Thursday, December 1, 2016

Who are We Cheering?

I’m a runner. While you won’t be able to tell it by looking at me, I am, and while I’ve only logged 5k’s and have never run over six miles in my life, I have enough worn-out pairs of shoes in my closet to qualify. 

There is a common bond with runners, be they ultra-marathoners or simple weekend milers: When we meet on the road, we offer up a wave or a nod, and an unspoken. “We could be on the couch, but we’re not, damn it – good for us!” 

Those little moments can be quite uplifting, especially when one considers the internal dialog most runners endure. A good friend that has five times more Boston finishes than I have fun-run finishes calls it “the monster.” The monster starts off speaking softly, and saying things like “My ankle kind of hurts, I better back off,” “I’ll never be able to reach my distance so I should just quit right now,” and “Boy, this hill is steep – maybe I’ll just walk up it.” If one has fought the monster off beyond that, the voice gets louder and more adamant, and eventually starts using the word “STOP.” While I’ve always tapped out before it got bad enough, my buddy tells me that during marathons, the monster screams “STOP! STOP RIGHT NOW! YOU HAVE TO STOP RIGHT NOW!” over and over and over.

Maybe that’s why runners offer their support, regardless of who they see on the road. Be it loud or soft, they know there is a dialog going on with the monster.

Two weekends ago, I was at mile mark 2.5 of a scheduled 3-mile run, and while I felt I was doing OK, I was headed to my finishing hill, and was debating the benefits of calling it at two and a half and just walking that final hill. That’s when I heard this massive “WOOOOOOOO!!!!” which flooded my ears despite the Metallica playing in my headphones. Looking up, I saw a group of four high school runners in a driveway, getting ready for their run. They saw me, a complete stranger but a brother runner, and hollered out their support with a shout and claps. 

It made all the difference in the world. While I certainly missed any kind of personal records, I flew up that final hill like my feet had wings.

The same applies for us at work. There are a lot of us that are having a dialog with the monster during our work days. It might be about something professional, or it might be about something personal. The dialog could be very quiet, or it could be happening at scream levels. Regardless, many around us are wrestling with something, and a simple display of encouragement could make a massive amount of difference. 

The support might be in the form of a complimentary note, or a call-out in a meeting, or even something as clichéd as a well-timed fist bump, but it ultimately works to encourage folks to keep going and keep pushing. For those of us fortunate enough to have received such sentiments in the middle of a rough period, you know their value. 

And the cost for this redeeming elixir?  Less than a minute of our time.

Think about that as we head through our day today, and consider who out there might be in dire need of a well-timed “WOOOOOOOO!!!!”

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