How running an Ultra marathon helped me appreciate the steps when taking on a ‘challenge’ (in and outside of the office)
3 months ago, I decided I wanted to challenge myself outside of the business. I also wanted to ensure it had a purpose, so decided to align the challenge with a local charity that means a lot to my family. I like to think I’m relativity fit as I have a regular gym program and do abit of running, so felt it needed to be something more than a traditional marathon.
I decided I would take on an ultra-marathon (approx. 85KM), but with a twist – Due to time restraints with the business and family, I couldn’t commit to running 40-60KM every weekend. I teamed up with a local trainer (Thanks Ant, from RAW Strength!) who put together a training program to allow me to get up to fitness without needing to rack up the miles (I wasn’t allowed to go over 10KM in training!).
I enjoyed the build up to the event, increasing the training and pushing my fitness levels. As time got closer to the event, I became a little more nervous the closer to the start I got – Not so much about my level of fitness, but because of the unknowns – Will by body handle the time on feet? how will I ensure I keep hydrated for this length on time? What will the weather be like? The questions in my head went on and on…
Apart from the sleepless night before, and the 4am wake up to get to the event I was feeling excited and ready. The weather was wet, it was dark but because I had mentally prepared myself I wasn’t fazed. When 6am rolled round, the siren sounded…. And we were off – x300 runners, some professional racers and others like myself taking themselves outside of their comfort zone. Any one I spoke to prior to the start, when they explained they had ran several marathons or other Ultra marathons in preparation for the event, looked at me as if I was crazy when I replied to tell them I hadn’t gone over 10KM in training. That actually spurred me on!
The wheels started to come off…
The first 40KM felt great, I hit half way in under 5 hours (I was expecting 6+) and my legs felt strong. It was after the half way point where I realised I had gone off too quickly (I was running with someone aiming for under 9 hours!), the hills were still to come and the mud was unreal. This is where I started to feel the pain, and more worryingly my mind started to wonder…
Could I finish this challenge?
With my mind wondering, I had to dig deep. It was only when fatigue had kicked in, I was running low on fuel and it started to go dark when I started to think about taking on challenges, in life and business (and thinking about writing this blog, weird I know). I was questioning myself, could I finish the race?
I found myself thinking about all the positives and ways to tackle a challenge in business, that when applied to this challenge started to bring back my motivation and enthusiasm for finishing.
So, what did I learn from running the Ultra Marathon?
A challenge is a challenge – Whether its personal, career or business related. Broken down you can use the same skills and mindset to tackle most challenges.
Below are the areas that helped me during the challenge, and that can help you with your personal, career or business challenges and goals:
What’s your WHY?
– Having a ‘Why’, or a purpose should be at the core of what you do. By having a defined Why, you will have a burning desire to overcome hurdles and challenging times. I had a close connection with the charity I was running for, and when I physically started to fail the mental strength had to take over. This is only possible when there is a deeper purpose. Without the purpose, why continue in that direction?
Goals – Aim high
– Goals are important, small or big. Goals should be used to break your Why down into milestones and should keep you moving in the right direction. I had an aim to finish the race, but I also have a goal to finish in 12 hours. I finished in 13 hours, but If I had set a goal of 16 hours – Chances are I would have taken longer than 13 hours. Aim higher than you need to go.
Build a team
– You can’t do everything on your own, especially if you want to make a big impact. For this challenge I teamed up with a world class trainer and a physio. I also had people around me supporting the challenge. Without this team to guide me and motivate, I may not have made it to the start time. The same is in the workplace – Build strong teams and you will go far.
Break it down
– 85KM is a long way! When stood at the start line, that’s when it hit me… I needed to run over 80KM and I hadn’t gone over 10KM in my training! What was I doing? When looking at a large project or task, it can have the same overwhelming affect. I broke the race down mentally into 20KM blocks, only concentrating on getting to the next 20KM at a time. This allowed me to stay focused and to not get overwhelmed. With projects, tasks or challenges – Just break it down into manageable chunks, momentum will soon build.
Plan, Plan… and plan some more
– Preparation for the event was key – I had to have mandatory kit, I needed to be confident with the route, I had the logistics of getting to and from the event, I have to plan timing for when to eat on the move and the list goes on. Days before the event I mapped out what I needed to buy and ‘do’ using checklists. Yes, that’s the geek in me, but having a pro-active approach when it comes to planning can be the difference between success and failure.
– Invest in the right tools for the job. I’m a big believer in you ‘get what you pay for’. I do love a bargain, but when it comes down to tackling something serious I want the tools to get me to result in the most efficient way, and that will deliver the best results. When it came to the race, I ensured I had the trainers, race pack and running watch that were up to the job to ensure they aided the challenge rather than hinder. This is the same in the work place, so many people and companies make do with old tools or technology, rather than realising that leveraging the latest in technology actually gives you an advantage.
– When training to run the Ultra, I researched ways to develop additional healthy habits – I had to train myself to hydrate more, stretch more and to follow a routine. Without building the habits, it would just be a painful recurring task that would get put off. When it comes to your personal, career or business life building on habits that align with your goals will make progress flow.
How are you going to challenge yourself today?