The rain poured slowly and steadily from the gray sky.
With minutes left before the start of the race, I walked toward the start line.
I checked my watch and fell into step behind four women.
I overheard their conversation about their goals for the race.
One women mentioned her goal time and her friend cut in, “You don’t know your potential.”
“That’s true,” the first woman replied. “I don’t.”
“Today is about unleashing your potential,” her friend told her.
Another woman joined in, “That’s right. Today, we are all going to unleash our potential. We’ll find out what we can do.”
As I listened, they continued. They repeated that phrase again and again as they talked about their plans for the race, their hopes to run faster and stronger than ever before.
This group of women offered each other the gift of encouragement. They each believed in the others’ abilities to be their best and discover their untapped abilities.
I drifted to my place in the crowd waiting for the start, and didn’t see them again.
I thought about their words as I began my race.
I didn’t expect to run my best for several reasons: I haven’t been training much; I spent most of Saturday night up with my daughter, who hasn’t been feeling well.
Mostly, I felt glad to be running in a race again. I had a time in mind, for motivation, but didn’t feel very connected to the goal.
About four minutes in, my perspective changed.
I had started too fast. I could tell. I asked a man running beside me, “What type of pace do you think we’re running?”
A woman behind me started to match my stride. “We’re running a 9 minute mile pace right now.”
We ran side by side for a few minutes. We introduced ourselves. “I’m Becky.” “That’s my name, too.”
“Do you have any kids?” “Three daughters.””Me too.”
As we continued through the course, I discovered Becky is a fairly new runner. She’s done a few races over the past year or so, and hasn’t been happy about her progress toward faster times.
As we reached the mile mark and then then two mile mark, we stayed on course for a personal best time.
But not for me — for my new friend Becky.
We ran most of the race side by side. When I could catch my breath, I spoke words of encouragement to her. As we struggled up an incline, she encouraged me, “We’re almost there.”
As we reached the last half mile of the race, I started to pull ahead slightly.
I found myself running alone. My motivation weakened.
And then, after a few minutes, Becky ran beside me again.
“You caught up,” I told her.
“You waited for me,” she said.
“You’re going to beat your best time today,” I told her.
“If I do,” she said, “it will be because of you.”
We ran strong to the finish. Becky did surpass her best time, by several minutes.
I slid my green bracelet from my wrist, the one that says, “You are remarkable.” I gave it to Becky and watched her put it on. “You ARE remarkable,” I told her. “You did an amazing job today.”
As you might imagine, there are several lessons here, and they’re not really about running.
Our belief in others can be a powerful force for good in their lives. The four women who started the race together created a positive sense of expectation through their belief in each other. Knowing that someone believes in you can fuel you when you’re discouraged; when you’re feeling strong, someone’s belief in you can make you even stronger. When I began to encourage Becky, she gained a new view of herself and her potential.
We can always accomplish more when we join with others. I have no doubt that Becky and I ran faster and finished stronger because we ran together. I kept running a steady pace because I wanted to stay in step with her. She ran faster at the end to catch up with me so we could finish together. When we work on teams, we will work harder to keep pace with others.
We can find great joy in helping others succeed. When my race ended, I quickly compared my actual time (29:37) to the goal time I had typed in my iPhone notes (28:49). Honestly, I didn’t feel any disappointment at all. Instead, I felt excited for the opportunity I found to help Becky be her best.
We always focused more on helping others be their best and less on our own goals?
We eagerly looked for opportunities to encourage others toward success?
We could begin every day with a clear idea that others have untapped potential waiting to be unleashed?
We could help others achieve their personal best, every day?
I learn a lot about leadership when I run. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy these:
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
Becky, that’s an encouraging reminder for early Sunday morning. I agree with you on all three points. There is great joy in helping others succeed, and we can always accomplish more together, and our belief in others can be a powerful force for good in their lives. In fact, we must be careful because our belief in others can also be a negative force. We are very relational. When we believe in someone else, we encourage (put courage in) them. Your story is a great example of how our belief in others changes the world.
Thanks for the great post. Mike…
Thanks for taking the time to read, comment, and share my post, Mike!
You are a fine example of a person who works hard to help others be successful. I appreciate the way you make others (including me) shine.
62 seconds. The difference between your goal time and the time you ran. Had you kept inching ahead at the end, you might have made up that 62 seconds. Yet I’m guessing you wouldn’t trade that 62 seconds for anything.
Sometimes, as life happens our goals change. this isn’t an indictment on goals or goal setting at all, rather, you story also reminds me that we when we are living in the present moment, our goals, and therefore our choices, may change.
Thanks for a great post, and a wonderful example.
You are absolutely right. I would not trade those seconds for anything.
Again, of course, our hearts & minds are aligned. When I ran my first 5k after losing 80 pounds and having been a couch potato for 37 years, I came in second to last. I told my friends & family not to let me run a 5k ever again.
Four months later, I had lost 100+ pounds and joined Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and started training for my first marathon – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego. Time didn’t matter. The fact that I was there, walking/running 26.2 miles was enough of a victory to me.
Around mile 22, I hit the wall. My legs were in pain and felt too heavy to put one foot in front of the other. One of the angels for whom I was running was named Aly, a friend-of-a-friend who died while in college from a blood cancer. I said a silent prayer (or plea) — “Aly, please just let me finish.”
At that very minute, a woman ran past me. As most runners do, she had her name written on the back of her shirt. Her name was A-L-Y — same spelling as my angelfriend. I laughed, I cried, I took a picture (carrying a disposable camera in my running pack).
For the next six miles, Aly & I would pass one another, never having the chance to speak to each other. When the finish line was in sight, I gave it my last effort and sprinting across the finish line. I looked for Aly in the finisher’s area, and never saw her again.
I carry her picture with me, a reminder of many things — the most important that there are angels among us. And you, Becky, are one of those types of people.
Every marathon & half-marathon I’ve done (a total of six) has been for a reason, with no time goal in mind. My last half-marathon was in Des Moines with Team Thomas in memory of Coach Ed Thomas of Aplington-Parkersburg who was shot & killed by a former student/player. It was special for many reasons – it was a memorial run, and I was blessed to share it with my sisterfriend Becky Robinson who drove from her home (at that time in Chicago) to Des Moines and shared the race with me.
Leadership lessons sometimes come from unexpected places. And long-distances running/walking events are ripe with lessons in life, love, laughter, learning, and leadership. =)
When I crossed the finish line, I was exhiliarated and exhausted. I raised my arms up in the air, and cried tears of joy, pride, and physical exhaustion.
Of course I was thinking of you when I wrote this post!
Thanks for taking the time to share your beautiful stories with the readers here.
I hope one day, I will follow in your footsteps and finish at least one full-length marathon. 🙂
So grateful for the great memories of our half-marathon!
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Once upon a time, I ran daily and ran races weekly at lengths from 5K through half-marathons. I loved the 10K length and my personal best was run in a heavy rain in northeast Texas.
Of far more importance, your observations about the valuable leadership lessons to be had while “pounding the pavement” are right on.
Running is one of many activities where you are down to a few essential elements and a fairly concrete and limited goal. This makes the lessons easier to see and understand, IF one is open and reflective.
Of course the hard part, as always, is to take the lessons and apply them in situations where the beginnings and endings are not as clearly marked:).
As always, excellent and thoughtful contributions, Becky:)
Thanks for being one of the most faithful comment-ers here. I always appreciate your encouragement.
I like your insight that running takes us back to the basics and makes those insights easier to find. I always find that I think more creatively when I am running.
Now that you are not running, where do you find similar inspiration?
Reading your blogs:)
Well, a few other things – I find that simply walking on the treadmill or outside weather permitting gets the physical thing going. Not as intense as in my running days, but easier to recover from:).
I find that spending time responding to thoughts, observations, and questions from people I respect benefits me far more than my comments help others. I guess that’s the “Help others, help yourself” aspect to which you were referring.
I enjoyed reading this. I have recently thought about starting to run. I have always hated runing. Every time I think about running or see someone else running I thnik to myself yuck. However I ahe a friend who recently ran her first 5 k and she had said ther was a time she could hardly run around the block let alone run a 5 k. She ended up placing 1st for her age bracket. It was just so inspiring and I thought you know maybe, just maybe I should start running. I’m not sure if I’ll ever actually run, let alone do a 5 k but both of you and others who have done this always make me stop and think that maybe, just maybe this girl who hates to run, should just as Nike says do it.
What is the worst thing that can happen if you try? I never liked running as a child or teenager. Soon after I got married, my husband helped me catch his love of running. I didn’t love it at first, but I often tell him that it is one of the best gifts he has given me.
I say go for it!
I can relate to your story. The first book I read when getting ready to start training was “Courage to Start” by John “The Penguin” Bingham – a columnist for Runner’s World and a self-admitted back-of-the-pack runner (like me). Google him and find a copy of his book… or I’d be happy to loan you mine. I have several beginner’s running books, that are more about mental preparation than physical training. =)
Feel free to email me anytime!
Becky, as always, your posts do not disappoint. There are so many lessons of leadership in our every day lives, but perhaps more than leadership, this is a story of how personal presence – showing up, engaging and encouraging others, can make a real and lasting difference in another’s life. I am sure your new friend Becky will remember this race always, just as I’m sure you will, too!
I am sure I will remember this race. Here’s the frustrating thing, though. I noted Becky’s last name and told her I would look her up on Facebook. She said she’s there, but I can’t find her. 🙁 Do I need to start carrying business cards to races?? I would have loved to continue the connection!
I appreciate your faithful encouragement, Sharon, and I can’t wait to meet you next week!
EXCELLENT story, and a great post.
I have an addition to your list:
What if we always thought the best of people, instead of assumed the worst?
That hits home for me ….
If you ever want to go on a run . . .
Seriously, we haven’t met face-to-face (yet), but I’ve been encouraged by your posts and challenged to step up in my own interactions with others. Thank you!
What a terrific post Becky. You truly have the gift of storytelling. I have run several races and could really envision your race with Becky. We are all here to help each other.