The Phenomenon of Running – What Does it Have to Do with Leadership?

Yesterday my husband and I kick started our running season with a half marathon relay race.  That means we each ran about 10.5kms.  Before we left for the race we were watching the World Marathon, which neither of us had heard of or really knew what it was.  For good reason, it was the first time for the event.  Which is a “Global Race that started on 34 courses in 13 time zones at precisely 10 am UTC on Sunday.  A global race for charity with 50,100 registered participants from 164 nations kicked off with simultaneous starts on 34 long distance routes in 32 countries on 6 continents. Hobby runners, celebrities and some of the world’s best ultra-marathon runners all set off in the Wings for Life World Run at the same time in front of a moving finish line under extremely different conditions ranging from searing afternoon heat in India to frosty pre-dawn chill in Canada.” (
It was stupendous!  What a sight to see people, literally, all over the world running for one cause at one time.  The Wings for Life Organization has one mission and one team.  “We strongly believe in achieving our goal.”  And their goal is finding ways to cure all people affected with spinal cord injuries. That’s it, that’s their deal. 
So that got me thinking, how did this all begin?  I mean, races, in general.  Take my husband and I who paid almost $130 to enter the race, plus a hotel room, meals and gas for travelling to give up our lie in on a Sunday morning, and commit to being put in a position that could be uncomfortable, exhausting and perhaps painful.  It’s a good cause, don’t get me wrong, but we could just donate money.  But we don’t, we run.  And so do a ton of other people.  It’s like bottled water, we pay for something that’s free. 
So why do we do that?  Why is a Global Race that is run in one day so inspiring?  Why is running a phenomenon?
A phenomenon is something that is impressive or unusual.  And I think the running phenomenon is unusual, and equally impressive.  Although there are plenty of competitive running events, running for charities or similar is not really about winning, even though I haven’t met someone who doesn’t like to win.  In my opinion it is not about being the same, rather, just being yourself.  Maybe that’s the draw?
I don’t particularly like participating in racing events, but I’m getting used to the idea.  I do them because I am goal oriented, so I like having to work to get to my goal and then I like to be done and move onto the next goal.  I don’t know why the other millions of people do them, but as I referenced last week our motivators can vary from human to human. 
So how do you create a phenomenon, something that is usual, impressive, provides multi-dimensional motivation for multiple personality types and also provides space for any kind of participant?  And I say that because if you ever attend a race you will see a lot of different running styles, outfits and speeds.  And that is part of the charm and brilliance of races.  It’s a place for everyone, and everyone in their own style participates at their own speed in their own way and their own outfit and with their own motivations.

Isn’t that what your job as a leader is?  To make room for all different styles and approaches with some guidance and course direction?  With a start and finish clearly communicated, information on where to get help or find essential services and a set of rules that make it safe for everyone to participate? 

Perhaps selling what’s free can teach us a lot of lessons.  And maybe making room for the diverse, the unusual and creating a measurable course for the impressive, the unimagined and the incredible effort is worth considering.  Lead on.  
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