Archive for January, 2010

Remembering the past can drive our future in business and racing

January 15, 2010

Sentimental journeys can be rewarding in business and in racing. You don’t have to stop to smell the roses. You can do it at race pace too.

Not long ago, I ran the Kansas City marathon. Kansas City is my home town. So I was excited to run this race. The course, while challenging, is spectacular and extremely sentimental for me because the course goes through numerous neighborhoods that hold fond childhood memories.

Add to that, I ran the first 7 miles with one of my best friends from grade school before she split off to finish the half marathon and I continued on to finish the full. Then at mile 8, I ran past another grade school friend’s home, where she and her family were in their front yard cheering me on as I ran by.

Before I ran the marathon, many of my friends asked if I had a goal finishing time in mind and if I thought I would set a PR (personal record). I explained to them that I really didn’t think I would set a PR and that wasn’t my goal for this race for a couple of reasons. The KC marathon course is a much harder and a more hilly course than the marathons I’d run previously. Also, I really just wanted to take my time to enjoy running with my friend who I hadn’t seen since childhood and reminisce about all the wonderful memories I had from my youth as I ran the course.

The first seven miles flew by. For me, the miles go faster with other people and I had seven miles to catch up on life with my friend, Maria. That was the highlight of the race for me. The other reason those miles went so fast was because I was pacing Maria for her goal finishing time of the half marathon which was a much faster pace than I would normally run a marathon. It was critical to me that she not sacrifice her goal because I would normally run a much slower pace for a full marathon. I felt like I could push really hard for the first seven miles with her and then slow down a bit once we split off. I realized this strategy could mean I’d burn out early and struggle in the later miles, but it was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make.

After splitting off from Maria, I was on my own for the rest of the 26.2 miles. I ran through neighborhoods that included the home where my grandparents used to live, the place where my mother bought my birthday cakes as a kid and numerous areas with restaurants where my family celebrated major milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries. There wasn’t a neighborhood that didn’t hold a wonderful memory for me from my youth. It was a glorious sentimental journey.

Normally, at mile 20, my legs start feeling some fatigue and my pace slows significantly. In this particular race I knew that would surely be the case because the course has a continuous three mile incline from miles 21 to 24. I’d heard from members in my marathon group on LinkedIn how brutal this stretch was so I was prepared for it. When I crested the hill at mile 24, I looked at my watch and realized I was well ahead of my last PR time. Knowing I was only about two miles from the finish and the last two miles of the course were flat or slightly downhill, I decided to kick it into high gear and give it all I had. The result…a new PR that was about 18 minutes faster than my previous one.

The day after the race, Maria and some of our other grade school buddies got together for brunch. Maria kept apologizing that she slowed me down. She said I would have finished in under 5 hours if I hadn’t had to wait for her at the top of every hill. I told her it was just the opposite. I told her I finished in just over five hours and way faster than I could have ever imagined because I ran the first seven miles with her. My pacing her for the half marathon put me far ahead of my usual marathon pace and she was the reason I had such a good finishing time.

So how does this relate to business? I think we often forget to stop and smell the roses in our work lives. Many times I see a “first dollar” on the wall in retail establishments. That’s very sentimental to the owners. But there is nothing displayed that shows other sentimental milestones that occurred after that first dollar. We get so focused on tasks of the day, deadlines or getting that next job or promotion that, in the process, we forget to appreciate all the wonderful people we have in our lives and all the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We neglect to pay tribute to our sentimental journey and the people and lessons who helped make us who we are. They are the same ones who will also help shape our future and the future of others on the road ahead.

So the next time you think you’re too busy to appreciate what you have…slow down for a minute as you crest the hill or climb the corporate ladder. Take the time to reflect and continue on at race pace. You will get to your goal much faster being fueled by all those positive memories and your appreciation for them and the people who made them possible. And believe me, there is nothing more valuable than a sentimental journey. It is the ultimate finishers medal.