After having prepared and run my first marathon, I realized that the ingredients that make an excellent performance are the same that we need everyday.
While running for over 42km is extraordinary for some, some others consider it almost routine. As a matter of fact, nowadays many people do it. I challenged myself with a marathon in December 2017.
As any other experience, running a marathon can provide learning opportunities. However, I did not learn much: it was rather the natural ending of a training plan. However, getting there was not effortless and it was the training itself that taught me more than I had expected. Here’s a short list of the most relevant things I learnt.
The marathon: the ingredients of an excellent performance
- When there’s a will there isn’t necessarily a way: you work hard and are committed to the training and believe that this is enough to accomplish your ambitions. However, after a short while you realize that your ambitions are one thing and your possibilities a totally different thing. You also realize that training has a value per se and not as a mere instrument to get to a desired result. To train also means being able to accept yourself and your possibilities. When there’s a will, there isn’t always a way, ad that’s fine. I had dreamt of wonderful results, I did not achieve them, not in that short time. Now it’s up to me to decide whether or not to persist…
- Motivation is not that important. Alex Bellini counted the days in which he felt motivated (positive, full of energy and passion) and noted them in the diary he kept while crossing the ocean solo on a rowing boat. On over 300 days, those in which he described himself as being really motivated and happy to row were 12, about the 4%. Then, what convinced him not to give up? It was not motivation that took him across the ocean, it was discipline. And when training requires you to workout four times a week even when you are facing a busy time at work or in your family life, you are faced with the possibility of being –or not being- disciplined. Making efforts is not fun and it requires a let of mental as well as physical energy: nobody is willing to train but those who do are disciplined enough to face the effort.
- Self done doesn’t mean well done: In an era when information is at our fingertip, we are tempted to get those information ourselves, to form our own opinion, to try things directly. All legitimate stances. However, if we aim at a high quality performance, we need to learn to rely on and trust professionals and to accept their advice even when we would like to do (overdo) more. I chose Paolo Lazzarin to accompany me during my training and I reckon it wasn’t a case I finished the marathon with a longer time than I had dreamt of but also without any injuries during the 5 months training and with no physical consequences, not even on the day immediately after the run. This said, having to accept to run the first 10km that slow just because Paolo was telling me to do so wasn’t easy at all. And yet, just like many other times during those months, he was right.
- Nobody is bound to support you: Needless to say, this kind of training is highly demanding not only for those who chose to do it but also for the people around them. And as much as your family is involved and passionate about your endeavor, you soon realize you can’t ask them to love this challenge as you do. It is not fair to demand them the same level of commitment and enthusiasm you have. I realized I couldn’t demand for their support because it is not guaranteed, on the contrary, support should be compensated and rewarded with gestures and attentions, giving back the positivity and energy you enjoy. At the same time, training for a marathon implies accepting the possibility to disappoint people around you, not to be up to their standards. It also means training your selfishness to some extent, without losing sight of and love for the people that are by your side.
- You won’t get everything and you won’t get it now!: When you start training for a marathon you realize pretty soon that there will be lots of efforts to make in the months and weeks preceding the competitions, that improvements are going to be small and that your ambitions will need to be downsized. A marathon is a garden that needs to be grown day by day, without haste or claims. Maybe this is why people get to run a marathon when they reach a certain age, when they accept that being lucky in life means being able to balance one’s efforts and results without noticing too much discrepancy. Especially because when there actually is a discrepancy, it is generally on the efforts’ side. I learnt that a marathon is made of the path, of the preparation you need to do each day and that the competition itself is just the top of a building whose foundations had been laid months, if not ages, before.
What if the ingredients for an excellent work performance were the same?
I then try to apply those concepts to my work and I realize that every excellent performance is based on these exact ingredients. Accepting some limitations, being disciplined, letting others help you, not giving others for granted and learning to be patient. Businessmen, board members, delegates, and managers often do not stand out for such skills, perhaps training for a marathon might be useful for them as well, who knows? A marathon and its preparation are perfect metaphors of any excellent performance: what marathon are you training for?
This training changed me and this is why I am grateful I undertook this endeavor after all. Difficult things always require irony, so I would like to end this post by suggesting run lovers to read Chiod’s manual, an accurate and sharp account of the follies that feature the colorful world of running.