Setting Marathon Goals

I have a friend. He runs. In fact, he runs marathons. His next run (www.ultrahike.com) is coming up soon, so he is in the middle of training. Last weekend we got to talking about his training and the run. I have not been able to wrap my head around the why for so long. I never really understood the appeal.

But, I was interested in hearing him tell me about the commitment and dedication it takes to run for long distances. It is more about mental strength than physical ability after a certain distance. His take was that if you can run ten miles, you can run 26.2, the only thing holding you back is you.

I looked skeptically at him. I am not a runner, but the thought sounded a bit crazy. That is when he made the connection to what I do. He told me he breaks down every run, whether it is a race, or a training run, into small chunks. It is the only way to make it through. He plays tricks on his mind, and he sets small goals for himself. Just as he is about to reach one goal, he crafts a new one further ahead. He looks for the next tree a few hundred yards away, or looks for a bend in the terrain.

By doing this he does a few things that as an organizational development professional really interest me:

1. He sets a macro goal to accomplish (race day)

2. He creates a very specific, yet achievable training plan with mile posts to guide him

3. He rewards his hard work with off days and recognizes the importance of rest on his body and mind

4. During every run, he sets smaller objectives for himself

5. He is a part of a community that talks to one another about what’s working and what’s not

After talking with him, I reflected on how we talk about change in an organization and how we are supposed to lay out comprehensive plans. We do not always do this, but we could. We should be setting strategic goals at the macro level. But we should also have a set of micro goals, objectives and tactics that we clearly lay out in front of our employees.

More importantly, we should celebrate with them at each marker. We need to make them believe that 26.2 miles is achievable even if they only feel like they are ready for 10 miles.

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