Parallels between Ultra and Business

Medialab Executive Director, Steve Parker, discusses the parallels between his Ultramarathon and business...

After completing (surviving) my first ever Ultramarathon Challenge at the age of 45, I have been reflecting on the journey and some of the everyday behaviours it reinforced as being important for success in whatever you are investing your time in at home or at work.

Over a year of training (learning how to run again), and 230km through the game conservancies of Kenya, self supported across 5 days with constant heat, altitude & hills gives you a lot of space to think and plenty of obstacles to tackle!

The training, lifestyle journey and personal admin and food management in a cold, dark tent for a week, and not to mention the solitude of hours and hours running on my own, has taught me much about myself. I am better, stronger & healthier for the experience.

I am crystal clear on where I merely survived and where I thrived. Importantly, the commitment it takes to prepare properly for such an event impacts significantly on your home and work environments, and those environments directly affect your progress in training and ultimately the race. To some extent, “home” and “work” have always been interwoven into daily life, as it is for so many. That’s why “work life balance” is so broadly debated yet so fundamentally personal. What is interesting is when you add something new into the relationship that immediately requires you to transform established routines. In my case the beauty of timing meant that I changed many key elements; planned family and career move back to the UK after three amazing years abroad and all the opportunities and challenges that clearly brings, building new relationships and renewing old partnerships, and of course a 230km ultramarathon when I had not run more than 10km for 20 years! If you are going to change, change everything.

1. Purpose

At the start have a clear goal or ambition. If that goal can have a purpose, a “why”, then the journey will be more rewarding and you are more likely to be successful and deliver. Be honest but ambitious, but ensure you plan for what needs to happen each day to reach that goal. The physical and emotional challenge was a strong “Why”, but running to make a difference for a charity that is close to home gives you genuine purpose.

2. Work hard

This is not a public performance; it is often personal and lonely so to gain the greatest mental or physical reward ensure it is always about how you behave when no one is looking. Only you will know. Only you will care.

3. Listen and learn

On your journey always listen, learn and apply. Everyday there are many sources of insight from people who want to help and advise, from people who have experienced similar things. Their advice should be welcomed, filtered and then applied. It will make you better. Because this is a journey, things will go wrong, and there will be bad days amongst the good. It is obvious but true that how you respond to the setbacks is critical. It’s why you plan, why you work hard to get better, why you listen to those around you. These behaviours prepare you better and give you confidence to adapt and respond.

4. You are a product of your environment

Surround yourself with the right team, physically or remotely. People who add value. People who share your values. People who you trust and that trust you. In sport and business trust is the foundation of sustainable success and personal well-being.

5. The importance of family

Always remember that family and friends are the platform on which any success will be built. They provide balance, give you space and provide honest council. They are also critical in allowing you to completely disconnect from the project when needed. Finally they are a constant motivator as so much of what you do is for them and the pride they have in you is the only motivation you need.

I ran to support CRY_UK (Cardiac Risk in the Young). Find out more about this tragic condition and this amazing charity

Note: As Steve mentioned above he was not a “seasoned runner” having not run more than 10Km in the last 20 years. This just goes to show that anyone can do anything and with the help of InnerFight and InnerFight Endurance coaching he completed this amazing race. You can do the same…give us a shout on and chat to a coach about doing something similar.