In the US and Europe, Spring brings the most iconic marathons to a few of my favorite cities: Paris, London, and (siiiiigh) Boston. I could talk your ears off about why the Boston Marathon is the best: the city floods with visitors, thousands of present and past runners wear their iconic blue and gold windbreakers, and my favorite townhouse in Beacon Hill decorates its window boxes with running shoes.
It's been awhile since I've been on my marathon running game, but I am still very proficient at my marathon cheering game. Whether you're watching or running a marathon, I believe that there's something in it that sweeps any type of participant up in its magic. As I was watching Boston last week and thinking about a friend running London this week, I couldn't help but think about how profoundly marathons have impacted non-athletic areas of my life, like work.
Besides being a place to release tension and meet friends (and a husband, wink wink), marathons have had a tremendous influence on my professional beliefs and behaviors. It's taught me to...
Put myself into the higher pack. My Garmin watch would tell you that I'm not a "good" runner. If we were grading on a curve, I'd be a solid C. Yes, it can be demoralizing to feel like I'm often running behind the pack, often last to cross the finish line.
But being on a team where people are faster and stronger than you is how you'll rise to the next level. You'll never make significant improvement if you stay among those who you match your current skills.
Cheer for strangers. The most humbling experiences of my life have been when strangers have cheered for me by name during marathons. Picture it: you're on mile 20, knowing that there are still 6.2 more miles to go, unsure how your legs will carry you another hour (in my case). Then, out of nowhere an angel from the sideline sees your name on your bib and screams her lungs out - for you. Can you imagine? Just thinking about it makes me tear up.
I know just how much this means, so I always be sure to cheer for others. From the course, some runners look at you like "How the f*** do you know my name?" Some smile enthusiastically and wave back, signaling, "I'm one of you! I like to cheer for strangers too!" And some glance up at you for just a second and silently whisper from their eyes, "Thank you, I really needed that."
Same goes for work: I think it's important to cheer for people you know and people you don't know. Especially other women. Who doesn't want a little extra goodwill in her corner? No one, that's who.
Know that the effort is in the preparation. When you're signing up for a marathon, the medal at the finish line isn't really the point. Of course, a finisher deserves the pride and excitement of that triumphant moment. But the commitment is the 4 months of life you've signed away before the marathon. It's about having the stamina to show up and do your best each of the 120 days before the race.
Same with work: certainly, it's fantastic to win a pitch or a temporary victory. But if you work in a fast-paced organization, you'll receive accolades for 30 minutes or so, and then it's onto the next. What will stay with people is how you showed up and participated in the work leading up to that pinnacle moment.
What else did I miss, fellow runners?
Congratulations to my friends, friends of friends, and strangers who just ran Boston, London, & Brighton. You have me itching to get back on the racecourse... :)
PS - Don't miss these incredible clips of runners helping other runners at Boston this year; my cheering is nothing compared to these beautiful acts of humanity.