Archive for May, 2016

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.