Running Your Own Race

How half marathon running boosts your career

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In the last few years, I’ve run more half-marathons than I can keep track of. I started long distance running later in life. After failed attempts at Division 1 sprinting in college, I decided to give long distance a try while I was in grad school. At the time, long distance for me meant about a mile, and for some time one mile was a struggle. Gradually, that single mile became easier and I didn’t feel complete unless it was followed by several more. Eventually, I decided to try doing it for sport, and now a year doesn’t pass without several half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks in the bag.

I’ve learned that I crave running and not just running, races. I’ve always been thirsty for professional development opportunities and running somehow quenches that thirst. A race can be an opportunity to learn about how you see yourself in your career and how you look at accomplishing a goal.

Training and preparation helps you achieve your endgame.

First, running a race successfully requires training and preparation. From everyday stretching, to jogging varied distances to get in shape, to maintaining the proper diet for successful exercise routines, the race starts long before race day. What the race provides is a destination. The length of your race will determine the level of training needed. The date of the race will determine when you need to start training. The time you decide you want to finish in will determine how hard you need to train.

In your career, you will need to establish a destination, a goal. If you do not know what your endgame is, how will you know what you need to do to get there? Determine your endgame, your timeline for that endgame, and what a successful completion of that goal looks like for you. Then start preparing for it.

This is your own race. What are your individual goals?

In one of my favorite races, the Shape Women’s Half Marathon, there were over 7,000 other women running too. Realistically, I knew I was not coming out in first place. That simply is not my destiny. But in order to make it worth it, I needed to have a goal that would make me feel successful. I had already decided what my projected pace would be, so I focused on that goal, not on women who were faster or slower than me.

Social media has been known to cause FOMO (a fear of missing out) and a lot of people focusing their energy outside of themselves. We are inundated with status updates of other people’s accomplishments and achievements and racing to keep up instead of completing our own goals. Winning a race requires a runner to be laser–focused on self, versus others. When I started the race, I found that I kept looking at my long-legged friend who decided to run by my side. With 5 more inches of leg and with a stellar D1 track record, the miles didn’t seem as tough for her as they did for me. I found my breathing heavier than hers and her pace quicker than mine. I immediately had to force myself to stop. You will not finish this race if you keep being distracted by what another person is doing, I reminded myself, This is your own race.

Some people will pass you and some people might fall behind. What does that mean for you?

With that in mind, I kept pushing and decided (as I have to do in every single race) that this race was going to be about me. Inevitably, I couldn’t help but notice some people that had been alongside me for the first few miles were beginning to fall behind. I felt a twinge of guilt. Was I being disloyal by carrying forward with my goal? Should I stay where I’m comfortable or do I keep pushing ahead? In a race, as in a career, some people will pass you and some people might fall behind. You have a choice. Are you going to let yourself fall behind? Can you stay consistently motivated as that change happens? I remembered my individual goal and kept pushing on.

What story are you telling yourself as you run?

Around mile 10, which is for me over 90 minutes of running, my legs started to burn. I realized I was at a critical decision point. This time my battle was not about my preparation, or comparing myself to peers, or leaving others behind. It was all about me. I was in pain, yes, but I was not at the point where I couldn’t keep moving. I was much closer to the finish line than I was to the start, and admittedly, that was a scary moment. In that moment, I had to intentionally decide to keep pushing to achieve my goal.

I will keep running. My legs feel great! I will be fast! I am fast. I affirmed myself and encouraged myself and kept going.

Finish strong.

Before I knew it, I was less than a mile from the finish line. By now, the burn in my legs trickled down to my ankles and I started getting frustrated. In that moment, when I thought quitting was the only viable option, I looked up and happened to see one of my closest friends standing by with a sign. He ran with me almost to the finish line and I didn’t even remember my legs hurt as I smiled through a sprint to victory. A strong support system is critical for those breakthrough moments, I mused as I picked up my medal and cheerily chugged some Gatorade.

What’s your next goal?

Each time a race is complete, I feel a since of accomplishment. I celebrate that week and then book another race. When one goal is done, it leaves room for another.


Originally published at www.angelinadarrisaw.com on May 21, 2015.