out, having a strong accountability system will help you with your long-term career aspirations.
3. Cherish the Journey
Earl Nightingale in his program Leads the Field talks about Happiness. He mentions “Happiness is a progressive realization of a worthy ideal”. Nothing could be further from this universal truth. We are most happy when we know we are making constant progress towards what we are striving for.
Have you ever completed something that you were diligently working on? How was the feeling once you reached that pivoted goal? Very anticlimactic right?
That’s how I felt when I crossed the finish line at the end of my first marathon in May 2009. Months of struggle and hard-work led me to that moment, but as I crossed the finish line – instead of feeling euphoria I felt depressed “Is this that?” I asked myself.
But the greatest happiness I experienced was week-over-week when I was completing the training sessions. The progress I was making every week gave me huge amounts of satisfaction. Euphoria was an everyday feeling.
Too many times, we get caught up in the end goal – the promotion, the raise, etc. but you would agree that the reward is in the journey itself. It is hard to put a price tag on the growth you experience, the relationships you foster, the skills you learn. No matter what you are working on enjoying the journey. And you will have more satisfaction and fun.
I did enjoy my journey as a recreational runner. I ran a couple of marathons, a few half-marathons, and multiple other races. It was fun, I experienced tremendous growth, I no longer look like an ogre (but nowhere close to a Spartan). I have gained numerous insights and key lessons that I have been able to use in my career and in my life.
I definitely encourage that you add Running a Marathon to your bucket-list. And find out for yourself the rewards of the journey and the results.