Snow Day!

Snow Day!

I had something different planned for the blog this week, but after this weekend’s blizzard, I had other thoughts. So we’ll talk about volunteerism next week.

Let’s talk about snow. Snow. Certainly the topic of conversation this weekend here in the northeast. I hope you all managed okay and made the best of it. For most, I guess it wasn’t really a snow day since it fell on a weekend. My daughter was enormously disappointed.

The storm didn’t affect my plans all that much. Although I spend a lot of time maneuvering the snow thrower around my oversized driveway that I could have done without. I worked on some projects in my home office as planned and I went for my scheduled runs.

IMG_3113Ramsey, NJ. Saturday, January 23, 2016

Yes. I ran. Both Saturday and Sunday. I’m training for the NJ Marathon on May 1st and these runs were for “mental fortitude.” That being said, safety comes first. Appropriate dress, distance, and pace are all taken into consideration, especially when running outside. On Saturday’s schedule was a 5-mile run at “recovery pace” (meaning it’s done in a certain heart rate zone, which for me typically translates to about a 9:30/mile pace). The snow slowed me down of course, but I was working harder. So as I averaged a 14:39 pace, my heart rate was exactly in the zone I needed it to be (the beauty of effort based training). I also cut my 5 miles down to 4 since I was out there longer than planned. It was a great work out. On Sunday, I ran my scheduled 14-miles thanks to the work of the Bergen County Parks Department who had most of the Saddle River County Park paths cleared.

IMG_7302Saddle River County Park, Ridgewood, NJ. Sunday, January 24, 2016

Why did I run? Sunday’s decision was the easy one; just can’t miss a long run during marathon training, even if it meant taking it indoors for the monotony of the treadmill. But it was a beautiful sunny afternoon, the roads were passable and the park was open. But Saturday? Anyone would understand if I blew off Saturday’s run under the circumstances, so why didn’t I? A few reasons… I’m the president of De Novo Harriers running club. On Saturday morning the club’s secretary posted a “selfie” in our FaceBook group proving she was heading out. Then the treasurer followed. So how could I not? I also hated to miss an opportunity to run in the snow. It’s different, quiet, meditative. Really just me and the plows. But the real reason I ran, and why most of the runners I know got out there too, is because that’s the way we are. We’re training to reach a goal. And to achieve success, the work has to be done. We know there are no excuses, no short cuts. So we run when it snows. And when it rains and when it’s hot or cold or just right.

And this is why runners usually make good employees. Runners do the work. Runners make sacrifices. They don’t make excuses. Runners have determination, focus, and discipline. And for the runners I know, that carries over to our professional lives as well.

I read this in a blog a while ago and saved it:

Whether you’re training for a marathon, a century or the Ironman triathlon, one thing you quickly find out is that there’s no room for bullshit out there on the pavement. You either do the work or you’re screwed. Politics won’t get you to the finish line. It doesn’t matter who you know or how well you can work the system. When you’re out there, every weakness bubbles up to the surface and stares you in the eye. Lack of preparation, lack of motivation, lack of dedication will all come back to bite you in the ass. There’s nowhere to hide. They will all find you and jump up on your back to stop you dead in your tracks. The choice becomes this: Do you let them stop you, or do you accept them and keep going?

You learn a lot about yourself, training for that type of event.

You learn a lot about how to break thresholds and get past your own little ego, training for events like these. When you’re tired and sore and hungry but you still have four miles to go, guess what? You still have four miles to go. How you get through these last four miles is entirely up to you. Nobody cares whether you walk those last four miles or run, or hail a cab. Nobody made you set 26.2 miles as a goal. Or 100 miles. Or 144+.

Once you’ve broken past your lack of will and learned to keep going, you are transformed. A similar thing happens to Marines during training. At some point, who you used to be before you went beyond what you thought your limitations were, before you kissed excuses goodbye, before you left all of the bullshit that stood in your mind’s way ceases to exist. You become someone else.

That someone else, the marathoner, the long distance cyclist, the triathlete, the Ironman, he or she walks into your place of work with you every morning.

We all work with two types of people: Partisans of the least amount of effort, and dedicated professionals.

The latter aren’t all marathoners or triathletes, but I have yet to meet an Ironman or marathoner who didn’t take his or her intensity and dedication to their job.

(Olivier Blanchard, https://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com/, February 21, 2009)

 

Totally agree.

 

 

 

Training for The Big Event

Training for The Big Event

I told the story last week; my career and life as a runner developed together. Almost immediately after completing my first race, I had my eyes set on the Marathon (and a new job). As far as training for a marathon, I had no idea where to begin (I had days at my new job like this too). A friend gave me a copy of The New York Road Runners Club Complete Book of Running by Fred Lebow and Gloria Averbuch.   It contained training plans for a variety of race distances for runners at different levels. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, all I could do was follow the instructions (my father always said if you could read instructions, you could do anything).   I chose the beginner marathon training plan. If it said to run 5 miles on a Thursday in week 1 and 10 miles on a Sunday in week 8, I did exactly that. It was spring 1997 and I was planning to be ready to run the New York City Marathon the following November. As a fairly new runner, I was giving myself a lot of time to train!

At the same time, I also began a major task at the new job – planning the “Big Event” – an annual black-tie ball, the biggest fundraiser of the year! Although I held a certificate in event marketing, had planned lots of office parties and my own wedding, and was the organization’s newly hired “Special Events Director”, this was going to be the first event for which I was actually earning a salary. I was a little nervous. Expectations were high!

Step one: make lists of every detail surrounding the event, what tasks need to be completed, and by what date. When I finished making the list, I realized what I had before me didn’t look all that different than my marathon training plan. And so it began. Each night, I checked the book and then set my alarm to get up at the time needed to complete that day’s mileage. The next morning I rose without thinking too much and set off for my run. Then a few hours later I’d arrive at work full of endorphins and feeling very awake, ready to tackle my “Big Event List.” If it told me today was the day to book the entertainment or mail the invitations, I did exactly that!

Step two: stay disciplined and focused. Together in running and working I found the way to do that. I successfully organized my first “Big Event” and I finished my first marathon! In the last eighteen years I’ve successfully managed a lot more fundraising events and have run many, many races using the same timeline/task list approach to stay focused on my goals. I have also found that running offers a unique problem-solving opportunity. It is the only time of the day that I am completely alone with my thoughts and totally unplugged. The first conversation of the work day often starts, “remember that challenge we were discussing yesterday? Well, on my run this morning…”

Last summer I was training for the Chicago Marathon which I ran in October raising funds for The American Association for Suicide Prevention. The fundraising event I simultaneously organized was the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative’s Anniversary Gala, which took place two weeks before the marathon on September 27. For this event, I had the benefit of working with a fabulous committee, including the organization’s executive director, Amanda Missey. I put all the tasks into my timeline format and it kept us all focused. At the same time I mapped out my training schedule for the Marathon. I consulted both plans every day.

The BVMI Sixth Anniversary Gala took place at the Shops at Riverside. There were over 300 people in attendance. Most importantly it netted over $213,000 for the people they serve. BVMI provides free primary medical care for working, low-income, uninsured Bergen County residents. To learn more and to support this great community resource, please visit the BVMI website.

I have a framed poster handing in my den showing the spectacular start of the New York City Marathon. It reads, “Alone its 26.2 miles – together it’s a marathon!” Similarly, donors and volunteers are what make fundraisers “The Big Event.” Make sure they have a spectacular experience! Make sure to create a plan for success and follow that plan to the last detail. I have learned that in training and event planning success is inevitable when corners aren’t cut.

IMG_2278The BVMI 6th Anniversary Gala, The Shops at Riverside, Hackensack, NJ. September 2015.

Generally, I’m trying to share photos of what I see on my run. I did not run through the event site after it was set up as shown above; but I did take a break from set-up the morning of the event to get in a 10-mile run. All it takes is proper planning.

 

What keeps you running?

What keeps you running?

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? I set goals that are flexible enough so they are not quickly abandoned as New Year’s Resolutions often are. I have new goals for myself this year professionally (this blog is part of that), personally (like a lot of you it has to do with eating healthier), and running, which for me is a whole separate category. More on that to come. But if you’re still looking for ways to fulfill your promise to yourself to get healthier this year, let’s talk about fundraising. Yes, fundraising!

The last race I ran in 2015 was the Reindeer Run in Franklin Lakes. It was a fundraiser for The Academy of the Most Blessed Sacrament (the elementary school were I spent 9 years of my life from Kindergarten through the 8th grade). My first race of 2016 has already been completed – the Fair Lawn Sunrise Rotary’s First Day 5k. These local races give us such a great opportunity to get up and out and to do something healthy with family and friends. But these little races are also supporting the schools, civic organizations, and non-profits that make our communities a great place to live and work. To find a race near you start with USATF and look at the race calendar or link to your local chapter.

I feel fortunate that my hobby (passion?) provides a vehicle for fundraising for such important missions that impact so many lives. I feel even better when I can be intimately involved in these events. And I’ve been involved in the inception of several races, to planning, to event day management and staffing. It should come as no surprise that my professional career and my running life began and took shape simultaneously.

I was always an athlete, but I hated to run. As an adult I was constantly searching for my “grown-up sport.” I played a little tennis, tried golf and even joined a bowling league. It wasn’t until I decided to make a career change and enrolled in a certificate program that I also stumbled on the right new sport.

The certificate was in event marketing offered by NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. My first class was “Events Public Relations” taught by a woman who at the time also served as Vice President of Public Relations for New York Road Runners. Most of the materials she used in class were from the NYC Marathon. The competitor in me kept thinking “I could do that!” even though I doubt I could run a block at that point. Thankfully, one of the class’ guest speakers came to talk about the (then) Chemical Bank Corporate Challenge and helped me set a more realistic initial goal.

It was spring 1995 and I worked in a fairly dysfunctional sales office. When I heard about the great team-building benefits of the Corporate Challenge I thought it might be a good way to try running and put an end to office politics too! So, my first race. And I never looked back.

A year later I had my certificate in event marketing and 18 months after that I did the impossible. I finished the New York City Marathon. By then I was the special events director for Bergen County’s United Way and raised over $5000 for that organization through the marathon – I had successfully started my fundraising career and found a sport for grown- ups. They both became my passion. Running helps me stay focused and disciplined which obviously helps my work and I have found that raising money for a good cause is a real motivator when training for a marathon.

Every runner – and every person involved with non-profits from staff to volunteers – has a story about how they got started and what keeps them going – what’s yours?

IMG_3063Saddle River County Park, Paramus, NJ. January 2016.

 

Up and running

Up and running

Happy 2016. Welcome to my blog. I have spent the last two-thirds (over 19 years) of my career in non-profit management and fundraising. I have served as the fundraising lead for several organizations, and as CEO for a small non-profit (where my role also involved doing a little of everything, especially fundraising). I have worked with some really great staff, a few outstanding executive directors, and many dedicated and passionate volunteers that helped further the mission of some incredibly worthwhile organizations. Like anyone, I’ve had good days and bad days on the job. I’ve celebrated successes, lamented over failures, managed a lot of stress, and did my best to find that ever important work-life balance as a full-time working mother. But regardless of what knocked me down – and I’ve received some major blows in my life in recent years – I got back up, brushed myself off and got back to the task at hand. I remember as a kid my mother telling me that I had a keen ability to “roll with the punches” that would serve me well in life. Thank goodness for that!

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