It started off as a crazy thought. But in November 2009, drawing inspiration from my CEO who had just run the New York City marathon, I decided to run the Philadelphia City half marathon. Later in 2011, I went a step further and also completed the New York City marathon, one of the most challenging courses on the world marathon circuit. From the time I first started training to run the marathon, the lessons that I learnt and the parallels I drew gradually strengthened my conviction that the marathon is a compelling metaphor for our arduous corporate life. It was a discovery that was too momentous to keep to myself, and I felt I had to share it with others.
The Marathon Mindset
The first lesson I learnt was that anyone who wants to run a marathon must re-programme his or her thought processes and attitude. Believe it or not, a marathon mindset is a sporting, yet intense mindset that allows us to focus on finishing well rather than ‘winning’ the race. That is not as preposterous a concept as our conditioning might lead us to believe, for being a winner is about much more than just coming first. Ask any marathoner, and you will be told that the key is to relax your body, put your mind at ease, and keep running. But most important of all, it is enjoying what you do. Likewise, the key to success both in the corporate world and in life is to do well by staying united with the others around you in a spirit of comradeship and enjoying the run.
This takes me back to a strange incident that took place when I was in danger of losing steam during the New York Marathon. Just a few yards before the Queensboro Bridge, probably the toughest part of the course, I was slowing down to a walk. ‘You don’t want to slow down here,’ said a voice that was loud and clear enough to penetrate my ears even with my iPod earphones in them. I turned and saw a beautiful woman striding alongside me. ‘The bridge is just around the corner. Come with me.’, she said with a smile. Till we crossed the bridge, she kept pace with me, and then she raced ahead. We had never met and it is unlikely that we shall ever meet again, but that little act of extending moral support to someone competing in the same race epitomises the true spirit of a marathon runner. Everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner. Till then we are all fellow cheerleaders!