My initial inspiration for this project is a result of my introduction to business coach and author of the book 13 Lessons in 13.1 Miles, Cheri Alguire. Her half marathon for the charity TEAM Emily and the parallels she discovered in her coaching business really resonated with me for strikingly similar reasons. Thank you Cheri for motivating me to “become my own client”.
This project began as a symbolic activity representing my journey in business, it concluded as so much more. I initially decided to train for a half marathon with two purposes:

A. As a daily constant reminder that my professional and personal journey in life is “a marathon not a sprint” and for me to treat it as such.

B. To train with a higher purpose-to run for those who can’t. My race was dedicated to family, friends and colleagues whose lives have been touched by cancer either first hand through a loved one. My iPod playlist was fueled with songs shared by them. (Email me if you would like a copy.) In 2001, I lost both my father and one of my former lacrosse players to cancer. That year the V Foundation for cancer research became the charity my family supports. On October 3rd, I made a donation to the V Foundation in honor of the families I ran for. I encourage everyone to do the same...

13.1 Observations Turned Business Insights

1. The starting line bears a remarkable resemblance to a traffic jam in Beijing.

Insight: Do your advanced scouting, have a plan, work your plan and have a backup plan. I made the mistake of being in the middle of the pack at the starting line. The congestion and varying paces of the runners surrounding me didn’t allow me to start “my” race at “my” pace. Had I run a 5K leading up to Oct. 3rd I could have more effectively planned to avoid this disruption. In business how are you running your race? Have you done sufficient market research in advance of launching a new initiative? Do you have a detailed plan you’re executing along with a backup strategy?

2. There is a difference between cosmetic fitness and athleticism, shoot for the later. A shaved chest and bulging biceps don’t help you run hills with chicken legs. (That guy got passed by a set of smirking triplets, going uphill)

Insight: Appearance can be deceiving, so don’t be intimidated by what you see. What you see often isn’t really what you get. Sizing up the competition in any setting doesn’t do you any good. Size yourself up because ultimately in business and life you are your own best competition. Runners compete to beat their own personal best time, business professionals need to compete to be the best version of themselves.

3. I found it simultaneously humorous & motivating to pass people decked out head to toe in really expensive gear. (As I chugged along in my cotton t-shirt, lacrosse shorts, tube socks & 7 year old running shoes.)

Insight: Value substance over style, there is a disturbing trend particularly by our youth today towards style being a priority over substance. What you think your business may lack in technology, facilities or resources can be made up for with work ethic, creativity and hustle. Remember substance never goes out of style.

4. Got passed by an Elvis impersonator during mile #5. Bet he felt the same way I did in #3. (Only about passing people not in costumes)

Insight: Have fun, inject your personality, interests and humor into your craft whatever that may be. Most of all, don’t take yourself too seriously. Businesses that do this enjoy a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace. Nationally, Southwest Airlines comes to mind as a great example. Several Maine businesses that embrace this quality and impress me are: Maine Bean Counters, Days Jewelers and Gifford’s Ice Cream.

5. You're either really important or really idiotic to be wearing a bluetooth during a race. Got my answer when I heard the gentleman's "I'm too sexy" musical ringtone go off.

Insight: Know when to disconnect. Those who spend all their time in the tyranny of the urgent, inevitably never allow themselves to enjoy the ride, look at the scenery and have fun. I encourage you to channel your inner-Ferris Bueller. “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”

6. Sound fundamentals & persistence make up for a lot in running & life.

Insight: We are like buildings under construction, without a solid foundation at our base, nothing of significance can be subsequently built. Mastering the basic fundamentals of running a race and running a business are not different at all. Both involve flawless execution of certain core competencies and displaying a resilience and persistence which do not allow adversity to be viewed as a dead end. Adversity is merely feedback or a detour on your road to success.

7. More people would take up running if they made beer flavored Gatorade & pizza flavored Power Bars.

Insight: If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Most things worthwhile in business and life involve hardship and challenge. We do not go through life untested, what we do with the tests that are placed before us determine our trajectory and direction. Operate under the belief that something good is right around the corner, you just need to hustle to get there and discover it!

8. If you're texting during a race, you just need to get over yourself....I think I hear your couch calling you.

Insight: Just like balance when you run, a healthy work-life balance is one of the most important qualities you can have. Leaders, promoting a healthy work-life balance for employees will do wonders for your organization’s growth: preventing burnout, increasing job satisfaction, ingratiating you with the families of your staff and building an Esprit de Corp.

9. Cowbells are an acceptable form of cheering, but the US needs to pass an ordinance against Vuvuzelas.

Insight: Focus--maintain the ability to filter out noise in your life. Noise can take a number of forms. There are the traditional interruptions such as: water cooler chit-chat, phone ringing, email alerts, pagers and knocks on the door. Then there are the “energy vampires” as mentor Jon Gordon refers to them: critics, media, competitors and other toxic individuals you come in contact with. (Energy vampires are negative people who try to suck the life out of your goals and dreams.) In America cowbells are universally recognized as a form of cheering at almost all sporting events; vuvuzelas, on the other hand, are just unpleasant noise. Identify and associate with the “cowbell carrying” members of your environment, people who cheer you on and support you. Utilize a filtering mechanism to eliminate the vuvuzelas in your life otherwise they will bleed you dry of your emotional energy.

10. How many of you can say you ever had a topless, beer swilling fat man wearing a Viking helmet cheer for you while you were doing anything? (This made any permanent damage the race may have done to my body all worthwhile.)

Insight: Everyone needs a cheering section and support system: personally and professionally. My beer swilling friend reminded me of the African proverb,”If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Whether it is a half marathon or a business you are running, without vocal and enthusiastic support you certainly won’t go far. Have a cheering section and be someone else’s, you’ll both go far together!

11. Crooked lines don’t send a good message. The DOT driver had to have been either half asleep or half drunk when painting some of the lines on the roads from Portland to Falmouth, ME.

Insight: It is important to take pride in your work, no matter what the task. Your work is in essence your signature. How you do what you do is a reflection of the true you. I firmly believe that how you do anything is how you do everything. Excellence is a habit and so is negligence. We are all in the first impression business, so attention to detail is among the most important qualities you can possess. Good attention to detail never takes a break.

12. Everyone should have a coach.

Insight: Novice runner and expert, CEO and 1st time manager alike, everyone can take their game to the next level with a good coach. My goal for the race was clear: follow my coach’s 5 month training program, stay healthy and finish the race strong. Without my coach, I may have been underprepared or more likely (knowing my personality) over trained and risked injury. A good coach makes a world of difference- they know when to push, when to pull back, when to reassure you and they know how to hold you accountable. To quote expert Strength and Conditioning Coach Alan Stein “The best don’t need a coach, they WANT a coach. Why? Because they know that when they hit a plateau in order to reach new heights they need someone who can see something about their game that they themselves do not.” My personal mantra is Little Things Win Big Games, having a good coach is a competitive edge that can be the difference between finishing a race and bowing out, winning or losing new clients, innovating a product or going out of business, staying healthy or burning out.

13. Mission impossible theme song played on my iPod right at mile # 13 (No idea how it got on there, somebody has a twisted sense of humor.)

Insight: Finish Strong and don’t let outside influences control the messages you receive. Deliberately fill the emotional tank of those around you with positive thoughts, affirmations and feedback. It is the energy reserve we operate with on a daily basis as well as the reserves we call upon in trying times. The key to competing at your absolute best in sport and business is the ability to exhibit what leadership expert Robin Sharma refers to as “last mile excellence”. The strength at which you end an event is of even greater importance than how you start. What does last mile excellence look like to you on a typical work day? Embrace it and use it to your advantage.

13.1 The most humbling part of the experience wasn't the exhaustion of the 13.1 miles. It was having a soldier in the US military hand me a bottle of water and congratulate me as I crossed the finish line. My response..."No, congratulations to you. Your job makes this easy by comparison. Thank you for your service."

Insight: This soldier’s gesture of community service was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had in my life. They lead a life of service to our community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and he gave of his personal time (probably on the heels of a 12-18 month deployment) to serve the local community in another capacity. I only wish I had his name and contact information so I could give him and his family the proper thank you they deserve.
None of what we do would be possible without those who have served and currently serve our country, protecting our freedom. Whether we agree with the war on terror or not should not impact how you treat veterans and our servicemen and women. They have each earned our respect and admiration. Seek them out and thank them for service. Show your gratitude in a manner that is comfortable for you. Some examples come to mind: letting a man or woman in uniform go in front of you in line at the grocery store, if you see a soldier dining out pick up their check. Every time I see a soldier anywhere, I make it a point to acknowledge their commitment by verbally saying to them… “I appreciate what you do, thank you for your service”….to the point where this is automatic for me. If you think I’m preaching and not practicing please take note of the following: There was a soldier taking pictures of all the runners on mile #12 on the right hand side of the road. I was running on the left, crossed over to the far side of the road slowed to a jog and thanked her for serving our country.