This past Sunday was the annual Pittsburgh Marathon where over 30,000 runners – supported by an army of volunteers and close to 100,000 spectators – took over the city streets to challenge themselves to complete either the 26.2 miles of the marathon or the half marathon’s 13.1 miles. Other than a handful of elite runners with genuine aspirations of winning the race, the vast majority were simply individuals who took on a personal challenge to improve a previous finish time or simply go the distance.
Aside from the obvious physical challenge – runners have been in some sort of training program for months – the day’s biggest hurdle was the mental challenge of overcoming all the self-doubt and the naysayers who had questioned their commitment and ability in the weeks leading up to race day.
Late in the race, many runners “hit the wall,” when the body and mind both wanted to quit and every step became a labored effort. Many runners would swear they were running up against a brick wall and not making any progress. Finally, perseverance, dogged determination, and the excitement of the day won out over fatigue and mental anguish. The support and encouragement from the other runners and spectators encouraged everyone to push through to the end.
Hats off to the volunteers, race officials, and first responders who were there to ensure a safe event and deal with any emergencies that arose. It was an example of the people of Pittsburgh at their best.
As a spectator, I cheered on the runners and was inspired by all. I also had the opportunity to root for my wife, Colleen, who was running the half marathon for the second time, and my daughter, Jackie, who took on the challenge and finished her first half marathon.
We are also proud to have in our Dale Carnegie organization Tom Mangan who served once again as a pacer and gave of his time to help others achieve their goals. He has completed more than 60 marathons and ultra-running events, including a 100-mile ultramarathon.
Business coaching note: There are so many parallels between running an endurance event and our daily business performance. Preparation, planning for all obstacles, learning to deal with the inevitable, controlling what is in your ability to control, conditioning to finish, and stop thinking and start doing. A marathon is 48,000 steps, and the most difficult step often is that first step across the starting line.
Human relations principle:
Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” ~ Dale Carnegie