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Tag: running

Running projects

There’s no indicator of how things will go at the start. We may have done this before, or maybe it’s more, or less complicated than the other times. We can start with lots of confidence or start without any. The path to the end will be different each time. Sometimes getting to the start line is enough for success. Other times it’s the easiest part.

We collect our tools, come up with a plan, then start. Maybe we sprint at the beginning, then settle into a rhythm until the end. Or we may start with a good rhythm, then have to vary our effort to maintain momentum. We draw energy from those around us. Or they suck the energy from us. We never know.

This is what I pondered as I ran my second half marathon of the year, and the third one in my life. I felt a little weak at the start and decided to just run without any expectations or goals. There were over 500 runners on the scenic Westport, MA course. I started near the front and settled into a decent pace. At about the 6 mile mark I started to feel confidence that I’d go the distance. I finished 22nd overall, and 4th in my age group. It was a personal record for a half marathon.

Long runs are a lot like projects. There are so many variables, that we can’t easily predict an outcome at the start. All we can do is monitor and adjust our efforts as the variables change.

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Getting to the starting line is sometimes the biggest challenge

I ran in my second half marathon last Saturday in Newport, Rhode Island. I was 86th in a field of 817 runners. They awarded medals to the top 3 in each age group. I was in 4th place for my age group. But that’s not the focus of this blog post.

The race started at 8:00. I woke up at 4:15, which totally surprised our cats. They felt like failures as I left the bed ahead of them. An hour later I was in my truck for the 1.5 hour drive to the parking lot. The last shuttle to the start was leaving at 7:00. My risk management plan included time to pull off the highway in case my hydrating resulted in the need to … you get the idea. I arrived at the lot at 6:35 and boarded the shuttle. I picked up my packet, stowed my warm clothes in a pack and checked them with the organizers. I walked around, took pictures and posted them on Instagram and Facebook. Eventually they called the racers to the start.

My plan was to finish under 8 minutes per mile (or 1:45 for the whole race) and not walk at all. I didn’t get caught up in racing other people. I raced myself. My training plan and my race plan worked. I finished at 1:42.

The day before the race I was talking to a colleague who runs marathons. He said that the hardest part of race day is getting to the start line. He wasn’t lying. I think this applies to many of our goals in life.

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My list of excuses

I have a list of excuses not to run. I’m tired, it’s cold, it’s raining, I don’t have the time, I’d rather read a book, it’s boring, my favorite jacket is in the laundry. It’s easy to find one at a moment’s notice.

I also have the antidote for excuses. It’s having a goal that I can’t ignore. Like a race. I used to do lots of 5 kilometer races. Then it became boring. Why drive somewhere, stand around waiting for the race to start, then for the
finishers, then drive home so I could run for 20 minutes? It didn’t make sense.

Last year I signed up for my first half marathon. I downloaded a 12 week training plan, and stuck to it. Okay, I missed a week of it, but I still kept to it. I ran in cold rain and in sweltering heat. I destroyed my iPod Nano, a Garmin 305 GPS, and a pair of running shoes. There wasn’t any room for excuses.

After the race I slacked off. I ran a few times, and pulled out my list of excuses, removing the dust and using them again. Then my wife said “why don’t you do another half marathon”? Because I swore them off. I had no intention of doing one again. Never. Again.

While attending a neighborhood Christmas party, an avid runner told me that I’d change my mind. I’d run another half marathon. A couple days later I decided I’d plan on doing three of them in 2017. I signed up for a half marathon in Newport, Rhode Island on April 15th.

Goals are the best way to overcome your excuses. Pick them carefully and then focus on them. Excuses are for other people.

 

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Conditions may vary

Project management is all about taking a team from Point A to Point B to deliver an outcome. It’s a journey that often follows the same path. Organizations that execute the same project types multiple times are the paved roads of project management. If you can’t manage ambiguity, then seek this type of a project management role. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be the first project managers replaced by artificial intelligence.

Most of the roles I’ve filled in project management align with the definition of a project. Each one is unique. Even when the outcome we want is the same, how we get there will vary based on the conditions we encounter along the way. This requires us to embrace the current situation, reset expectations, and moderate our speed.

I was reminded of this as I ran our beach for about the 200th time this morning. The first 1.5 miles are predictable. It starts on pavement and continues into a tidal marsh. The conditions are predictable. When I reach the creek and turn toward the bay, all bets are off. The tides and storms constantly change the running conditions. I’m often forced to apply rolling wave planning, picking the best line on the mixed stones and sugar sand to get as far down the beach as I can. Sometimes as little as 20 feet. Then I repeat my short term planning. On these days I embrace the fact that I need to pace myself to make it to the finish without running out of energy.

What’s your preference for project management? Do you prefer paved roads, or is the thrill of the beach that energizes you?

Get my almost best selling book Haiku for Project Managers so you can enjoy the beaches more.

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