On Sunday morning, a simultaneous athletic event was taking place.
In Berlin, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge smashed the marathon world record by clocking an astounding time of two hours one minute 39 seconds.
In North West London, stately-plump yours-truly was completing a practice run for the forthcoming Royal Parks half-marathon. 14 km in a leisurely time of 1hr 27 minutes.
“It was hard,” 33 year old Kipchoge commented: “I ran my own race, I trusted my trainers, my programme and my coach. That’s what pushed me in the last kilometres.”
“It was ***ffing hard and my trainers have got a hole in them”, I commented to my indifferent family when I breathlessly returned home. (I should also point out for your sympathy that my Kenyan rival is some 20 years younger than me. If he gave me a mile a year head start, he’d be in all sorts of trouble)
To be honest, my run had a few low points.
I tripped up on a broken paving slab towards the end, tumbled forward breaking my fall with my hand and elbow. As I lay there on the offending stone, (I am coming for you Barnet Council) blood gushing freely from the gaping sore on my mangled arm, a car slowed down, and a passing friend asked with much solicitousness if I was ok. I was too proud to ask for a hug and a lollypop which was what I really wanted. I replied I was ok, got up gingerly and finished the run.
But my real torment was mental not physical. 5 minutes into the run, I convinced myself that I was not in the right frame of mind for its completion. After 30 minutes, about to do a steep climb, I told myself that it was ok to return home. I didn’t. Instead, I changed my route completely and continued, approximating in my head the distance I had intended to run.
Now I don’t want to sound like Kris Akabusi giving a motivational after-dinner speech here, but there are a few relevant inferences from my mental fragility yesterday.
The Harvard Business Review in June this year, reported a Boston Consulting Groupstudy that revealed 85% of companies have undertaken a transformation during the past decade. The same research found that 75% of those transformations fail to improve business performance, either short-term or long-term. Why?
Well unlike this polished athlete, plotting a much flatter run instead of a nasty hill, most organisations fail because of the inflexibility of the individual. The article concludes:
“The result is that transforming a business also depends on transforming individuals — beginning with the most senior leaders and influencers. Few of them, in our experience, have spent much time observing and understanding their own motivations, challenging their assumptions, or pushing beyond their intellectual and emotional comfort zones.”
So next time you are worried that you are not going to be able to do something, pause for breath (or as I did yesterday a quick drink and a wee in the bushes) and do the opposite of what is expected. We are all inherently un-bending and rigidity breeds inaction. The challenge is to look at yourself and identify the behaviours that prevent a more instinctive emotional decision and then run in the opposite direction.
I’d love to write more, but I have to spray antiseptic on my wound and wash my lycra. I am running to help build a Children’s Hospice (www.noahsarkhospice.org.uk) and all donations welcome. As it’s my third half marathon, I am hoping for a personal best of less than 2 days.