5 ways the marathon has informed my leadership

Last weekend I had the pleasure to travel to Vancouver, BC to participate in their annual international marathon. It was their first year on a new course, and for those of you looking for a scenic event, I would highly recommend this one as one of the best in the world in terms of beauty.

Reflecting back on my day, and reviewing the results of the race, a few things are clear to me. First of all, my experience with the marathon has made me a better leader, in several ways. And secondly, in spite of all the knowledge out there about this event, many people continue to make the same mistakes, race after race. I’m thankful I’ve not made too many mistakes, and because of this I think I can share 5 ways my experience with the marathon has improved my leadership

1.  Let the data inform you. The most common mistake in the marathon is letting your brain write cheques your body can’t cash. Can you hold that pace for the entire distance? How do you know? Check the results of your local marathon, and watch the number of people who run the second half of the race 20 or 30 minutes slower than the first half. You will perform optimally if your times are approximately equal for the two halves. It’s your training, and observation of such, that informs your choice of “race pace”.

2. Be Patient  The marathon is a 10k race after a 20 mile warmup. That’s the best way to describe it. After 2+ hours of steady state running, do you have the gas to run 10k as hard as you can? The interesting thing will be, even running as hard as possible over this last stretch, it will still be slower than your first 10k, which seemed remarkably easy. So, as a leader, keep this in mind. Whatever initiative you begin, don’t front end load all your energy and have nothing left for the end. Plan with the end in mind and accelerate through the implementation phase.

3. High quality fuel, not supplements  Everything you put into your body is a choice, and choices have consequences. The better the fuel, the better you feel, and the more likely you are to have a better performance. If you fill up on empty calories or “food desert” items, you’ll likely underperform. As a leader, this informs the way we apply our resources to the projects we undertake. Select high-quality initiatives aligned with your needs, feed them with pro-d and the necessary resources, and watch them bear fruit.

4. Consistency. A big part of the marathon is training your body to run efficiently when you’re tired. That comes from 5 days a week of running and up to 35 km on your long days. Decrease the amount of rest between bouts of training, and improve your body’s efficiency for “soaking up” the training you do. This is analogous to embracing change as a leader. Expose yourself to challenges, let them soak in, deepen your practice, develop an inquiry mindset that embraces change as part of what we do.

5. Make a plan  Having a plan won’t guarantee you’ll be successful, but not having one is the surest way to ensure you won’t. At the start of the season, I set out my goal (begin with the end in mind; Covey), and work backward to plan out my training cycles such that I can perform on race day in an optimal manner. Clearly, as a leader in my building, this is a worthwhile approach to visioning. It connects with many aspects of the planning cycle, and is an important part of moving forward toward improved learning for the children

So there you have it. Perhaps you’ve had similar experiences, and they’ve informed you as a leader as well. Comments in the spaces below are always welcomed, and an important part of the sharing and community building piece these blogs are intended for.

Enjoy your day



About Ron Sherman

I am the principal of Salmo Elementary/Secondary School, a small rural K-12 school in the Kootenay Lake School District. Happy to be part of the Grand Conversation, moving learning forward and joining with great people every day. Runner, triathlete, skier, blogger, loving husband and father of 2 great boys
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2 Responses to 5 ways the marathon has informed my leadership

  1. Tom Hierck says:

    Thanks Ron. I enjoyed the reflections. We’ll have to coordinate our next marathon and create a running blog as we experience each mile!

    • Ron Sherman says:

      Thanks Tom. Next for me is Kelowna in October, a two-loop race. There are certainly some metaphors built into that, of re-doing something and learning from experience the first time around.
      Enjoy your day

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