By Erin Ewart
This past weekend I ran my first race in over three years. It was something I used to do a few times a year in the time I think of as BC: before Covid and before having my second child.
And while my husband jokingly said that for me and most of the other runners it wasn’t really a “race” since we had no chance of winning, I disagree. I certainly wasn’t in it to win it, but I was racing against myself and trying to prove that I could get back out there after several years of de-prioritizing my own health and fitness.
It did make me wonder though: why did almost 8,000 people join me on Sunday to get up at the crack of dawn and pay money to do something that we could do on our own, at any time?
I think there are two key reasons: accountability and community.
I would never get up on the weekends and run more than a few miles without the accountability of knowing I have a race coming up. I love having a crystal clear goal and a specific deadline that I’m working toward – it’s so satisfying to print out a training schedule and follow it! Especially when so much feels uncertain, having that kind of goal clarity and external accountability is really motivating, and frankly comforting.
And while I do a lot of running on my own, there’s something so magical about doing it with others, especially after such a long period of isolation and distancing. From the camaraderie of seeing other runners on their way to the start in the early morning dark to the amazing energy along the course as we cheered each other on, the support of the crowd and fellow runners kept me going through the toughest parts of the course.
While in theory I could have gone out and run the same distance on my own, it was the power of that accountability and community that made me do it, and made it fun.
This experience reminded me of a couple other important lessons too:
We’re all working at our own pace
It was inspiring to be with runners of many different ages, backgrounds, and abilities all working toward the same goal. But while we were all out there together, we were each running at our own pace and focused on our own goals and challenges. Life is like that too: we spend so much time comparing ourselves to others and seeing who’s achieving certain milestones faster, especially in the realm of career (I am definitely guilty of this!). While comparing ourselves to others can be motivating to a point, the reality is that we need to focus on our own lives and careers and how we can make them the best they can possibly be, which may mean we’re moving at a different pace than those around us.
We may not reach our goals on the timeline we plan for, but that doesn’t mean we won’t reach them
I initially had set a goal to run a race before my son turned one. I was signed up to run a half-marathon on March 15, 2020, my 41st birthday and one week before my son’s. It felt symbolic and perfect, and of course it didn’t happen. While it was disappointing at the time, doing it now feels just as good – maybe better – because of everything that’s happened over the last 18 months. If there’s a goal you had to put on hold due to the pandemic or other life circumstances, it’s not too late! How could you start to revisit and plan toward it now?
Small progress can move mountains
In my pre-kid life I ran two marathons (which will always be some of my proudest accomplishments!). When I started training for the first one I couldn’t even conceive of how I would eventually run 16 miles, or 20, or 26. It seemed completely impossible. But I got there through consistent, incremental training, adding on a few miles each week. And that’s true of all big goals: we don’t achieve them overnight, and we shouldn’t expect to. Setting small goals and celebrating our progress and wins along the way is what makes the big changes possible.
This race helped me reconnect with something I love and remember who I was before Covid and kids changed so much.
Running gives me a sense of accomplishment, pride and confidence that carries over to all parts of my life. What is that thing for you?
Whether it’s a purely personal goal like mine or a professional milestone you’re striving for, I encourage you to think about how you can find accountability and community to bring it back into focus.
Because while the uncertainty we’ve been swimming in continues, it’s time for us to reclaim and re-prioritize what matters to us.
If you’d like to harness the power of accountability and community to find work you’ll love, we invite you to join us for our upcoming Career Refresh program. We have just a few spots left, and we’d love to support you in finding work that’s right for you!