Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marathon as a work philosophy

A close friend who recently came back to town after a long time away commented on my running progress in the years that have gone by, about the time on the road I spend day in, day out, about committing to a training program. I don't schedule running into my life, I schedule life around running, it seems. Not a bad thing, because we all schedule work around life, sleep around life, and besides those two things, everything else (except eating and personal hygiene) is optional.

That conversation had me making a list of all the things that running has taught me to conduct in my work life. Patience, I thought. Determination, sure. Tenacity, of course. Pacing. Yes.

I found myself using running as example at work the last week. I remember talking to a co-worker about all the issues we deal with and in the end, I said, in some sports, we say keep your eye on the field. I told him that as a runner, my best advice was to pace yourself, or risk burnout -- or at least not focusing on the prize. It's a marathon, not a sprint, is something I hear people casually throw around. I know its literal implications.

Overwhelmed is the usual feeling of anyone who does the line of work I'm in. We can keep to-do lists in spreadsheet or stickies on our desktop screens, but in the end, I just sometimes keep it all in my head, and tackle that pile with a "Get Shit Done" attitude.

Late last week, I had one of those days. I sat down, and tore through a mental to-do list. An election was coming, and while panic is the usual feeling, all i had was this feeling was I'd been there before. When i get into the GSD mode, i liken it to a strong paced long run.

I picture myself on the trail, maybe in the middle of a 20 miler, and this runner blows by me at a fast pace. I could give chase but i have no idea whether a) he's running fast, but for only 1k b) he's doing speed work or c) he just wants to pass me.

Usually, this passing gets my hunter spirit roused. I run just a little more sharply. I keep the pace, but am aware that i can raise it or at least keep to it for another hour (or two). You feel a little more alive.

That feeling, the one you get at mile 10 of a marathon, when your tapered body is feeling just fine, hungry, that's my GSD mode. I'm not sprinting, not panicking, not running out of breath. Eyes ahead, with more than enough energy but just enough for another strong 16 miles.

And so it occurred to me that in the time since I've started running marathons, that this is now the third election campaign in my long-distance running life. I'm again heading into another campaign that comes with it long hours and random items that I just must address, now, not yesterday. And so while every national journalist sprints past the start line, I'm trying my running approach to my work.

Prepare, keep it consistent, and when it gets down to it, GSD.

Not only that attitude gets me through long work stretches, it usually is those training runs that I force on myself during these periods, when others head to the bars or to home to sleep, and I tune out the issues and get shit done on the trails.

Race days are approaching. Hungry for that finish line to pass.


Marlene said...

Well said!

I always laugh on th einside when I hear someone say "it's a marathon, not a sprint". If only they knew.

And trust me, it was tempting to run the extra 2K last week... but I am being patient. I'll have another week in the high 90s this week, then recovery, then three weeks of 100+. (and then TAPER eeek) My time will come.

EndorphinBuzz said...

Nicely written!

I also apply a lot of the discipline I learned in training in other aspects of my life (projects, work, etc).

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