Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

October 29, 2012

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned While Pacing Myself.

One mile. Six minutes and fifty seconds.

Twenty-six times in a row.

That’s the run rate for finishing a marathon in under three hours.  And that’s what I started out the day Saturday morning thinking about.  Running my first marathon in under three hours.

Officially I had never run a marathon.  Several ultra-marathons.  But not an official twenty six miler.

So I wanted to make sure my first one was solid.

But when I got to the starting line with more than five hundred other runners I changed my mind. See I’m kind of a lunatic.  Most smart runners measure heart rate and and do speed work-outs.  I just go run until it hurts and then try to keep running until I see the finish line.

I don’t pace myself.  I just run until I can’t. And then I still do.

But that’s a pretty stupid way to do things.

I’ll be the first to tell you.  It hurts.

So when I saw the pacers at the starting line I decided to try something new.  To pace myself.  Actually — to let someone else pace me.

When the rock-and-roll started, I scooted up to the pacer running a three hour, ten minute marathon and stuck with him.  There were about about twenty of us in the race pack.

By the second mile there were about fifty runners ahead of us.  I was tempted to break away and enter the ranks of the top ten.  But I didn’t.

I started talking and laughing with the rest of the runners.  I met “Minnesota” who also runs ultra-marathons and “Hebrew Tattoo” who was trying to set a personal record.  And as we talked and ran, we forgot that running was supposed to be painful.

And we started passing those fifty runners  ahead us.

Ten miles.  Then fourteen.  And a new pacer took over — leading us back to the finish line.  And I felt good.

I was more than halfway finished and I felt fast.  So did three of the other runners.  And so we broke way from the pack.  The four of us all pushing each other mile after mile.

At the mile twenty-two aid station we lost one of the runners in our pack.  And at mile twenty-four, I decided to step it up a little — quickly pushing ahead of the other two in our group.  Over the next mile I could feel the other two runners behind me breathing down my neck.

That pushed me to keep the race fast.  But it wasn’t easy.  The last mile was straight up hill — all the way to the finish line.

And somehow I found the “legs” to push the pace even faster.

Crossing the finish line in three hours and six minutes.

(and something like forty three seconds)

And I had more.  I think I could have run even faster.  But I paced myself and had more fun than any other race I have ever competed in.

Next time, I might run faster but this time I learned some valuable business lessons:

  1. Instead of trying to pack a years worth of sales results into the 4th quarter, focus on making progress when you don’t think you need it.  Make a little progress each day.
  2. The success of your team depends on you supporting them — pushing them to dig deeper, providing them the inspiration to keep moving, and encouraging them to make it to the finish line.
  3. Business change is best done as a series of small deliberately-timed efforts.  Changing anything important takes time.  So let it take time.  Be stronger at the finish than when you start out.
  4. You will hurt your team if you push them too hard without enough training.  They need time and encouragement and a good leader showing them the pace.
  5. Nothing hard gets done without a lot of effort.  If you aren’t willing to go the extra mile, you shouldn’t take the first step.  And you shouldn’t demand it of anyone else around you.

You can run hard. Or you can run hard long.

No one at the finish line remembers how you got started.  No one cares what you thought you could do.

What’s memorable is how you cross the tape.  And how many of your team cross the tape ahead of you.

Leaderships isn’t always about getting a trophy.  Sometimes it means you smile as you watch a well-deserving team member stand on the podium instead of you.

Run hard.  Finish.  Make it worth it.

Lead.  Love.  Challenge.

But pace yourself.

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.