Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Key professional lessons from a Long distance run- Part-2

I wrote about the Part-1 of this blogpost may be 2-3 years back. I got reminded to update this while i participated in
Ultra run at Bangalore on 13th-Nov. For starters, Ultra Marathon is any sporting event involving running longer than a traditional marathon length of 42.195 km (as defined by Wikipedia). I participated in 25 Km run event, which incidentally was less than actual marathon but was quite challenging for me. I had run long distances and even cycled longer distances before but not at a high scale event like Ultra, which had close to 900 participants running in different categories up to 100 Km run. Yes, you heard it right- 100 Km run!

I did manage to finish the run and was quite happy in doing so. While i ran at the event, several thoughts ran through my mind and i realized some of these i had not written about in my previous blog on this topic. These are essentially the lessons that i could take back to my life- both work and personal. These are as jotted below-

Life starts where the Comfort zone ends:
This run was a substantial challenge for me personally as i had not attempted such a long run in a public event before this (discounting the numerous practice runs). Moreover, the race day and track had something peculiar about it. The race day was scorching hot- may be in excess of 35 degree Celsius and the race track was uneven and full of dirt. It was so uneven that i almost felt misbalanced on momentarily lapse of concentration while not watching what lies on the ground. Long distance runs especially the Ultra runs does push you beyond your limits, both physically and mentally.

While running one thing that i realized that when your limits get stretched, the challenge takes an altogether different dimension. The challenge no longer remains- "How can i excel in my endeavour ?" it more becomes- "How can i survive somehow ?".
And when it comes to survival, one starts to look at things in a much different perspective than usual situations. Let me share a real life story at this instance-
Once i interviewed one of the General Manager (popularly Known as "TV" because of his name initials) from my past organization (while i was an Editor of In-house magazine). TV shared a very interesting experience about his stay in Antartica for about 16 months. Some excerpts from his website-

I was a member of theƂ XIII Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (ISEA) and XI Winter-Over Team (WOT) and stayed at Indian Scientific Station at Antarctica, Maitri, between Dec 1993 and Mar 1995 (almost 16 months). I was the youngest Indian scientist at that time to do what is known as ‘wintering’ (i.e., spend 16 months in the icy continent away from comforts of home and hot food). I was also the Post Master of Maitri Post Office, the philatelic post office of Indian Post Department (they still owe me an honararium of Rs. 16 for my services, one rupee per month). Among other things, I worked on HF radio based Data Communication between Antarctica and India.

One of thoughts that TV shared regarding his experience in Antarctica that has stayed with me all through these years was that living away from the comforts of normal city and staying far away at remotely cut off place for long time gave him a unique perspective towards life and dealing with problems. Most of the problems that we face in our day-to-day life are almost trivial when you compare the same with experience one has had in staying in such tough conditions in a place like Antarctica (in a time when probably only way to get connected to your family was through snail mail and you get to probably eat same stuff every day, not to forget dealing with sub zero temperature without Sun for 16 long months). Thats a very valuable insight, something similar (probably in less proportions) that i got to experience while running that long distance run.

Similar to this, I remember to have read one quote regarding dealing with Stress in one of the HBR forums something like- "You dont know what the real stress is unless you are required to walk 10 km everyday to fetch water and food for your thirsty, hungry and mal-nutritioned kids". Like most problems we face, managing stress is often about looking at your situation with a right lens i.e. with a right perspective.

What i eventually learned was that once you overcome something substantial physically and mentally, it gives you a confidence that you can face other difficulties with greater poise. In our usual lives we are so far away from the notion of Survival that we often give much more importance to seemingly trivial issues at work and in normal lives.

Dont let your Survival instincts die, routinely push yourself beyond that cushy comfort zone.

Mixing Risk with caution:
While i was running, may be somewhere around 15 Km mark i started feeling a bout of cramps. I had to think and strategize my run because i still had a good number of kilometres to do. I Stopped, took a stock of things and started gradually running dropping my speed. The fact that i entered this run without an ideal practice was a risk in itself but keeping the overall scheme of things in mind, i had to add some bit of caution to the overall risk i had taken.

It often helps at work and in life to sometimes Stop and Introspect. This is especially true in the fast paced urban life which undervalues the importance and fun of doing things slowly at a pace comfortable to self without worrying about what the world is thinking.

So what i learned was-
Take Risks, Move fast- All that is fine but it helps sometimes to add that "Slowness" to our lives that makes us feel more human.

What did you learn today ?


Renjith Menon said...

Hi Anuj ,
Congratulations for completing the Ultra Marathon and as always it is a great pleasure to read your blog. Keep running , writing and motivate us.

Anuj Magazine said...

Thank you Renjith.