3 Marathons in 3 Months: Staying Ready for the Unexpected

Sometime in 2016, I decided to run my first marathon. I put my name in the lottery for the Chicago Marathon, and I got in on my first try. Which is basically unheard of. Well, then I was injured and had to defer a year. So I was all set to run my first marathon in October of 2017. Great!

In December of 2016, the Kiawah Marathon was running a special for their 40th Anniversary. $40 registration for the 2017 marathon. What a deal -- I had to sign-up!

In January of 2017, I volunteered at the Harbison 50K Ultramarathon. I got the ultramarathon bug, as many call it. And all of a sudden I was signed-up for the 2018 Harbison 50k Ultramarathon.

So let’s recap. I was set to run 3 marathons in 3 months. What. Did. I. Do?!

Once I got over the shock, I began to think about how I was going to prepare for all of those miles of running.

Be ready for the expected; stay ready for the unexpected.

What does that mean? And how does it apply to leadership?

Be ready for the expected: I knew that I would, at a minimum, have to run 26.2 miles on race day. So I trained accordingly. I did multiple 20-mile-plus training runs. I would wake up early to drink coffee and eat peanut butter toast. I carried a pack of Clif chews and either carried water with me or planned so I would pass water. These are all things that are standard training in the marathon distance. These were all things I could control.

Stay ready for the unexpected: These are all the things you read about going wrong in the marathon distance. What if it was raining? What if it was hot? Or cold? What if I’m late to the start line? To prepare myself for these things, I ran at all different times and in all different conditions. I had multiple training runs in South Carolina heat. As my training progressed, I ran in the cold. I ran in the rain. I knew how to respond to any weather. I read every race email multiple times. I knew where packet pick-up was. I knew the courses. I monitored the weather for every race. I hoped I would never need to run in the rain or know the course directions if it wasn’t marked, but I was prepared.

In our Furnace curriculum, we talk about being in a state of preparedness -- prepared for the expected and ready for the unexpected. It is easy to lead when things are going the way you plan. But what happens when an employee doesn’t show up? Or your PowerPoint doesn’t work during a presentation? It is imperative as a leader to prepare yourself for these difficult situations. People will look to you to be cool under pressure when things don’t go as planned.

I’m thankful that I took the time to prepare for the unexpected in my races. It was nearly 80 degrees when I finished the Chicago Marathon. Running in the South Carolina heat helped prepare me for this October heat wave. It poured rain the evening before the Kiawah Marathon. The rain cleared out for race day, but I would have been prepared even in the rain. And the Harbison 50K was 16 degrees when I started, so cold that my water vest froze! However, I knew the course and knew where hydration would be. A little cold would not stop me from completing my final race of this crazy marathon season.

Part of our mission at The Iron Project is to help prepare leaders for the unexpected. If this is an area where we can help you or your team, please reach out. We would love to help!

Sabrina Gandy