Measure for Success

by Guy Ralfe on January 20, 2010

I don’t see myself as competitive but thinking about it if someone draws a line in the sand, I have to jump over it. My boss decided that we all needed a challenge to get us through the winter. He offered to everyone in the company an entry to Boston’s Run To Remember – 1/2 marathon. Not being a runner but seeing the line in the sand I signed up.

I asked a few questions to get an idea of how to train and how to build up to this race. I was told “…you need to get into the habit of running about 35-40km (about 21.5-24.8 mi) a week” and then build up on speed after you have established a base in attaining distance.

I had never run more than 10 km before, and to be honest if I recall most of those 10km were walked, how was I going to achieve this? Well I put on my trainers and set off aiming for 35 km in the first week. After a mammoth effort I managed just over 10km on my first run. Suddenly 35 km didn’t look so far but finding another 3 hour slots in the week was going to be the challenge. Getting daily email reminders from my boss on how far he had run, quickly helped overcome that problem, and surprisingly, after my first week of training I managed to log a respectable 37.5 km. Now that was some two months ago, and it has gotten a lot colder up here in the north east. What started to happen was that I began not keeping accurate records of what I was running so I began telling myself stories about what I had done to feel better, not what I had left to accomplish. The result was that suddenly I was not able to keep up the required standard.

Lately I have been trying to build up speed since all I had been focusing on was distance. (to you athletes out there I am not a runner yet so no laughing at my shared statistics) From discussions I heard someone mention that you need to be in the 4:50 min/km pace for this type of a run. So I sported a watch and off I set. In my mind, I was thinking that I must be getting close to the 5 min/km mark. Well after a good fast run the watch must have had a problem, I was averaging 5:32 min/km. I was suddenly aware how weak my training program was and that the performance metrics for running were both speed and distance. After some work I have now been able to break the 5:00 min/km mark for my training runs.

So just yesterday I went for a run in Copenhagen, it is flat with no hills and I felt like I had flown. At one point I sprinted alongside a cyclist to keep the pace elevated for 2 minutes – my time must have been close to 4:50 min/km. After looking at my watch I only managed 5:01 min/km. I was really upset and shocked, but I also learned a very clear lesson that us humans cannot be objective for our own sake.

We must know what we are going to do, what the criteria (metrics) are that define the standard if we are at all going to compete. Let’s not fool ourselves we compete all day every day. We need to ensure we stay ahead of the pack to succeed and realize our ambitions.

This is a great video emphasizing the point of knowing what the standard is and measuring against it.

(Click to Start Video)

Here is a brilliant blog post Don’t Do Your Best that gives more insight into the limitations we commonly set ourselves when saying we will do our best.

And from a business perspective here is a an insight to what it means to Run the Last Mile of the Race.

Know your ambitions, personal and business, set the criteria you are going to measure against then go out and perform. And if nothing else measure your performance!

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