Comparisons between sport and managerial world are nowadays so overexploited that can be difficult to add something new without being predictable, But there are some areas in which this dichotomy can be analyzed from a different perspective and you can find the Basics of Project Management in a Long Distance Run.
For example, given that now running has become one of the coolest things to do while only some years ago runners were seen as totally alien to the rest of the community, we can see what a project manager can learn from the approach to the race from a top distance runner, when assigned the duty to lead a project end to end, to say it in a sporty way.
So, what are the main skills a long-distance runner needs to have in order to approach a race that can last for half an hour or more than two, in the case of a marathon? We can start by listing the most important: Pace, or Rhythm, Patience and Perseverance.
In the last few years, it has become easier to know at which pace you are running. Gps watches are now a common tool that can be bought for less than 100€ in every sports shop, but knowing your rhythm and running it in a race is a totally different thing. When you are at the start line of a race, be it short, medium-long or long, you are full of adrenaline, you can’t wait to start, and this can bring you to think you are invincible. A fast start is everything you need to prove you wrong. The same can be said of a project that should take one year to be developed: sometimes hurry is not the best of the advisors, and when you take a wrong step in the early stages, is difficult to set upright something later on.
This brings us to the second skill a long distance runner needs to have when approaching a race: patience. It’s important to have a plan, and it’s most important to stick to it. If you do, things can go wrong, but if you don’t, things will go wrong. If you planned to pass the half marathon in 1h20’ and then accelerate then it doesn’t matter if you are feeling easy, run the half marathon in 1h20’ and then accelerate, because long distance running is nothing improvisation, and in one moment you can feel great while the later one you are not able to move a single leg. There is always time to run faster if you kept your energies safe in the first half. By saying this, I am aware that a leader has a completely different role than a runner, and leading a group means that sometimes you have to make decisions that can change radically the initial plan, but when there are some decisions to be taken, analysis is obviously a fundamental part, and knowledge is the first thing you have to rely on: knowledge of your Team, of the Market, of Yourself, of Your opponents.
It is then no secret that the most difficult part of participating in a marathon is not the running itself but preparing for it. Yes, when you are at 35 km and you think the finish line will never arrive is hard, but the hardest part is the 6 months ahead of the race. Here is where you need perseverance. The race is just the last kilometer.
During the preparation, there are many days in which you don’t understand why but you run 20 sec/km(or miles, if you use them) slower than your usual pace, or some in which you can’t even run because of tiredness, but you must go on, because these are the days that will make you win your challenge, whichever it is.
There is one last thing that in an endurance race is extremely useful to remember: when you want to do something, you really have to do it. If you decide that you want to give the race an acceleration, give it and don’t look back. The main feeling leaders should inspire in their colleagues is faith that they know what they are doing.
How many people would believe in them if left in uncertainties?