I run one or two half-marathons a year together with my buddy Dan Valliere from Chicago. In May, we ran the anti-Mini in Zionsville. This run is 90% dirt trails, 1% wood ramp, and 9% packed gravel. There are roots, uneven terrain, and creeks to navigate. Towards the end of the race, I asked Dan how he was doing, and he said he was getting “disorganized” in his running. I had never heard that phrase before, but I instantly knew what he meant.
Towards the end of a tough run, I get sloppy in my running style. I am not as deliberate about my foot placement, posture, and arm swing. My eyes aren’t as alert to my surroundings or the trail ahead, and sometimes one foot will hit the other as I stride forward.
When running a flat road course, this is a problem. But when running an off-road course, the stakes are higher. Tripping over a root and going sprawling into brush, sharp branches, or logs can detract from my enjoyment, and my accomplishment. And once a runner trips, it is hard to get back up and quickly find one’s stride again
Disorganized running is an analogy for sloppy leadership. We can get lax in our execution, and we risk falling on our faces. The risk is greatest when we’ve been running a long time, when we’re running too fast, or when we don’t know how far we are from the finish line.
So, how to keep it organized as a leader?
Darting eyes. A trail runner’s gaze is constantly shifting from the path one step in front to the path several steps away. This allows a runner to ensure good current foot placement, and to plan for the next steps.
Pace yourself. “You can’t sprint a marathon.” When possible, run consistently at a reasonable pace, such that you have enough energy to stay organized for the entire run. If a big challenge lays ahead, and you’ve been running too fast, slow down for a spell to catch your breath.
Re-energize. What’s your source of power when your energy flags? Prayer works for me.
Run with good runners. A group run is different than an individual run. Everyone assumes some responsibility for the performance of the team. Team members can notice when another’s running style starts to fall apart, can offer encouragement, and can pace each other. Just knowing that the team is counting on us can pull the best out of us.
Will. When the inevitable pains of running start to come to the forefront of your mind, they distract from the course and destination. Staying organized requires deliberate attention, in spite of distractions. Sometimes it just takes “gutting it out” to decide to finish strong, find that last reserve of strength, and “tighten up” until crossing the finish line.
Godspeed as you keep it organized.