Lessons from the Road…Gratitude and Perspective Are Key During a Pandemic

March 18, 2020

Currently, many Americans are working from home during the pandemic in order to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19.  This is a big change for many people.  Social distancing can feel like social isolation to people who are used to being surrounded by other people all day.

I see the Facebook posts of friends sharing how the pandemic and social distancing have triggered their depression and anxiety.  Others talk about the loneliness or disconnection they feel due to social distancing.  My running friends and I are missing each other due to our group runs, social events and races being cancelled or postponed.  My other friends are missing our restaurant outings.  There’s something about work, hobbies, sports and food that connects us.  Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, most people need the human touch and/or human interaction.  It fuels our souls…or in the case of my running friends, it fuels our soles.  Social distancing has temporarily stifled our sense of community and connection with others.

During the pandemic, my solo runs and walks have been crucial to my health and well-being.  I know I’m not alone in that feeling.  I live in a community that isn’t known for its friendliness.  It’s known for being the opposite.  But what I’ve experienced since people started staying home most of the time is that when we get out and get some fresh air, we feel relieved, relaxed and revitalized.  We also feel grateful.  I know this because the same people that usually ignored my friendly greetings and looked away from me in the past, are now responding back with a friendly greeting and a smile.  Here are two examples of such exchanges:

Me: It’s so great to get out of the house for a bit and enjoy the spring sounds and smells, isn’t it?

Them: Yes, it is!

Me: It’s beautiful out today, isn’t it?

Them: Sure is!

To put this in perspective it was 35 degrees and cloudy.  But it was truly beautiful out because we were all getting a change of scenery from the walls of our homes.  We were all breathing fresh air and doing it comfortably…something to be grateful for any time, but especially these days.  And my guess is that these people were seeing what a gift it is to be able to enjoy nature and see other people when we’ve been isolated in our homes for days or weeks.

If you follow my blog, you know Lessons from the Road is about things I learn when I’m out running and how they relate to business.

So, what does this story have to do with business?

During the pandemic business as usual is more like business unusual.  Many people are working from home and alone.  Medical providers are being taxed to their limits.  Many businesses such as restaurants are closed or only doing take-out and delivery and taking a huge financial hit.  Some businesses may not survive.  Many gyms are closed.  Places where we go to connect for business or social purposes are closed and it feels strange…and at times a bit scary because we don’t know how long this is going to be the temporary “new normal.”

With that said, running during the pandemic has reminded me that socializing doesn’t have to be face to face, close contact or at a group or public event.  You can reconnect with friends and business associates by picking up the phone or using a video app such as Skype to feel more connected and less isolated. You can connect with neighbors and humanity by going outside to get some fresh air and exercise, even if you stay six feet or more away from them as you run or walk by.  In fact, you may even find that social isolation has made some people more friendly as they long for human interaction.  My hope is that trend continues when the pandemic is over and businesses reopen.

Being home bound may be driving people crazy.  Some will get outside and get some fresh air for that reason alone…something they might not have done without social distancing becoming part of their lives.  Exercise is good for your mind, body and spirit.  It’s also good for business because healthy employees are more productive and have less absenteeism.  As a health coach, I hope the feeling they get from exercise will be contagious in a good way, and it will become a new habit for them.

In business, we sometimes take our coworkers and our relationships with them for granted.  In life, it can be the same way.  I think the pandemic has opened our eyes to the importance of others and the positive impact they have in our lives and our workplaces. It’s given us a new or renewed perspective on what’s truly important and what helps us thrive.

So, when you are no longer home bound, try to remember what you’ve learned while being socially isolated and take those lessons back to the workplace with you and to your other personal, social relationships. Being grateful is a good thing in work, running and life!



Age Is Just a Number. It Doesn’t Define Us in Racing or in Business. When We Embrace Age with the Right Mindset, We Can Achieve Great Things.

December 19, 2018

This blog is the story of my turning 55 in 2018.  Some people dread milestone birthdays (ones that end in 0 or 5.) My mother loved them, so I have always loved them.  She referred to them as “big birthdays.” And she made a big deal out of them.

As an age group athlete, big birthdays are a big deal to me because I am one of the youngest in my age group…such as 50 to 54 or 55 to 59.  When you’re one of the youngest in the age group, you are sometimes more competitive.  Being more competitive can mean placing in your age group, which earns you an additional medal, plaque or other prize.  I’m all about the racing bling, and I have several walls full of finishers medals to prove it. However, age group placement had eluded me until this year.

My journey for my big birthday year began in January when I ran the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World.  You run a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.  They call it the Dopey Challenge because there wasn’t an eighth dwarf named Crazy.   I ran the Goofy Challenge five years ago (half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday) and enjoyed it.  This year, I wanted to up my game and go for broke with Dopey.  The other bonus of running Dopey this year was it was an anniversary year…fifth anniversary of the Dopey Challenge and 25th anniversary of the marathon.  This means better bling and swag.  You earn six gorgeous medals, six great shirts and lots of other surprises when you commit to running Dopey.  I was grateful that my friend in Kansas City who had run Dopey before, wanted to run it again because of the anniversaries.  In 2017, my friend Margaret and I would talk about our training, our excitement about the Challenge and the fun we were going to have on our trip.  I developed our motto for 2017: “Nothing dopey before Dopey!”  This meant, don’t get injured, don’t get sick or don’t do anything that could derail our journey and our big goal.  We accomplished that.

Margaret and I didn’t run the races together, but we met up before the races to wish each other well and met afterwards to talk about how things went.  It was a magical trip and we both finished sore, but very happy.  My motto afterwards was: “Friends don’t let friends do Dopey again!”  That precious dwarf with the big blue eyes and the beguiling smile, kicked my butt…literally.  I didn’t realize it until I ran a few races in February.

I ran two 5ks on consecutive days in February, less than a month after completing Dopey.  They were glorious.  I placed in my age group…first in one race and second in the other.  Keep in mind, I was still 54 years old in February, so that was thrilling for me because I was one of the oldest people in my age group.

In the first race, I ran with one of my favorite pacers, Molly, who had paced me in several races over the past two years.  She was pacing the half marathon that day, but I decided to try to keep up with her until I hit the 5k turnaround.  As I hit the turnaround on this out and back course, I experienced something I’d seen but never experienced myself.  I was near the front of the pack heading to the finish line.  People in the middle and back of the pack were cheering me on…just like I’ve cheered for hundreds of front runners over the last ten years.  It was surreal and exhilarating.  The 5k the next day wasn’t an out and back, but my pace felt fast and comfortable.  The weather that day was bitter cold and windy.  I think I ran faster just to get done and get warm!  Placing in my age group was new to me, much less two races back to back!  I was elated.

That elation tapered when I realized my right glut was very grumpy and so was my right hip flexor.  I’m a huge believer in muscle maintenance.  I was going to my ART (Active Release Techniques) chiropractor regularly after Dopey to work out those muscles.  Both ART practitioners that have treated my grumpy muscles over the last 10 years are amazed by two things: my threshold for pain and my body’s ability to heal so quickly.  Both are a blessing, especially the latter!  But after those two 5ks in February, I wasn’t healing.  For the first time, I had a treatment that was so uncomfortable I told the doctor he needed to stop a moment for me to take a breath.  At that point, he knew I had a problem and it wasn’t going to heal in a week like usual.  He asked me if I thought I’d torn something.  I told him there was no way.  I would have felt it or heard it. He told me that isn’t always the case.  We talked about my symptoms. He and my deep tissue sports massage therapist came to the same conclusion.  I had almost all the symptoms of a labral tear in my hip.  If they were right, that would mean no running, require major surgery and six months to a year of recovery.  I was terrified.  Running is my life…it’s part of how I make my living and it’s one of the great joys I look forward to each week. It’s how I spend my “me time.” It’s my mental health break three days a week. Being a runner is who I am. It is the core of my being, and it nourishes my soul.

My next step was to see a specialist.  He examined me to determine my range of motion in my right leg compared to my left.  When he was done, he sent me to get x-rays and an MRI.  The radiologist and his staff were amazing.  The radiologist that did my MRI prep was a runner…not just a runner, an Ironman!  He knew what this diagnosis might mean.  The day I got my MRI, I saw my ART chiropractor.  He was working on muscles that didn’t send me into orbit.  I told him I’d had the MRI that morning.  His reply was, “Wouldn’t it be funny if everyone was wrong and this wasn’t a labral tear?”  I looked at him and asked if he thought that was going to be the case.  He looked down for a moment, and said, “No. But if anyone’s body is going to fool us, it’s going to be yours.”

Thank God, my body fooled everyone.  There was no labral tear and no hip impingement. I had a grumpy glut and hip flexor, most likely from running more than 1,000 miles in both 2016 and 2017.  I spent six weeks in physical therapy and was not allowed to do any exercise.  After I completed my physical therapy, I went back to the specialist for him to reexamine my range of motion.  I was cleared for all exercise.  The doctor told me to take it easy this year. I told him I had signed up for close to 30 races.  He told me, “This is not about speed, racing and mileage.”  I smiled and said, “Speed left the building for me years ago.  But it is about racing and mileage.”  I promised him I would make 2018 a recovery year and reduce my weekly mileage. His idea of a recovery year and mine probably aren’t the same.  My idea of a recovery year meant I wouldn’t train for or run a fall marathon.  I’d stick with shorter distances of 5k to half marathons. I was off and running again!

During the physical therapy, I gained 15 pounds from not being allowed to do any exercise…not even walk for fitness.  Once I started running again, it was a slow process. I’d lost my fitness and my pace was slower than it had ever been. I remember telling Marty, my ART chiropractor, how frustrated I was with my pace and that my body felt sluggish.  Marty said, “Be patient.  Your speed will come back. Just give it time.” Regardless of my pace and lack of fitness, I was grateful to be running again, and I was committed to getting back to where I was before Dopey.   My races in March, April and May were rough.  I had to take walk breaks during every race…even the 5ks. It was humbling and disheartening, but I refused to give up.  I just kept running and trying to regain my fitness.

By June, I was back to my racing weight and my body was feeling good.  I was able to run entire races without walk breaks again.  Then something amazing happened.  My speed came back!  Not only did it come back…it came back faster than when I was running my fastest race times more than seven years ago. I was placing in my age group in nearly every race.  I was stunned! I couldn’t believe what my body was able to do, especially after struggling for the first six months of the year.

Sometime in July, when I was feeling the best I’ve ever felt during training runs and races. I thought to myself that I needed to set a big goal for 2018 since it was a big birthday year.  When I turned 50, I ran a 50 mile ultra marathon in high elevation in Nevada.  I am a woman of my word, and I keep my promises. That meant running a 55 mile ultra was out of the question since I promised to make this a recovery year and not run a fall marathon…much less a fall ultra marathon.  After a bit of pondering, I came up with this great idea…some said it was crazy. I would run 55 races in celebration of turning 55!  All I had to do was sign up for 25 more races.  What that meant was I would be racing two or three consecutive days almost every weekend until the middle of December.  Because I’m a planner and I know how unpredictable weather can be in Kansas City, I signed up for two additional races just in case one or two were cancelled due to weather.

Through the summer and fall, I would post on Facebook where I was in the journey and how I did in each race.  My friends would post, call, text and email congratulations and encouragement as I got closer to my goal.  As a planner, I tried to make the 50th and 55th races ones that were personal favorites of mine.  The weather cooperated.

Race #50 is my favorite fall half marathon, called Gobbler Grind. It’s a beautiful course and a lot of fun.  Two of my favorite pacers, Molly and Sheree, were pacing that race. Both had paced me before. Both are amazing athletes.  They were pacing runners that hoped to finish in 2:20 and 2:25.

As an RRCA Certified Running Coach, I use recent race times to help clients gauge how they will perform in future races.  My calculations said if I really pushed myself, I could finish the half marathon in 2:10 (two hours and 10 minutes.)  To put this into perspective, my half marathon finishing times in 2017 and 2018 ran between 2:30 and 3:00.  To compare apples to apples, I ran Gobbler Grind in 2:16 in 2015, in 2:35 in 2016 and 2:44 in 2017.  You don’t have to be a math genius to see I’d gotten slower, not faster the last few years.  However, my 5k and 10k times over the previous few months were my fastest times ever!  I set a 5k and 10 PR (personal record) prior to Gobbler Grind this year. Using those finishing times, the chart predicted 2:10 if I went for broke or 2:15 if I pushed hard but didn’t leave it all on the course.  Either of those times would have been a course PR for me at Gobbler Grind.

Race day came, and I got to see my two favorite pacers.  I told them I was aiming for a 2:10 finishing time and my goal was not to see them on the course, but to see them bring their runners in after I’d already finished.  They both commented on how well my races had been going the last few months and wished me good luck.  I got into the corral, we heard the National Anthem sung and then we were off!  The first 10 miles felt great. I was pushing myself, trying to maintain a pace below my goal finishing time pace.  I was golden.  The last three miles felt harder.  I could feel myself slowing down, but I was confident I would finish in under 2:16, my previous best finishing time on that course.  At mile 11, there was a man and his young daughter standing by their truck with a sound system in the back.  The song playing was “Aint No Mountain High Enough.”  My mother loved that song.  I love it too.  I started singing as I ran by and felt myself tearing up a bit.  Then, my heart rate shot through the roof.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was having a heart attack.  I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t breathe.  That lasted less than a minute, is my guess.  I realize this may sound crazy, but I felt my mother’s presence as if she was right there with me during that minute.  Then, my heart rate and breathing returned to normal and I knew what I had to do. I picked up my pace and kept reminding myself I was on track to finish in 2:10. As I made a turn less than a mile from the finish line, I could see the 2:10 pacer on a bridge above me.  He was behind me, but not far behind me.  I kicked it up another notch and was at the finish line in under 2:10. That time earned me a beautiful plaque, some other great swag and a gift certificate to a local running store for placing second in my age group.  I picked up my prizes and headed to the finish line to greet my pacer friends.  We were all smiles as I joked about how glad I was to see them at the finish line and not passing me on the course.  They wished me luck on my next five races and said they looked forward to seeing my posts on this race and the 55th on Facebook.

Race 55 was on December 8 and the weather forecasts early that week looked ugly.  It’s a night time Christmas themed run.  I’d run it two previous years and just loved the energy and fun of a night race at Christmas.  I really wanted that race to be my goal race, but the forecast was nasty.  By mid-week the forecast was looking better and by Friday, the night before, all the forecasters seemed certain the nasty storm was going south of Kansas City and it would be very cold, but dry on race night.  They were right.  The evening started off great.  I got to see many of my running friends who wished me luck knowing this was my big race.  I ran at a fast pace, but didn’t push too hard.  I wanted to enjoy the sights of the streets and homes lit for Christmas and rejoice in knowing my goal was only 5k away.  When I finished, the race director knew this was my 55th race, and as I crossed the finish line, he announced my name and that it was my 55th race this year.  I silently mouthed a Shalane Flanagan utterance as the realization of my goal washed over me.  I was overjoyed.

When I finished my racing year on December 15th, I ran 57 races ranging from 5k to marathon distance and placed in my age group 34 times.  I also qualified to join the Kansas City Running Club’s Max Running Team comprised of some of the city’s fastest runners.  My 5k, 10k and half marathon finishing times over the last few months qualified me for my gender and age group.  I was ecstatic to be able to join this group of extraordinary runners. The most mind-boggling thing this year was that my VO2 Max reached a level in the top 1% for women my age and was the equivalent of a 20 year old in excellent health!  VO2 Max is a common measurement used to establish the aerobic endurance of an athlete prior to or during the course of training. It directly correlates to fitness capacity.

 This journey exceeded all my hopes and expectations. I achieved my big goal, earned some great age group awards, qualified for the Max team and made a lot of wonderful new running friends during this adventure.  The support from my friends across the country and the world was heart-warming.

For those that follow this blog, which I call Lessons from the Road…Things I Learn While Running and Racing, you know I always end the blog with how the lessons I’ve learned apply to business.

So, what does this story have to do with business?

More than you might think and much more than I would have thought prior to embarking on this adventure.

Statistics say that runners slow down gradually after 40.  However, I am living proof that you can defy the odds.  Age doesn’t define us as runners and it doesn’t define us in the workforce…at least it shouldn’t.  I often say talented professionals are like fine wine…they improve with age.

I have several close friends that are in their 40s, 50s and 60s that keep getting turned down for jobs.  Some are reentering the workforce after raising children.  Others have been downsized and are looking for new opportunities and challenges.  All of them are talented professionals with great work ethic and impressive resumes.  My friends tell me the people being hired are primarily in their 20s and 30s.  My middle-age friends tell me age discrimination is alive and well and ask me how I was able to defy the odds.

For those that don’t know me personally, let me give you some background.  I was an entrepreneur for 25 years and owned several successful businesses in Cincinnati.  When my mother died suddenly, I moved to Kansas City in 2014 to care for my father.  I thought I’d run my companies in KC and build a new client base there while maintaining my Cincinnati client base.  Within six months it was apparent to me that it would take years for me to build my business in Kansas City to a level half as successful as what I’d built in Cincinnati.  I knew I needed to get a “traditional job.”

During my search, I experienced the same situation many of my friends have experienced.  My potential boss and other people interviewing me were half my age.  I wondered if I wasn’t getting job offers because they were concerned that I might try to go after their job. I wondered if they didn’t think they could afford me.  I wondered if they thought I wouldn’t take direction well because I’d been my own boss for so long. When you get the call or email that you were not chosen for the position, they don’t tell you why, or the full reason why, you weren’t offered the job.

Then, I interviewed with the company I currently work for and that was a game changer.  From the very first interview, it was different.  I knew their culture was one where I would fit in, and they saw my passion and dedication to the wellness industry and the company’s mission and purpose.  They didn’t see me as a number…an in my 50’s number.  They saw what I had achieved, that I was a team player and the knowledge, skills and energy I would bring to their company.  I was hired, and I am grateful for that every day.  They saw beyond my age and the 25 years I’d been my own boss.  They saw the value I would bring to our company and our clients.  I love the company I work for, the client I serve and being a health coach for their employees.  My employer didn’t assume, like some people and companies do, that former entrepreneurs or highly experienced professionals, especially middle-aged ones, can’t play well with others and won’t be happy if they’re not calling the shots.

I often hear from friends that they’re being passed over in the final interview stages for younger workers because companies can pay younger workers less.  As someone that has owned several companies, I know you get what you pay for when it comes to employees and contractors.  The team of contractors I worked with in Cincinnati was a group of extraordinarily talented middle-aged professionals.  They worked hard, never missed a deadline and produced work that exceeded clients’ expectations.  They were worth what they charged because they had honed their skills to a level that far surpassed younger professionals and they had a work ethic that was unstoppable. I didn’t have to micro manage them and remind them about upcoming deadlines. They got the job done, and they did it right the first time.  I knew I could count on them.  I respected them, their knowledge and their experience.  They made my job easier as the business owner and they made my clients happy.  That’s real value.

I’m not saying that younger workers don’t do high quality work and bring value to companies.  They can, and they do. But the adage “with age comes wisdom” is true.  Don’t take my word for it.  Research shows that older workers make better decisions, see multiple points of view more easily, are more interested in searching for compromise and are better at resolving conflicts than younger workers.  This is due to having more experience.  In the business world these qualities are crucial to success, and they save companies money in the long run.  Years of wisdom are something you can’t buy, but they have great value.

So, the next time you’re looking at a potential employee, don’t judge that book by its cover.  Look deeper.  That middle-aged professional will most likely run circles around most younger ones, and middle-aged professionals have lots of good, productive miles left to contribute to your company.  Middle-age professionals are winning team members that will get you to the finish line faster and successfully.

And to the middle-aged professionals looking for new career opportunities, you can defy the odds.  Look for a team, a company, that is the right culture fit and one that sees your value.  When you find one, you’ll know you’re on track to achieve a personal record. Godspeed!


When You Exude Positive Energy, It Will Come Back to You in Racing and In Business

April 12, 2017

My friends love to hear my stories about my “good karma” experiences, and they have been asking me to write a blog about them.  This is that blog, and it features some of my favorite stories from last year or two.

Sometimes Home Is Closer Than You Think

When I lived in Cincinnati, I drove more than 45 minutes each way to shop at Costco.  I was there almost every week because I was buying food for my cooking classes and my personal use.  I knew all the staff there, and they knew me.  They were like an extended family.  I knew about their health, their families, their hobbies and so many other things.  I loved that.  When I moved to Kansas City, I found a Costco much closer to where I live.  I’d been shopping at this same Costco for more than a year.  One day, I got into the checkout line with 180 eggs and a bunch of fresh vegetables, fruit and lean protein.  The gentleman checking out my purchases looked so familiar.  I knew that couldn’t be. Then he says, “You’re from Cincinnati, right?” I tell him I am and ask how he knows that. He smiles and says I used to work at the Springdale Costco where you shopped. I was nearly in tears. I knew who he was.  It was Gene, one of my favorite team members at Costco.  I was so glad to see a familiar face from home. I ran around to the other side of the conveyor belt and gave him a huge hug and kiss and told him to tell his wife I said hello.  I asked how she was doing and he told me she is a manager at another Costco in KC and her transfer to that store is what brought them to Kansas City.  He asked me, as he looked at my purchases, how marathon training was going.  I told him it was in full swing and going well, all while holding back tears of joy.  I had been clicking my heels and saying, “There’s no place like home!” since I got to KC. That day my Cincinnati home came to me.  Now I wait in line for Gene even when there are shorter lines.  He is my KC connection to fond memories of home.

Sometimes Home Is Closer Than You Think Part 2

I was flying home to Cincinnati to race and visit friends.  It was the day after Delta’s computer system crashed.  Lots of flights were delayed or cancelled.  My flight was scheduled to leave on time, but I got to the airport very early anticipating long lines.  As I’m waiting in line, I notice the Delta agent looks familiar.  But I know I’ve never seen him at the KCI airport.  He asks me, “Where are you going?” I tell him home to Cincinnati. He says your driver’s license says you live here. I reply with a smile, “You asked me where I’m going…not where I live.” He then asks where I lived in Cincinnati. I said Burlington, Kentucky. He smiled and said I used to live in Oakbrook and worked at CVG, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport. That’s why he looked so familiar. He had checked me in on flights numerous times when I lived in Cincinnati.  As I headed to the gate I said, “Please take good care of my bag. My racing gear is in it.” Imagine my surprise when it was first off the conveyor. Here’s why…Vince had priority tagged my bag.  It was treated with VIP status.  Bless his heart. This is what I love about Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky people…hearts of gold and we take care of our own.

A couple months later, I was heading home to Cincinnati to visit friends and relax…no racing on that trip.  I had hoped to see Vince when I checked in, but he was not there.  As I was waiting for my flight I decided to take a walk around the gate area.  At one of the gates (not the one for my flight), Vince was checking people in for their flight.  I was so glad to see him so I could thank him for taking such good care of me and my bag in August.  I walked up to him and said, “I know you won’t remember me, but can I give you a big hug?”  He looked a bit puzzled, but said it was fine.  I went on to tell him that he had priority tagged my racing gear bag to Cincinnati a couple months ago and it arrived safely and first off the conveyor.  He smiled and said I know exactly who you are.  We used to be neighbors.  I smiled, gave him another hug and headed to my gate so happy that I could thank him in person for what he did for me and his kindness.

Once a Runner, Always a Runner

After leaving the Cincinnati airport with my priority tagged bag, I headed to Avis to pick up my rental car.  Art (who I’d never seen before) greeted me and asked me if I had a reservation.  I told him I had one and had a free upgrade to my reservation.  Art told me that due to the computer issues with Delta, many people rented cars when they couldn’t get flights out of Cincinnati and their fleet was depleted. I said that the upgrade wasn’t an issue, I’d be happy with any car that had a big trunk since I had to pack my large suitcase due to having a lot of racing gear.  He asked me, “Are you a runner?”  I told him I was and asked if he was a runner too.  He said he was in his younger years.  I smiled and said, “I bet you were fast!”  He said he was.  I laughed and said, “Me…not so much!”  We both laughed about that.  Once he got my paperwork done, he told me he got me the best car they had left but he was having them wash it and clean it out since it just came back in service.  He wished me good luck on my race and told me to run like the wind.  I thanked him for the good luck wishes.  When the driver pulled up with my rental car it was a full size car with a huge trunk…much nicer than what I’d expected.   Runners in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky also take care of their own.

Share Kindness and It Will Be Returned

One night when I came home from work and a run, I didn’t feel like cooking dinner.  I told my dad we were going to a grocery store down the street to make salads for dinner from their salad bar. As I was waiting for my dad to finish his salad creation, a lovely older woman asked me, “How do you get to the checkout? I’ve never been in this store.” I told her I’d walk her there and told my dad to please follow when he was done. As we were walking to the checkout lane, I asked her if she was from the KC area. She said she wasn’t.  I said, “This is a lovely store, but there are grocery stores here that are much less expensive.” She said she knew that, but the roast she was buying was on sale. She got in the checkout line in front of us and the young man ringing her up asked her if she had a store loyalty card. When she said she didn’t, he asked her if she wanted to apply for one. She told him she didn’t have a need since she was from out of town. I asked him, “Can she get the sale price on that roast without a loyalty card?” He said she couldn’t. I asked him to please use mine. When he was done checking her out, he told her she saved $33 with the store loyalty card. She nearly had tears in her eyes when she hugged and kissed me and thanked me. It made my day!  In the midst of all the violence, hate and political rhetoric, we must not forget that we are all human beings and a little kindness goes a very long way.

You Never Know What You’ll Learn When You’re Being Friendly with Strangers

I went to packet pickup for the Rock the Parkway Half marathon last week. I was fifteen minutes early and the volunteers weren’t allowed to hand out packets until 11am when packet pickup officially opened. So, I walked to the Garmin booth and started talking with Brian. We talked about local and national half and full marathons that we loved and other things running geeks talk about. During the conversation, I mentioned that my Garmin Vivosmart HR+ was acting up and not tracking my runs and walks this week. He told me Garmin’s headquarters had a customer service center where I could walk in and get help. I didn’t know that. So I headed to Olathe, Kansas which is about 10 minutes from where I was picking up my race packet, and Clint took extraordinary care of me. He looked at my activity tracker and realized it couldn’t be fixed. He then went and got me a brand new one to replace my old one, for free!  He then set it up for me and synced it to my phone. I have always said that Garmin’s customer service is as good as Disney’s. And this is why I constantly tell people that I can’t imagine owning any other brand of GPS/running/fitness gear than Garmin. I tell them when it comes to quality and customer service, I think Garmin is the best!  My new tracker works great and it’s a more recent model so it has some features my old tracker didn’t have.  I’m really enjoying the new features.

So what do these stories have to do with business?

What goes around comes around in racing, life and business.  People respond to your positive (or negative) energy accordingly.  When you are kind to strangers and co-workers, they will be kind in return.  When you are helpful, people will be helpful in return.  When you show you care, people will care about you in return.  Racing, life and business are simply about the Golden Rule.  Be golden and you will have shining moments and amazing experiences like the ones I’ve shared in this blog.

Life’s About Changing, Nothing Ever Stays the Same in Life or in Business

January 17, 2017

One of my favorite Patty Loveless songs is “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye.” The refrain lyrics go like this:
Mama whispered softly time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing nothing ever stays the same
And she said how can I help you to say goodbye it’s okay to hurt and it’s okay to cry
Come let me hold you and I will try how can I help you to say goodbye
At no time in my life has this song ever hit home more than in the last few years. The latest goodbye happened on January 17, 2017. I had to say goodbye to one of the greatest loves of my life…my nearly 19 year old cat, Sheba. It was heart breaking. This was a heart ache that was different than what I had with my other cat that passed away three years ago. Cleopatra went into full kidney failure. She could barely walk. She looked at me as if to say, “Help me go. I’m ready.” It was painful, but the decision was one that was obvious. But Sheba wasn’t ready to go. Her heart and mind were with me, but her tired body was not. She was dropping weight and her colon had gotten to a point where it could no longer evacuate on its own. Laxatives and drugs were only a temporary solution before an enema was needed. The procedure was invasive and exhausting for Sheba. After a while, the enemas stopped helping for more than a few days, and my vet and I had the conversation that all pet lovers dread. I told her I needed some time to say goodbye to her and she agreed that was fine. I spent the next week being a helicopter mom. I loved on Sheba every waking moment I was with her. She would look at me with love and adoration and my heart would break that much more. Finally, the time came. I was a mess. I’m still a mess. Fortunately, I have a job I love that is a great distraction from the pain and friends across the globe sending me love and support and trying to keep me busy. And through all my losses, I go running.
During this week, I thought about many of my friends that had recently suffered other kinds of heart breaking losses such as being let go from their job after 20 years, the end of a long marriage and the passing of loved ones…both two legged and four legged. I kept thinking about the song lyrics and how I could help them to say goodbye to their losses, and more important how I could help them recover from their broken hearts. This blog is a small, but sincere effort to help do that.
Sheba was perfectly healthy prior to my move to Kansas City. The move nearly killed her. Dogs deal with change. Cats don’t. After her passing, I realized the last three years of my life had revolved around Sheba and her rigid and constant medical needs and medication schedules. All of a sudden, that disappeared. I had all this time on my hands and a sad sense of flexibility and freedom I hadn’t had since I moved to Kansas City. As I try to recover from my grief, I am now focusing on a very different future and actually focusing on what I want and need for the first time in a very long time. If you follow this blog, “Lessons from the Road,” you know running is my center…my go to activity when it all goes wrong or things in my life are off center. A run is my go to activity because it’s “me time” and a time where I feel at peace and centered. I thank God every day that I’m able to run and go to this place with my mind, body and spirit.

So what does this have to do with business?
People can be like cats and not deal with change well. But like the song says, life’s about changing and nothing ever stays the same. How we deal with that change is what sets us apart.
We can be consumed by our losses and let them paralyze us. In the workplace, losing our jobs or seeing people we care about lose their jobs can make us feel angry, unappreciated and feel so many other ways that are natural when we’re in shock or in crisis. Losing clients or bids on prospective new business can make us feel exhausted and cause us to second guess ourselves. But we cannot let these feelings keep us from moving forward. Life is about changing and it’s about relentless forward progress. When we dwell in the past or stop moving forward, we stop living our best, most productive lives.
I’m not saying we cannot mourn and grieve for our losses. We should do that. But we also, in our grief, must try to focus on the future and the positive things we want and need to achieve going forward after our losses. We must remember our joy and not just our sorrow. The joyful things remind us that we are still here…living, breathing, growing, evolving and thriving to be the best we can be for ourselves and those around us.

Mourn your losses, but don’t forget to rejoice in the opportunities and adventures that lie ahead! Wishing you a joyful, exciting journey.

Finding Your Center and Where You Fit In Is a Blessing in Racing, Life and Business.

January 1, 2017

For those of you that follow this blog, Lessons from the Road, you know I write about life lessons I learn while running and how those lessons relate to business. Earlier this year, I wrote a blog talking about my transition and the struggles that I experienced after moving to Kansas City to care for my father after my mom passed away. (If you missed that blog, you can find it here: https://abelpr.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/life-and-business-are-a-journeyyou-dont-always-know-what-lies-ahead/ (Many that read Life and Business Are a Journey said I should warn you that you will most likely need a tissue. You’ve been warned.) This blog picks up where that blog left off.

To give you some background, prior to moving to Kansas City, I spent 25 glorious years in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. I knew exactly who I was there. I was the owner of several thriving small businesses. I was the “parent” to two healthy cats. I was surrounded by the love and support of amazing friends and neighbors every day. I was inspired and challenged to be the best I could be by my clients. And last, but not least, I was a runner. These things centered me. They were the core of my soul. I lost my center when I moved to Prairie Village, Kansas where my father lives and I grew up.

My experience in Prairie Village and Johnson County (the county where Prairie Village is located) was the opposite of my experience in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. I found the people in Prairie Village and Johnson County cold and unwelcoming. Making friends, something that had always been easy for me in every other city I’d lived in as an adult, was nearly impossible. I felt isolated…something I’d never felt before. It was disconcerting. But sometimes in our discomfort, we find the silver lining. This blog is about that silver lining and the incredible journey and learning I experienced this year.

When I lived in Cincinnati, I wanted to qualify for three running groups called the Half Fanatics, Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. Qualifying for these three groups had been on my dream list for many years. These groups don’t focus on how fast you run. They focus on your endurance…lots of races in short periods of time. I always tell people I’m built for endurance, not for speed. So this goal was realistic for me. However, this is a goal that takes a lot of time and training. In Cincinnati, I put it off. I didn’t want to take time away from my friends and busy social life to do the training and racing needed to qualify for these groups.

But in Kansas City, I didn’t have that issue. So, in November, 2015, I created a training and racing plan that would help me qualify for all three groups in 2016. I ran 24 races in 2016…most of them were half and full marathons. To put that in perspective, I averaged seven to nine races a year in Cincinnati. In the spring, I qualified for the Half Fanatics by running four half marathons in 37 days. In the fall I qualified for the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents by running three full marathons and three half marathons in 60 days. Basically, I was racing most weekends and training constantly when I wasn’t working. It was relaxing and rejuvenating to be working toward such a big, long-time goal. But during this endeavor, I achieved something far greater…I found my center and sense of self again in a city where I have never felt at home, even when I was a kid growing up there. And that journey was one of the most joyful ones of my life. Here’s how it transpired:

I went home (or what I consider my home) to Cincinnati to kick off my Marathon Maniac and Double Agent qualification process. The race was a half marathon I’d done several times before when I lived in Cincinnati. It poured the entire time, but it was a summer downpour, so it actually felt nice because it was so hot and humid that day. I met some friendly people on the course and had a good time in spite of the less than ideal weather conditions. To me, that’s part of racing. You take what Mother Nature gives you and you suck it up. Racing is a metaphor for life…you take what life gives you, and you suck it up.

In September, I ran the Patriots’ Run, the first of the three qualifying marathons. I met a couple of Marathon Maniacs prior to the race and learned a lot! I learned about other races I’d like to run in the future, and I learned a great deal about the race I was about to run. They were so friendly and welcoming. They were also from out of town. Patriots’ Run is a unique race because it’s a one mile loop. It starts at noon and ends at 9:11pm because it is a race on September 11th to honor those that died and served on September 11th. For some, a race like this is intimidating or unappealing. The heat can be daunting. The tedious course can be a huge deterrent to many. For me, neither was a factor that would prevent me from running it. I loved seeing the same people over and over again as we cheered each other on to the finish of either the marathon (26 laps) or the ultra marathon which consisted of running as many laps as possible in nine hours and eleven minutes. During the last eight miles, I caught up with one of the Marathon Maniacs I’d met prior to the race. Thomas was my saving grace. I was starting to slow down from the heat, and it was nice to have a running buddy for those final eight miles. We talked about life and our families, and we talked about how he qualified for the Maniacs and my goal of doing so in the coming 60 days. As we talked, I found out he was running the Des Moines marathon which would be my final qualifying race for both the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. He shared a lot of great information that only someone that had run the race before would know. At the end of the race, I was greeted by my dear friend, Mel, the only close friend I’ve made since I moved to Kansas City. She had run the 5k earlier that afternoon, gone home to clean up and came back with her lap top so she could work while I completed the last few miles of my journey. She cheered Thomas and me on for the last 4 laps, and she was waiting at the finish line with a high 5 and a cold protein shake. Flanked by two wonderful, supportive people, it reminded me of my days back home in Cincinnati. It was joyful.

In October, I was at church and a woman came running up to me and said, “Pastor says you’re a runner, and I need to meet you!” I had never met Alicia before because I go to the early service and she and her family go to the late service. As we talked, we realized we were running the same marathon, Prairie Fire, the following weekend in Wichita. She had only run two marathons and one of them was Prairie Fire which was in her home town. She was looking to beat her fastest time and asked if I would pace her. I told her I would. For 26.2 miles we talked about everything you can imagine…family, work, life and our experiences with the Johnson County culture. It was girl bonding at its best! She was a fabulous tour guide on the course, pointing out all kinds of things only locals would know. It was great. While she served as the docent, I focused on our pace and making sure she achieved her goal. She did. And it was so great to share that moment with her. Her parents were at the finish line to greet us and congratulate us. It was heart-warming. I was beaming with joy and pride for my new friend.
A week later, I would run my final qualifying marathon in Des Moines. Two of my dearest running friends, Pam and Tony, had signed up for that race too. We met many years ago at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati through the Runner’s World Challenge. We ran that race together and ran many more races together after that. They knew how important this race was to me. It was great to have them there for support even though we wouldn’t be running together because they are much faster than I am, and I was taking this race at a much slower pace than usual due to running a marathon the previous week. One of the other benefits of Des Moines was it happened to be the reunion race for the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs. Because I was a Half Fanatic, I was able to attend the reunion meeting. My new friend, Thomas, was there and we sat together and caught up on running and racing. During the reunion meeting I felt welcome and centered. I was surrounded by people that love running as much as I do. Many had run marathons or half marathons (or both) in all 50 states! I was surrounded by kindred spirits…it was like a family reunion where you liked everyone in the room. I felt at home and centered.

The day after the reunion was race day. Pam and Tony met me at my hotel and we walked to the start line together. We wished each other well, knowing they’d finish long before I would. The race began and I was off to achieve my big goal. After the pack of runners spread out, I settled into a comfortable pace. My body felt beat up all week from the marathon in Wichita, but that morning, it was feeling fabulous. I was grateful for that and being able to run my usual pace from previous years…for however long it lasted. As I found my comfortable pace, I ended up in a pace group with a bunch of very friendly runners. It was great to talk and run. I have not found the runners at races in Kansas City to be friendly. What I was feeling at Des Moines felt like home. It was like running with my running partner or my running group friends. It was similar to the comradery I was used to at races in Cincinnati, where we knew no strangers and everyone we met on the course was family. It was joyful. At mile 17, I couldn’t keep the same pace and dropped back from the group. Not long after that, I heard a familiar voice. It was Thomas. Once again in the final miles of this race, we were running the same pace. It felt good to run with a buddy and it made the miles go faster. We picked up a couple Marathon Maniacs during our final miles and we all had great conversation and a wonderful time on our journey to the finish line. As we turned the corner for the final mile, Tony and Pam were waiting to run me in like they’d done the previous year when we ran the Kansas City marathon. At the finish line, once again, I was surrounded by friends and lots of support. We all walked to the Marathon Maniac booth so I could have my photo taken with the sign that said I’d just qualified for the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. I was beaming! My long-time goal had been achieved. But the most rewarding part of the process was the journey itself…the people I met, the friends I made and the things I learned.

So what does this story have to do with business?
Just like in racing and life, in business we often have to redefine who we are and find a new comfort zone. At one point in our personal or business life we may feel at peace with ourselves and our work environment. Then one day or over a period of time, that can all change and we find ourselves isolated and off center My advice to you, if you experience this, is to be like a true endurance athlete… keep going and don’t stop moving forward. Often in life and in business, we don’t fit into certain situations, social groups, community cultures or careers. The key is to keep looking for a place and people that feel like home in our personal lives and our work lives. Home is where your heart is, and that’s not always where you currently reside personally or professionally. Remember while you search for what feels like home, keep your eyes and hearts open to new challenges, wonderful new people and better days ahead.
Wishing you a healthy, happy 2017 and a joyful journey to find who and what centers you.

Helping Someone Reach the Finish Line Is One of Life’s Great Rewards

May 24, 2016

Recently, I ran the Trolley Run in Kansas City. It’s a four mile course that’s flat and fast. This race started like any other. I was running alone, enjoying a beautiful day with 10,000 other people and supporting a great local charity.

I was about 2.75 miles into the race and feeling great. I was running at the fastest pace I’d ever run. As I powered up a slight incline, I saw a young woman just ahead of me that seemed like she was struggling a bit. I told her she was looking great and to keep up the good work. She replied, “I have no idea why I signed up for this!” At this point I am beside her, and I asked if this was her first race. It was. That was my cue that I needed to pace this young woman and get her to the finish line. I introduced myself and she told me her name was Claire. And from that moment on, we were on a mission together to finish the race strong.

I told Claire, “Follow my lead. Relax your arms. Breathe slower. I will pace you to the finish.” She had no tracking technology, so I told her we were coming up on mile three and she’d be fine. She looked at me like I was crazy, but I noticed after about a quarter mile her arms relaxed, her breathing slowed and she was in her zone. I kept talking to her and telling her where we were each quarter mile. At 3.65 miles we were about to make the final turn to the finish line. I looked at her and said, “This is where you shine. Give it all you have. Run as fast as you can. You can do this, and I will see you at the finish line.” She started to run like she had fresh legs and took off as we high fived each other. She finished about 10 seconds in front of me. It was joyful to watch her finish and see her sense of achievement.

At the finish she turned around and thanked me. “None need,” I told her. “You did this all on your own.” She told me when I started to pass her, she was about to start walking because she didn’t think she could finish. I knew better when I saw her. She just needed a little encouragement and a little coaching. I hope Claire runs other races in the future. She now knows she can do this on her own.

The following week, I was scheduled to run the Independence Half Marathon. I had been coaching one of my clients to run this race for the last three months. On race day, I saw her waiting for the race to start. This was her first half marathon. The pre-race jitters were obvious and natural. I had told her that for a first long distance race, your goal should simply be to finish. But I know this client. I knew she had a time goal in mind. So, I said, “You know the ultimate goal is to finish, but I’m guessing you have a time goal. What is it?” She told me 2:20 to 2:30. I was a bit surprised. During one of our conversations she mentioned wanting to run a half marathon in two hours. I found out that was a long term goal, which is good. There was no way I could pace her for a two hour half marathon finish. Knowing her goal was a finishing time I could pace easily, I told her she could run with a pace group or I’d be happy to pace her if she would prefer that. Her eyes got big and she said, “I’d love for you to run with me! Are you serious?” I told her it would be my honor.

Like many new long distance runners, she shot out of the starting line like a rocket. I gently encouraged her to slow down and let me set the pace. I told her not to let the excitement and adrenaline get the best of her since we had 13 miles to go. I was able to get her to settle into a good pace. My job was to keep her entertained and focused, especially in the later miles when fatigue can set in and your head can get in the way with negative thoughts.

We took a couple of walk breaks due to her asthma, but I made sure she got back on track after she caught her breath. At mile 11, we were greeted with an uphill climb and some serious headwinds. She was feeling some fatigue, which is to be expected. I told her to envision the finish line and getting that big 1.1 pound medal. (Yes, it really did weigh more than a pound as the race director had advertised.) She continued at a slower, less energetic pace. Then, she saw her running partner, who was not racing that day, holding up a sign with her name on it. That was the last push she needed. We rounded the corner to the finish line and I said, “Go! Give it all you’ve got!” She took off and I ran just a few seconds behind her so I could watch her finish and see her being greeted by her husband, daughters, parents and running partner. She looked at me and said, “We finished in 2:18!” I smiled and said, “Of course you did! I knew you could do this all along. Congratulations on a job well done and finishing your first half marathon.” She hugged me and smiled as she looked at her huge medal. This race happened to be the weekend of my birthday. I can’t think of a better birthday gift than to share a moment like that with someone I care about and have coached for months.

After both of these races, many of my friends commented on how selfless it was of me to “sacrifice my race” for these women. My reply was that it wasn’t a sacrifice in any way. It was a joy and an honor to run with them and witness their feeling of accomplishment…a true runner’s high.

So what do these stories have to do with business?

Statistics show that people often leave their jobs because they feel unappreciated, uninspired and lost with no guidance. I have heard many young professionals say that they wish there were people willing to mentor them at work. Others say they wish they had someone at the office that had their back.

The message here is simple. Mentoring and being a good cheerleader is crucial in racing and in business. If you see someone that shows great promise but is struggling a little or needs a confidence boost to get ahead and reach the finish line at work, step up and help them. Be a leader. Be a good pacer. The time you invest to help someone achieve their goals will be time well spent. It’s a reward that costs you nothing but a little time and effort. But it’s a reward that has far more value than money. To me, there is nothing better than watching someone succeed. And if I can play a tiny role in that success, that’s even better.

So, look around you at work and when you’re out and about. You never know who you will inspire and how that inspiration can help lead someone you know or a total stranger to achieving something special that could change their life and their perspective forever.

Life and Business Are a Journey…You Don’t Always Know What Lies Ahead

March 13, 2016

Two years ago, on March 13, 2014 my mother passed away. The original plan was for my father to move to Cincinnati to live in my home with me, but the stress of that move was sending him to the cardiologist and the ER on a weekly basis. He didn’t want to move. As an only child, I did what was right. I moved to Kansas City to live with my father who was terrified to live in the house alone. I sincerely felt the move to Cincinnati would kill him, and I wasn’t about to lose both my parents in less than a year. I know the statistics.
While still in shock over my mother’s death, I sold my home, donated almost everything in the house to charity and got on a plane with my beloved cat, Sheba, to take care of my dad. That year was filled with loss. I’d lost my 19 year old cat, Cleopatra, about six months before I lost my mother. I was leaving my clients and friends of 25 years that were like family to me. I was leaving my neighbors that were like family for the last 25 years. I’d lost my center.
As those of you that follow this blog know, I write this blog based on things I learn while running. When I moved to Kansas City I spent the first four months at the vet every day trying to get Sheba stabilized. The stress of the move nearly killed her. Losing her would have nearly killed me. She is my child! Our vet did a wonderful job of getting her stabilized, and I finally felt things with Sheba were under control. I am her center.
My dad’s health improved during that time too. There were no more trips to the cardiologist or ER once I moved in with him. His recent annual physical was the best it’s ever been. His doctor says I’m the reason for that. As a health coach, I make sure he eats right and exercises every day. I am his center.
With Sheba and my dad stable, it was time for me to focus on getting my center back. Running has always been what grounds me. It brings me joy, peace and helps me stay healthy.
What I didn’t know was that the streets of the town where my dad lives are steeply graded. Running in the road, which is what I did at home in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, tears you up! After running in the road for a few months and feeling beat up, I realized something was seriouly wrong. I found a great Active Release Techniques chiropractor through the one I used back home. Marty got me put back together. It took months, but I was able to run as he helped me heal the damage I’d done to my body. Running started to be comfortable again…joyful again. It was a blessing. He was a blessing.
Yet I still wasn’t inspired to write a blog. I knew it had been a long time since I’d done so, but Kansas City wasn’t inspiring me. My dad’s neighbors certainly weren’t inspiring me like my neighbors back home did. Nothing I saw on my runs captured my heart…much less captured it enough to inspire me to write about it. I wasn’t meeting people at races that inspired me either. Frankly, running in Kansas City left me utterly uninspired…until March 12, 2016.
I decided to run the Westport St. Patrick’s Day race in honor of my mother. It’s a four mile race. It was the perfect distance because I suspected I might be in tears for the entire race. But tears weren’t what my mother had in mind for me.
Here’s what happened:
Race morning, I get out of my car and a friendly young woman sees I have a race bib on and asks me where packet pickup is located. I told her I was there yesterday and it’s hard to find. I told her I’d walk her there. As we walked and talked, I found out she’d signed up for the race the week before with a friend that had bailed on her that morning due to being sick. So, she was completely untrained to run the four miles and was going to have to do it by herself. “No way! I will run with you and pace you for the four miles,” I told her. She had only run a 5k quite some time ago and had trained for that race. But I knew with the fact she was young and fit, she was up for this task…even though she hadn’t trained. Amanda did fabulous. We took a couple of walk breaks but averaged a 10:33 minute/mile and finished in about 43 minutes.
She knew I was dedicating this race to my mother and she apologized for slowing me down. I smiled and told her it was an honor to run with her and we made my mother proud. She thanked me and my mom for getting her to the finish line. She told me she would have walked more of the race if I hadn’t been there to push her.
My mother didn’t know a stranger. She made friends with anyone she met. That day, I honored my mother’s memory in the best possible way by making a stranger my new friend.
So what does this story have to do with business?
Life and business are a journey. Sometimes the road is bumpy and throws us curves. Sometimes the road is smooth and easy. Life and business journeys are about the paths we take and the people we meet along the way. When we open our minds, bodies and spirits to new things and new people, we open our lives and our businesses to new possibilities and opportunities. Those possibilities and opportunities can be joyful and life changing in very positive ways.
It was a joy to run with my new friend, Amanda, and pace her for a PR (personal record) at the race! She said I was a blessing to her sent by God. She was an angel on earth and a blessing to me sent by God and my mother. Without Amanda, that race would likely have been filled with pain, loss and sorrow. Without Amanda, I most likely would have cried the entire four miles. But because of Amanda, my new friend for life, I found inspiration, purpose and joy. She was my center that day.
My advice to you is to mourn your losses…in life and in business. But in that process, open your eyes and your hearts to the joys that can be part of those losses and you may find your inspiration and your center again. You may find a new friend too.

A Year of Great Joy and Great Pain, But Worth Every Second

January 2, 2014

I turned 50 years old in 2013. That, in itself, is an exciting milestone. To celebrate this milestone year, I started planning for it in 2012. I decided for my 50th birthday, I would run a 50 mile ultra marathon. To do that, I knew it would take a lot of planning and racing to be ready.

I started my year by running the Disney Goofy Challenge in January. You run a half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. I had a great time, met some wonderful people and felt my journey was on track toward the 50 miler.

The months leading up to the 50 miler in April were filled with long runs. I was running 50-60 miles per week and 40 of those miles were on the weekends. The back to back long runs were the best way to prepare my body for the 50 miles I would run in Nevada. While there was no way to prepare myself for the high elevation of the course, I knew practicing proper fueling and hydration would be critical. I did that for several months. Then, race day arrived. As I wrote about in a previous blog, this race was perfect…the only perfect race I have ever run. It was perfect in the sense that there was nothing that went wrong, nothing I felt I could have done better or differently. I packed my drop bags with everything I needed (and a whole lot of things I didn’t need, but you never know), I fueled and paced well and because of that, my last three miles were my fastest miles of the entire race. I went to the hotel and took an ice bath so I could run the 10k the next morning and walk and run with my friends I’d met on the course the previous day that were completing the 100 mile race. It was an amazing milestone and milestone birthday.

A couple weeks later, I ran the 10k and the 5k back to back at the Flying Pig with the women I have been volunteering for the last three years. These women are a great joy and blessing in my life. They are all recovering addicts. Teaching them the importance of a healthy living lifestyle and watching them on their journey to sobriety and independence is inspiring. Over the last several years, I have spent every Tuesday training these women at the Y to help them improve their fitness. One Thursday each month I teach them about how to live a healthier life through nutrition and exercise and then I cook them a healthy lunch and healthy dinner so that they have healthy left overs for the weekend. I often say that Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favorite days of the week because these women mean more to me than words can adequately express.

In July, I launched the healthy cooking division of my fitness firm. As a public relations and marketing professional, I realized that marketing the cooking and the fitness sides of Abel Fitness Training separately was the best strategy for success. So, Abel Fitness Training http://www.abelfitness.com focuses purely on healthy and safe exercise education and training. The cooking division, Abel to Cook http://www.abeltocook.com, focuses solely on teaching people how to cook healthy meals that are fast, easy and figure-friendly.

In the summer, I ran a half marathon in Cincinnati as I prepared to run the Marine Corp Marathon in October. The Marine Corp Marathon (I wrote a blog about it too) was one of the most moving and meaningful races I have run to date. I was honored to run it.

In October I hit another major milestone. My public relations firm, Abel Associates Public Relations http://www.abelpr.com, celebrated its 20th anniversary. One of the most joyous parts of this milestone is that most of the clients who were with me in the early years are still with me today. I’m truly grateful for their loyalty and friendship over the last two decades.
People often ask me which of my two companies is my favorite. I tell them having two companies is like having two children. You love them both equally, but differently. Both of my corporate children bring me great joy and I’m grateful for both of them.

By the time 2013 came to an end, I ran a 5k, two 10ks, two half marathons, two marathons and a 50 mile ultra marathon. I ran a total of 1200 miles (ran, jogged and walked to be completely accurate) and spent more than 230 hours on my feet. That doesn’t include the more than 30 hours of cross training with swimming, yoga and weight training I did last year. I also celebrated 20 years in business with my PR firm and launched a new division of my fitness firm. That was the short version of the joy!

While the joys were exhilarating, the pain was poignant. Now, you may be thinking to yourself that pain is inevitable when you run 1200 miles in a year. This is true. But the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain of 2013. Some of it ended well by year’s end…some didn’t.

In May, my father had a very serious heart scare. My dad eats healthy, walks three to five miles each day and works full time at 82 years of age. He does everything right. So as a fitness trainer to hear him say that one of his heart valves was only pumping at 30% was terrifying. While my mother is my cheerleader, my father is my rock. He’s my go-to person for advice on anything from business to life. The thought of losing him was one of the most frightening times of my entire life. Thank God, by July the doctors were able to treat the problem and get the value pumping at 50%. While that may sound very low, and it is low, you have to realize that valve had been operating at 40% for years and he was doing well. The goal was to get the value back to where it had been operating. To get it higher than that was truly a blessing we are grateful for and hopeful that the treatment will continue to sustain him at that level or continue to improve his condition.

In early August I lost one of the great loves of my life…my 19 year old cat, Cleopatra. Cleo was my warrior…a true fighter until the very end. Cleo had been diagnosed with kidney failure the previous year but she was holding her own, for the most part. In January, Cleo had this freakish situation that the vets still have no clue what it was. One very cold January morning, I was getting ready to head out for a run. As I was lacing up my shoes, I heard and saw Cleo hacking…getting ready to cough up a hair ball. I thought about leaving and cleaning up whatever she might heave up when I got back, but fortunately I decided to wait. Thank God I did! As she began coughing harder and harder, she collapsed. I was frantic. I called the vet. They told me to bring her in immediately. They spent quite a bit of time with us and couldn’t diagnose the problem. They wanted to put her to sleep, but I refused. I was so shocked since she’d been doing so well prior to that day, I couldn’t get my head around losing her. I told the vet that I wanted one more night with her at home and I’d call the next day to tell them how she was and what I was going to do. The short version of this story is that after that violent coughing incident, Cleo felt better that night. She began eating and drinking again. The next day she seemed much better. It was truly miraculous, but she was bloated. Her body would fill up with air and she’d puff up like a balloon after this incident. I had to take her to the vet each day to get her “tapped.” The vet would inject a needle into her body and extract the air. Over a period of weeks, the tapping became less frequent and eventually whatever it was that was leaking inside of her, healed itself. Did I mention she was my warrior? After this incident, things went back to being normal…normal for her, which meant daily pills and IVs, but she felt like herself and for a 19 year old cat, my vets were amazed by her spirit and her determination. During 2013 there were several times where her kidneys crashed and the vets thought she wouldn’t survive it, but she did. She was tough, determined, a fighter. My vets learned never to underestimate my girl.

In early August, I went to the farmer’s market with my dear friend and running partner. We had a great morning. Cleo was fine when I left, her usual self. When I came home, she was a bit wobbly. This wasn’t unusual. She had bad arthritis, and she hadn’t had any treatments for that in about 6 weeks, so I watched her and just assumed I’d call the vet on Monday to get her scheduled for another series of laser treatments that helped improve her mobility. It wasn’t her arthritis. By 5pm, I was on the phone to my vet, calling him at home saying I need to know where to take Cleo now! She was in crisis and needed help immediately. My vet and his wife were heading to dinner with friends when I called, but they told their friends they had an emergency and would be late. They met me at the clinic. He ran some tests. We hoped it was something structural, like a bone fracture or that her arthritis was just getting much worse. It wasn’t that. It was full kidney failure. My vet looked at me and said, “We need to change her IV formula. We can keep her here on a slow IV all weekend or you can take her home and give her the IV twice a day. Either way, I don’t think the outcome will be any different.” Of course, I chose to bring her home and give her the IVs myself. Unlike in the past, where I was confident she would overcome her medical crisis, I wasn’t this time. I knew this was the end. I slept on the floor with her all weekend because she couldn’t get on and off the bed. Sheba, my 15 year old cat, slept with us part of the weekend and slept alone other times during the weekend, probably coping with what she already knew…we were going to lose Cleo. The hardest part of this was that Cleo was still trying to fight. Her eyes were bright, her spirit was strong…she wanted to live. But her body had given up and given out. Monday morning, August 5, I called the vet. I asked to have their last appointment of the day. I wanted just a little longer with my brave warrior. Putting Cleopatra to sleep was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My last two pets, both ferrets, passed away in their sleep. One of the most comforting posts on Facebook was from my friend who said, “I am so sorry, we have had to do that twice and it’s heartbreaking. Be at peace. It’s the last great act you can do for your pet. I’m thinking of you.” He was right. It was the last great and most loving act I could have done for her. And while my heart is still broken and I’m in tears typing this, I know I did the best thing for her. She was surrounded by love in her final moments…my vet and one of the many vet technicians that treated her over her 19 years on this earth were there and in tears, like I was. The last voice Cleo heard and the last face she saw was mine. That is the way it should be. She’s with God now. She’s at peace and in no pain.

In August, the triumphant trio became the dynamic duo. It was just Sheba and me. During Cleo’s illness, Sheba developed a new habit…she was expressing her distress over Cleo by acting out. The vet thought it was a medical issue. It wasn’t. It was behavioral, emotional. I knew that, but wanted to run the necessary medical tests to be sure. The behavior stopped after we lost Cleo. In the month after losing Cleo, Sheba was a bit lost without her friend who had been with her for her entire life. But I did everything I could to make her loss less traumatic. While I’d see Sheba lying in places Cleo used to lay, I felt she was adjusting to the loss of her life-long companion fairly well…much better than I was adjusting. That’s what I thought.

In October, when I left town to run the Marine Corp Marathon, I had a house sitter/pet sitter for Sheba. Every day, she would text me about how Sheba was doing. It wasn’t good. She was under the bed and wouldn’t come out. She wasn’t eating or drinking much and that’s not like Sheba. She’s my big eater! I got home from the race and she was eating a little better, but not much. A few weeks after I got home from the race, I headed to Kansas City to visit my parents. Sheba’s eating was much worse. She wasn’t eating at all the first couple of days. It got better by the third day and I was home a couple days later. I, of course, took her to the vet to make sure she wasn’t sick. I said to my vet with tears in my eyes, “I can’t lose them both this year!” The vet looked at me and said, “That wouldn’t be fair. We will do everything we can to make Sheba better.” I knew I had to have faith. Sheba’s blood tests came back and all were normal. Again, I had to assume her not eating was behavioral. It was, fortunately. Sheba had never been alone when I was away. Sure, I had the house sitter, but that’s not the same as her constant companion. Sheba was in mourning…just like I was. Once I was done traveling, Sheba started acting like her usual loving self and eating and drinking normally. That was the best Christmas gift I could imagine.

In November, I lost another love in my life, but this one wasn’t a complete loss. Joe, who I’d been seeing since June of 2012, and I had grown apart over the last eight months. I had hoped our trip to DC to run the Marine Corp Marathon would help us reconnect. It didn’t. While we had a great time together, I knew we didn’t have what it took to go the distance and spend the rest of our lives together. It was a tough decision, but the right one. I knew I had to walk away. But this story has a happy ending. We’re still great friends and I’m grateful for that. Many of my friends are in awe of how I’m able to maintain a friendship with my former husband and former boyfriends. My feeling is that if I cared enough about them to spend long periods of my life with them, I should care enough about them to maintain a friendship with them. While partner love is different from friendship love, it’s love. I’ve always felt that friendship love shouldn’t die when the relationship love does as long as there hasn’t been a betrayal of trust or respect. Trust and respect are the foundations of any good relationship, whether it’s between partners or friends.

The holidays got me back to a more joyful place. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with Greg (someone I dated for 5 years prior to meeting Joe) and his family. While people who don’t know me might think that sounds weird, it wasn’t. Greg and his family have always treated me like one of their family. His family knows we’re good friends and I’m also very close to Greg’s oldest sister. The three of us go to dinner every month or so, and it’s always a good time. Friends and family are what the holidays should be about, and I spent my holidays with my extended family and friends.

So what does this story have to do with business?

Our business lives, just like our personal lives, are filled with joy and pain. The pain in our lives is what makes the joy more meaningful and makes us more grateful. I have said in many previous blogs that I feel blessed every day to love my work and my clients, and I never take either for granted. I also know that many people are not as fortunate as I am in this regard. If your business life is more painful than joyful, it might be time to reevaluate and make some changes in the new year.

Wishing you great health, happiness and joy in 2014!

Adaptability Is Crucial in Business and In Racing

October 31, 2013

Anyone who knows me well would probably classify me as an obsessive planner, and I wouldn’t disagree. As a public relations consultant and a personal fitness trainer, I understand the importance of proper planning. A well thought out and executed plan can mean the difference between success and failure. However, unforeseen circumstances that you cannot possibly plan for can arise. When that happens in business and in racing, the key to success is being responsive and adaptable.

The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is the third most popular race in the nation and the tenth most popular race in the world. It’s been on my dream list since I took up running seven years ago. Getting into the race is not easy. It sold out last year in less than three hours and many people were disappointed. I knew this year would be no different and it would likely sell out even faster.

Earlier this year, I found out that MCM would be one of the races for the Runner’s World Challenge. That meant registration for the MCM Challenge would be two days prior to open registration for MCM. I have done three Challenge races, and they were all fabulous experiences. Nobody spoils runners like Runner’s World. And knowing that I could hopefully secure my registration prior to tens of thousands of runners trying to register during open registration was an additional bonus. As soon as the MCM Challenge registration opened, I was online and submitting my information. A few minutes later, I had secured my MCM spot. Knowing that in two days, 30,000 people would have their registration secured, I thought planning ahead would be wise. I booked my flight and did my research on which hotels were closest to the start and the finish. The race start and finish are about two miles apart, so I needed to pick which one I wanted to be closer to on race day. I chose a hotel closer to the starting line and booked it because it was also across from a Metro stop. I knew from being in DC before, a car was not necessary because you could get just about anywhere you wanted to go via the Metro or on foot. By 5pm that evening, I had also researched restaurants, what was on their menus and made dinner reservations for each night I’d be in DC. I was set. With all the logistical details handled, I could focus on my training plan.

I have a number of friends that have run MCM and raved about this race. All of them gave me the same advice. They said, “Don’t run this race for a PR (personal record.) Take your time and experience every mile of this incredible race and course.”

So, with that trusted advice, my training plan was not designed for speed, but for endurance. While I did my usual hill and speed runs, my long runs were done at a slower, relaxed pace that would be similar to my race pace. I expected to finish the race in five hours to five hours and 15 minutes, which means I would average an 11:30 to 12 minute mile pace for 26.2 miles. I felt that pace would let me see all the landmarks on this course and also experience the many moving and emotional aspects of the race.

Everything was going as planned until October 1 when the government shutdown began. Keep in mind that a majority of the MCM course goes by or through parks, monuments and other facilities that were closed due to the shutdown. The race wasn’t until October 27. I was optimistic that the government would have this matter settled long before then. A week passed, then two weeks passed and there was no end in sight. Then I woke up on October 15 to see the following post on MCM’s Facebook page:

Dear Runners,
Since the government shutdown occurred, the Marine Corps Marathon continues its coordination with hopes of a conclusion in time to host the event without impact. Without a resolution to the government shutdown this week, the MCM as planned is in jeopardy of being cancelled.
While still considering and exploring all possible options, the MCM has targeted this Saturday, October 19 as the date to officially notify runners of the status of the event. It is sincerely the hope of everyone associated with the organization of this event that MCM participants can run as planned.
When I read this, I felt sick to my stomach. Runners often think about their race being derailed by an injury, illness or transportation issues such as bad weather cancelling flights, but we never imagined the government could potentially cause our race to be cancelled.

This was an unforeseen circumstance that nobody could have planned for…not the MCM race director and staff, not the Marines, not the MCM volunteers and not the MCM runners. All we could do was hope that things would be reopened by October 19.

All I could think about after reading that post was all the people who had worked so hard to make the 38th Marine Corps Marathon a reality on October 27. That group included the race director, race staff, civilian volunteers and crowds of spectators that were planning to come out and support the runners. The most heartbreaking group was the Marines who view volunteering at this race an honor. And, of course, there were 30,000 runners who had been training for months and their families who were looking forward to celebrating “Mission Accomplished” when their loved ones crossed the finish line.

On October 16, I pulled an all-nighter. I stayed up watching the news to see if Federal lawmakers would come to an agreement to end the shutdown and “kick the can” down the road again. They did.

On October 17, my training plan called for a 5 mile run at an easy, relaxed pace. I headed out the door as I had for the last four months to carry out my plan in the spirit of the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis…Latin for Always Faithful or Always Loyal. I was being faithful and loyal to my plan and hoping to hear good news upon my return from my run.

When I got back home, I checked the MCM Facebook page. A video entitled “We’re So On!” had just been posted. I watched it with joy and was sure I could hear the thunderous voices of 30,000 runners and everyone associated with the MCM shouting “Oorah” at the top of their lungs.

Now, there were just a few more training runs left and then it would be time to pack for the race. I had my packing list that I have used for several years so that I don’t forget anything I might need. My strategy when packing for a race is over pack vs. under pack. The best plan is to have everything you could need on race day because weather conditions can change quickly and that can impact what you wear, how you hydrate and fuel and ultimately how your race unfolds.

My friend and I left for Washington, DC on October 24. Everything went according to plan. The flight departed and arrived on time. Hotel check-in was quick and flawless and the microwave and refrigerator I’d ordered were waiting for me in the room. I headed to the grocery store that was a quarter mile from the hotel (another reason I chose this hotel ) to buy the food I eat each day for breakfast prior to a race because I know this particular breakfast fuels me well and doesn’t upset my stomach. Next we went to the Metro station to buy a Metro pass and headed into the city for dinner. Our table was ready and waiting. So far, everything was going as planned.

The next day, we ate breakfast, got directions at the hotel for dinner that night and took the Metro to the packet pick up location to arrive as soon as the Expo opened at 10am. Because we were with the Runner’s World Challenge, we were able to bypass the very long lines to get our race bibs, participant shirts and drop bags. The Challenge booth had all of that ready for us when we arrived. While at the Challenge booth, we got directions on how to get to the starting line from our hotel. We were told we could walk or take the Metro, but since you have 30,000 runners and their families all trying to get to the same place, it was recommended that we walk to the starting line and skip the Metro. There is nothing more stressful to me than not knowing where you need to be on race day. So, my friend and I took our race bags back to the hotel, grabbed a high carb lunch and headed out to find the starting line area.

We had the hand drawn map that we’d gotten from one of the Runner’s World staff members and followed it. Everything was going as planned until I stepped down on uneven ground and felt an old foot injury rear its ugly head. I hadn’t felt that shooting pain in my foot in quite some time, but I knew what it was immediately. We finished our journey to find the starting area and then headed back to the hotel. I put my foot on ice, elevated and rested it until we left for dinner. Dinner was a bit of a walk from the Metro stop, but my foot felt better after icing it. I thought it was going to be fine. We walked back to the Metro after dinner and when I took off my shoes at the hotel, my foot was sore and I repeated the procedure…ice, elevate and rest. As a personal trainer, I know this is the best thing I could do for the grumpy foot. Saturday, my friend went sightseeing. I chose to rest my foot and continue to ice and elevate it.

On race morning, I woke up, had my usual breakfast and got dressed so that we could walk over to the starting line. The race staff and Runner’s World staff recommended you arrive two hours prior to the race starting to get through security. My foot was sore on race morning, but not painful. I ran an ultra marathon with this same foot injury two years ago, so I knew it could be done. Because the injury is a deep muscle pull, I knew I was at no risk of causing permanent damage, so I was ready to take on the 26.2 miles ahead of me no matter how painful it became.

Another nice thing about the Challenge is that we had our own private tent with tables and chairs. That was a blessing! I knew I wouldn’t be standing on my feet for a couple of hours prior to the race. Being able to rest and elevate my foot really helped.

The race started just before 8am, so around 7:30am, we started walking towards the starting line so we could get in our corrals. The corrals are set up by estimated finishing times. While I had anticipated a 5 hour finishing time, I got into the 4:30 to 5 hour finishing time corral. The reason for this part of my plan is that I know from previous races that the first few miles are very slow due to the crowds and you’re not going to be running that pace until people start to settle into their pace and either surge ahead or drop back. I found I was in the right spot once we started running. I was running between an 11:15 and 11:30 minute/mile pace, which was about right. While running a negative split is ideal (you run your first half of the marathon slower than your second half), I knew that wasn’t likely with my sore foot.
MCM has time limits and there are two check points you must pass before a certain time or you will not be allowed to officially finish the race and you don’t receive a finisher’s medal. One check point, known as the Gauntlet, is at mile 17.5. The other check point at mile 20 is called Beat the Bridge. My plan was to run fast enough that if my foot started to hurt worse as the race progressed, I’d be past the bridge long before the time cut-off so I wouldn’t be in jeopardy of being pulled from the course and not finishing. That would be an unacceptable outcome.

I ran my plan and truly understood why my friends said to take my time and really look around on the course. There were so many things to see. The course begins in Virginia on Route 110 between Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon. You run through beautiful Georgetown with its elegant architecture and along the Potomac with the fall leaves bursting with color. You run by a number of memorials before reaching the Gauntlet. But what brought tears to my eyes was a memorial that only runners got to see. There were a series of signs along this one stretch of road. Each sign had the photo of a war hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Under each photo was the officer’s rank and age. The age was the chilling part. Almost all of the photos were of men and women in their 20s. All I could think was God bless them and their families as I could not imagine the loss their loved ones feel and the honor they feel through their pain. This moving memorial was followed by a sea of individuals holding giant American flags. It really put all the government craziness into perspective for me. While our nation has its issues, it is still the greatest country in the world to me. And I have never been more aware of how proud and honored I am to be an American as I was at that moment.

Other things I saw on the course that made me proud were the wounded warriors running with prosthetic legs, hand cyclists pumping up hills with all their might, groups of Marines running in full gear and many “Angels” running while pushing their physically challenged children in large running strollers. Their determination was inspiring.

Throughout the course, Marines lined the streets. Some had megaphones to shout out encouragement to the runners. Others high fived us and cheered us on as we ran by. This was one of the best parts of the race for me. It was my opportunity to try to thank every one of those brave men and women for their service. Their reply was often, “Thank you, mam, for your support.” Seriously…they’re thanking me? Their gratitude was so touching, yet it seemed unwarranted. I’d done nothing special. They have done so much and continue to do extraordinary things for this country. They are the ones who deserve our gratitude.

When I reached the Gauntlet, my foot was starting to hurt but I was an hour and a half ahead of the time limit for that check point, so I felt confident I was on track and the race was going according to plan. My reward for my efforts to this point was turning the corner and seeing the majestic view of the U.S. Capital. It was breathtaking. After that we proceeded to the National Mall where we passed a number of museums. I was now approaching the last check point.

At mile 20, I was ready to “Beat the Bridge.” My foot was really starting to give me some attitude, but I knew I had to push myself and get over the bridge to assure I’d finish in well under the time limit. Once over the bridge, I felt this huge sense of relief. I knew I was going to finish in plenty of time and now I could relax and enjoy the last six miles of the course.

There were so many beautiful things to see the last six miles, but they paled in comparison to what I was feeling…an overwhelming sense of pride. Not because I had run 26.2 miles, but because I was part of something so special, so unique…a chance to witness humanity at its best. Between the 30,000 runners cheering each other on, the Marines giving up their day to be part of our experience, the MCM staff and volunteers who planned for months to make sure we had a great race and the Marines we didn’t see who guarded the course by air and on top of buildings to keep us safe; it was an experience of a lifetime.
My journey ended at the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. As I ran through the finishers shoot, I was greeted by a Marine who presented me with my finisher’s medal, shook my hand, thanked me and congratulated me. I thanked her for her service and being part of the race. As the MCM warming jackets read, “Mission Accomplished!”

So what does this story have to do with business?

Business and racing share so much in common. Good business is about planning, smart strategy, proper execution and positive outcomes. Good business is also about being aware and agile. And good business isn’t just about us…it’s about others and the positive impact we have on other people…clients, vendors, co-workers, etc.

By plotting your course you help ensure a successful outcome. But the best laid plans/courses can have unexpected bumps and detours. How we deal with unforeseen circumstances sets us apart. By being flexible and adapting our plan we can still reach our intended goals and learn some things during the journey’s detours. Those detours may offer opportunities for us to mentor and inspire others along the way.

In business we are often so focused on the finish line that we fail to experience the joy and beauty of the journey. So, the next time your strategic plan doesn’t go exactly as planned, take a look around you. What you might find is that the detour makes the journey and the finish line even more rewarding.

In business and in racing you need to find your happy pace!

May 28, 2013

Once again, this year, I had the honor of running the Flying Pig 10k and 5k with the Having the Courage to Change women.  These women are on an incredible journey as they recover from a variety of addictions and emerge healthy, happy and clean. I have volunteered as their personal trainer and nutrition coach for three years, so I have had the opportunity to watch them grow and be part of their journey.

As we were running the 5k, I noticed a number of kids with shirts that said “Find your Happy Pace.”  That made me smile because running, business and life are all about finding your happy pace.

For some runners, their happy pace is a fast pace and setting a PR (personal record.)  For others, like the Having the Courage to Change Women, their happy pace is the one that gets them to the finish line, however fast or slow that might be, with a sense of accomplishment and pride.  People’s happy pace for their personal and professional lives is quite similar.

In the past, my happy pace for running was the fast, PR happy pace.  But over the last two years I have run races that were so spectacular, such as Big Sur with its incredible views and Labor of Love with its incredible 50 mile distance, that my happy pace has been to just run for the pure love and joy of it and take my time.

After running Labor of Love two weeks prior to the Flying Pig, my body was fatigued from a year of heavy mileage training and the race.  It was nice to run the Pig races with the women at their pace…a slower, joyous, celebratory pace.  That pace screamed of passion and perseverance. It was their happy pace and mine.

After running a 50 mile race, the rule is to take 50 days of recovery.  That means you’re still training but at a more moderate pace and running moderate distances to let your body heal from the race and the year of training leading up to it.  For the first two to three weeks after the Labor of Love, my body was enjoying the lower mileage runs with very moderate weekly mileage.  My pace after the race was about the same as it was during race training…slow and steady.

By the fourth week, things began to change.  While I was still running short distances and low weekly mileage (5-6 mile runs three times a week), I felt my pace starting to pick up.  My Garmin (which tracks my mileage and pace) confirmed that.  There were several runs where my pace was close to my PR pace days.  It felt good to know those days weren’t gone.  On those runs, faster was my happy pace.

My next big race will be the Marine Corp Marathon in October.  This is a race I have wanted to run since I began running about seven years ago.  I haven’t decided what pace I will run…faster to possibly set a PR or slower to enjoy a race I’ve dreamed about for years.  All I know is that whatever pace I decide to run, it will be my happy pace.

So what does this story have to do with business?

We live in a society where instant gratification is the norm, and it’s often expected.  While running your work and personal life at race pace is required at times, especially if you’re on a deadline, most people don’t have to work and live at race pace all the time. In fact, working and living at race pace, like training and racing at race pace all the time, can lead to extreme fatigue and burnout.  In our professional and personal lives, we need to find our happy pace the same way we do in racing.  What we must remember is that our happy pace is not always the same pace. Sometimes our happy pace is fast.  Sometimes it’s slow.  And sometimes it’s something in between.

To find your happy pace, you have to evaluate the situation and set your pace accordingly.  When we do that, we get to the finish line with a smile on our face and a sense of accomplishment…just like the Having the Courage to Change women.