When I first started running – that is dragging myself out of bed early in the morning, often in the dark – I noticed something. I was suddenly more awake on my commute into the city. I was a little more focused when I got to the office. The more I ran, the more I was able to apply the discipline it took to complete those morning runs to my work later in the day.
Running made me a better employee! The meditative value of running also allowed me to think through issues; I’d often arrive at work after a morning run with solutions to yesterday’s challenge. I even had the courage to transition from a dissatisfying sales career to a very meaningful position planning events for a local non-profit.
I finished my first Marathon (New York City in 1997) a year after transitioning my career. Crossing that finish line was a huge self-esteem boost! I suddenly felt like I could achieve anything. I became less shy about presenting my ideas. The discipline it took to follow the training plan also translated into a more fierce ability to execute projects at work. I was given more responsibility, took on more projects, and I was promoted.
I had it in my mind that perhaps running a marathon could be the key to anyone’s career success. But this theory was based on my own personal experience. I did talk to other runners who agreed, but it was all anecdotal evidence. Then in September 2014 results of a survey were released (I wrote a little about that in this post last year).
The researchers looked at CEOs of S&P 1500 Companies from 2001 to 2011. They noted which CEOs in each year had run a marathon, and then measured the companies’ value. They found that companies with CEOs who were marathon runners were 5% more valuable then companies led by CEOs who were not. They also found a wider gap among CEOs who were particularly susceptible to stress – those who were older than the median age of 55, who had longer tenures, or who sat on multiple boards. In these cases, companies headed by marathon runners were 8 to 10% more valuable (Wener-Fligner, Quartz, Sept. 12, 2014). If that doesn’t encourage you to run a marathon, it should at least drive your research before you invest!
What I have learned from being a runner and training for various race distances during the ups and downs of my career, is that, yes, running makes me a better employee, boss, leader, business owner, consultant and coach. There are no shortcuts to accomplishing running goals. If you didn’t complete the training, you don’t meet your performance goal. The discipline and focus applied to training is something most runners take into the workplace.
In addition to that, since becoming a runner (at age 30), I get sick less and I recover quicker when I do. I have made friends and belong to a special community which is always doing good things (according to New York Road Runners, in 2015, 8,700 charity runners raised $33.9 million during the TCS New York City Marathon on behalf of hundreds of not-for-profit organizations). The exercise, the friendships and community service, are not only good for physical health, but mental health as well. Honoring ones values simply makes you feel good and managing stress is a key factor in career success.
Even now that I am self-employed and have a lot of flexibility with my schedule, I am much more focused on days that I run, in particular I am more focused and discipline on days that start with a run (or at the gym). I don’t run everyday and I found that it’s much easier to stick to my training if I do something else on the mornings that I don’t run such as strength training, swimming, or a pilates or yoga class. Doing something everyday is what creates a habit.
I just signed up for my next big goal race: the 2018 New Jersey Marathon on April 29. I don’t start officially training until January 8, although its not too early to start preparing, to get focused. By April 29 I will also have my Co-Active Coaching Certification and be looking at a lot more business success. My daughter will be less than two months from high school graduation. Our house will be on the market and we’ll be preparing for big changes. I purposely train for big races at times like this. It’s keeps me focused, disciplined, sane…and successful.
Chicago. As seen from the Willis Tower. August 2017.
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