Archive for May, 2009

Your Support Network Gets You to the Finish Line for Work and Racing

May 5, 2009

Before running the Flying Pig marathon, I’d heard a great deal about this race. One of the things that struck me most was what a friend said about running the relay. She said she didn’t like running the final leg of the relay because all you saw was pain and heartbreak. Being that I’m not in the front of the pack, I knew I’d get to see for myself what she was talking about. The other thing I kept hearing about the Flying Pig was how great the crowd support is for this race. What I found was what you see and what you experience is a matter of perspective.

Sure, I saw people in pain stretching out muscles, getting sick on the side of the road, in tears and struggling to make it to the finish line…but they made it. And I believe the reason they made was because of their support network. That support network came from many places such as their family, friends and training partners prior to the race. But the support network I got to see for 26.2 miles was a support network of caring strangers…people who came out to cheer the runners on and stayed for the duration, not just for the front runners. These kind strangers knew that their support was more important to the back of the pack than the front.

There were people on the side of the road with cow bells, clappers, signs and cheering at the top of their lungs. Kids put out their hands to high-5 the runners. People and churches handed out oranges, candy, and other nutrition to help the runners keep going and reach their goal of finishing. There were thousands of people, many who didn’t know a single runner out there, showing their support. But on this special day at this special event, we were all family…in it together for the long haul.

There was a man in the last leg of the race with a sign that read, “You’re our inspiration.” I shouted out to him, “No my friend, you are ours!”

His sign reminded me of one of my all time favorite books by Ken Blanchard, Gung Ho! The message of this book is all about inspiration and focuses on three principles:
Worthwhile Work
In Control of Achieving the Goal
Cheering Each Other On

Just like with our real jobs, when training for a marathon, you must believe the work you’re doing is worthwhile or you won’t continue. How many people leave their jobs or their careers for others because they don’t find their work rewarding? It’s critical in work and in athletics that we help people find the reward and worth of their work, or we will lose them. I heard a statistic that only one out of every three people who begin training for a marathon will make it to the starting line. Work is not much different. We need to improve our odds in both areas.

In work, as with the marathon, we need to keep our eye on the finish line and be proactive in guiding the course to achieve our goals. If we lose control or get off course, it’s much harder to finish. So focus, commitment and dedication drive our success…or our failure.

Last, but in my opinion, the most important is cheering others on. We often hear the main reason people leave their employer is because they didn’t feel they were appreciated. If we do a better job of cheering others on and showing our support, we can lessen this problem or maybe eliminate it.

Like most things in life, perception is reality. My perception, my reality of the Flying Pig is simple…while the road to the finish may have been long and hard, those kind, caring strangers, made me and many others gung ho and got us to the finish line with a true sense of the worth of our work, the goal we achieved and the power of a great support network who cheered us on for 26.2 miles and many hours.

If any of you reading this were part of the cheering section along the course, thank you! Your time, kindness and energy meant a lot to thousands of runners. As the sign said…you are our inspiration. And in the spirit of inspiration and cheering others on, I urge you to follow their lead and encourage and inspire the people you touch in every aspect of your life. It makes a huge difference.