Finishing Well: Lessons I Learned From Running

by Elaine Cercado

Last April 1st, I collected my fourth medal for finishing 15km at the 2XU Compression run in Singapore.  In December 2011, I finished 21km at the Standard Chartered marathon, and prior to that, finished two 10km runs to prepare for the December run. Obviously, I take great pride and delight in all my marathon bibs and medals because I’ve never ran such distance in my life, hence, finishing – at my early 40’s age – is something very fulfilling indeed!

Some friends have asked me how I got started and kept going.  When I reflected on the answers, I realized three concrete lessons that could apply to career and life in general.

MOTIVATION AND INSPIRATION

First lesson: I had a partner who shared the same motivation and goal, and who inspired me to build my endurance to run.  

I started to run early 2011 with a partner, my husband, who helped me get started and encouraged me to run regularly. While we were both primarily motivated by the desire to be fit and healthy – it was our partnership that inspired me to keep going.

At work, you need to have strong motivation to sustain you long-term.  Motivation is the passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status.  It is a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.  Highly motivated individuals have strong drives to achieve, are very optimistic, and are committed to the organization.

To be more motivated, set your heart on attractive goals.  In running, I get motivated by the vision of crossing the finish line and getting my medal. At work, find out what matters to you and make that your goal – be it recognition from top management, engagement in a global project, undisrupted vacation when away from work, or early financial independence and retirement.

Having an inspiration has a big benefit too!  Running serves as our husband-wife bonding time so we actually look forward to our running together. Some people play music when they run and get inspired by that. I don’t play music – when I run I use the time to think, to appreciate the beauty of the island and nature where we run, or to reflect and thank God for the blessings of the day. These keep me focused and undistracted by whatever pain or tiredness I might be feeling.

DISCIPLINE AND PRACTICE

Second lesson: We established and executed a practice routine. Eventually, running became a habit.

Earlier on, my husband and I agreed on a schedule of two to three times a week, after office hours, for about an hour each time at the island behind our place. Importantly, we always run together and at the same pace. Also, I psych myself to focus and finish the minimum distance we have set every time we run.

At work, you need to be disciplined to ensure deliverables or expectations are consistently met on time, on budget and at the quality expected.  A simple example would be the discipline of coming to work and returning from break on time. When you commit to do this, you learn to manage your time better and become much more productive. You start to sleep early so you would wake up early and leave for work unhurried. To sustain and make “early sleep and rise” a habit, you would prioritize tasks, focus on finishing on plan, minimize overtime work and cut unnecessary or extra-curricular activities.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success wrote, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” He then said “the 10,000hr rule is a definite key in success” – meaning it takes about 10,000 practice hours to become an expert on certain skills or competencies, based on real stories of many successful people.  This underscores the importance of practice – and may I add discipline, focus and patience.

QUALITY TOOLS, QUALITY RESULTS

Third lesson: We invested on the right “tools” to make running easier and fun, and to get us to the finish line with optimum results.

Once running became regular and we signed up for our first 10km run, we started to invest on the “tools” to aid us like blister-free socks, the right pair of running shoes (that corresponded to our feet structure, feet function, body type/weight, running environment and running regimen), knee straps, and dry-fit attires.

The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine wrote in its website: “The combination of 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and a network of tendons, nerves, and blood vessels all work together to establish the graceful synergy involved in running. The balance, support, and propulsion of a jogger’s body all depend on the foot. During a 10-mile run, the feet make 15,000 strikes, at a force of three to four times the body’s weight.” Considering all these, they recommend going for a health / fitness check-up, using the right “tools” and doing the proper training.

For my husband and I, the 100% price difference between the recommended rubber shoes and blister-free socks versus the regular shoes and socks was all worth it. A blistered foot could prevent us from finishing. A running injury (most common pain is known as the runner’s knee) could prevent us from signing up in the next run or marathon.

At work, you should not hesitate to invest on the right “tools” to improve your performance and results. “Tools” could include the right equipment and devices to use, adequate knowledge, hard and soft-skills training, mentoring or coaching and collaborating or networking.  You could certainly pick-up and learn things as you go along – but invest the time, energy and other personal resources to make you more confident to finish well.  Such confidence and results could lead you to challenge yourself and raise the bar.  It could lead you to a path of continuous learning and improvement.

The next bar for us is already set – 42km at the 2012 StanChart marathon. Ultimately though, “finishing well” for me does not mean getting the top prize.  Rather it means achieving my primary goal of being fit and healthy.  Becoming inspired, disciplined and achieving optimum results in the process are bonus that makes finishing – at my early 40’s age – something very fulfilling indeed!

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