Five leadership insights you can learn from running a 5K

Image: Pamela Lalonde/About to cross the finish line.

In my first post, I talk about Preparing For My First 5K. It has been a few weeks since I published that post and I completed my first 5K on October 15th, 2011.

It was a great time running with my brother Steve, his friend James, and my youth pastor Rick. Steve and James decided to dress up as super heroes to run the race. You can see a great picture of them below.

James provided a great inspirational story. A year ago he was involved in a bad motorcycle wreck and had extensive reconstructive surgery from the waist down. During his recovery, he has lost 40lbs and become very health conscious. It was my pleasure to run with him in this 5K.

The work I put into preparing for it paid off and I felt good about my placement. I placed 53rd out of 223 runners and 5th out of 13 in my age group with a time of 26:37. Considering I am at the top of my age group, I feel I finished well.

Steve, dressed as the Green Lantern, and James, dressed as Captain America

After the race, I took some time to reflect on lessons I could learn from being in the run. I would like to share five insights that can be applied to leadership.

1. Starting in the back is not the worst thing that could happen: With over 200 runners, the starting line was crowded. Our group was unable to get to the front of the starting line and decided to start at the back of the group of runners. This allowed us to start off at a pace that was fitting to each of us.

As a leader, you may feel you are not up to speed and at the front of the pack. Use your time at the back of the pack to gain your bearings and figure out your course. The time you spend there will be invaluable as you continue leading.

2. Be careful of getting stuck in the pack: There were many packs of runners during the race. During the race, I found myself stuck in the middle of a pack of runners that were not going my speed. This slowed down my momentum and caused me to falter a bit. Eventually, I broke through the pack and was able to resume my pace.

This also happens in leadership. We see the “Next Big Thing” happening and think we need to get into the pack that is doing it. If we are not careful, this can slow down the pace of your company or leadership. Make sure the pack is running at a pace that you are comfortable with before joining it.

3. Pace yourself: This is a major insight I learned. As the race started, the urge to run fast and run hard hit me. It felt as if I ran fast at the beginning, I would do well. It does not happen that way in running nor in leadership. Setting a pace for yourself is the way to go. You will keep a steady level of energy and not falter at the end.

Leaders often think we need to be fast and constantly running at full speed. It does not work well. If you put all your energy and effort into the beginning and save nothing for that final mile, your finish will be poor. It is like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, steady wins the race. Go at a pace that is comfortable to you and that you can maintain.

4. Finish strong: At the end of the race, I could see the finish line. I could also see others who were in front of me. This was the time to finish strong. I picked up my pace and finished strong.

The same is true in leadership. You need to finish strong. If you have paced yourself, you can give push more at the end. Make your push to the finish line a good one.

5. Have fun: I could have made the run all about having the best time possible and trying to win the run. However, it was more enjoyable to hang back with my group of friends and enjoy their company. We had some laughs during the run and we were able to encourage each other to push on towards the goal. In the end, it was all about how enjoyable it was.

Often we get sidetracked in the seriousness of a situation. It is at those times we need to take a step back and try to have some fun. Make a fun game out of a difficult task or create a competition that can create comradery and fun. Bringing fun into the situation can help alleviate stress and create solutions that you may not have seen before.

Question: Have you gained any leadership insights from an activity not related to it? Please share what you have learned below in the comments section.



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