Recently, I completed a ten-mile race. I followed a race plan that I had given some thought to. The plan was to begin the race at a warm-up pace so as to ease myself in, then gently pick up my speed by mile three, start running a medium pace by mile six, and use the last two to three miles to really go for it! I stuck to this plan, not really knowing whether it would provide me with the finishing time I wanted, and nor what physical state I would be in by the end of the race.
As it turned out, I completed the ten miles in 77 minutes and 10 seconds, placing me in the Gold category for my age group and only five minutes short of the top category, Diamond. I was pleased with this result because it was the nearest I had come to attaining my main goal of a Diamond finish time. Running stubborn is perhaps the best phrase I can use to describe what I saw and felt during the ten-mile race that Sunday. Running stubborn was there in oodles, awe-inspiring and thought-provoking. Perhaps the best example of running stubborn personified in a racing legend is that of John Tarrant, the man dubbed ‘the Ghost Runner’ by the media. Despite a series of significant set-backs in his life, such as being denied Amateur Athletics Association status, which meant he was not officially recognised at any races, John Tarrant continued to race, hiding from the officials until at the last moment sprinting away from the start line when no-one could intervene to stop him from running. Running stubborn is about bravery and dogged determination – never giving up.
Running stubborn is also about ordinary people going out to run a challenging distance, which is going to hurt, and completing the distance in whichever way they can – whether this involves race plans, energy gels, walking up the hills and running down them, keeping the same steady pace throughout the race or gradually speeding up towards the end. It is about runners drawing upon a bloody-mindedness that means they are not going to stop, no matter how challenging the race becomes. During the ten-mile race a club team member, a man 78 years of age, said to me, “Keep going lass, I don’t want to see you again in this race” as I overtook him. This runner has stubbornness written into his body, a body that is strong, muscular and fit, despite his advancing years. During the race I also witnessed another club team member doggedly pushing herself forward, determination emanating from her physique, and I knew that she was hurting at this stage because with three miles to go we were all hurting!
Running stubborn for me was the determination to stick to my race plan, even though this required a leap of faith because I didn’t know what the outcome of the plan would be. By mile eight I was exhausted, but absolutely firm in my resolve to keep to a medium to fast pace in order to get the best time I could. It was sheer will-power that kept me going at that speed. Towards the end of the race, I was running a few feet behind the runner in-front. I was absolutely determined to stick to his shoulder, to keep him on his toes and out of his comfort zone. I came to understand the importance of controlled aggression, the ability to draw on one’s inner strength to maintain a particular level of running intensity, to ensure that the person in-front is having to work as hard as they can.
I took my race experience to work the following week. At work there was an unsupportive, challenging, environment. Achievements and the effort people made were rarely acknowledged, yet any perceived oversights were handled in an unconstructive manner. Basically, if you didn’t do exactly what your boss wanted, then you were in trouble! To survive such an environment is even more challenging than running a long distance race. I have found controlled stubbornness to be a wonderful resource for dealing with a difficult work situation. Controlled stubbornness means not allowing yourself to act angrily and disrespectfully towards work colleagues who are trying to control you, who are playing into wider organisational politics, who want you to be part of their great race plan to become the next Chief Executive. Controlled stubbornness means sticking to your own race plan; staying on the shoulders of those who are trying to dominate you, keeping them out of their comfort zones.
So, I have drawn on my determination as a runner to create my own space of productivity within a very difficult work environment. Sticking to my core aims and outcomes, despite the challenges of dealing with difficult work colleagues, is similar to sticking to my own race plans. Supporting those colleagues who are also at the brunt of hostilities at work is something I also try to do, as in any race you find your running club team members offering you amazing and fantastic words of encouragement despite their own physical and mental pressures. Running stubborn is an approach that we can all apply to dealing with challenging situations in our lives. We can draw on our inner resources to create our own race plans, to lead the kind of life that we wish to lead. Come what may, we can survive, we can cross the finish line, our arms raised up in pride as we tell ourselves that we have done it, that we have helped to determine those aspects of our lives that are important to us out of the sheer will to do so. Running stubborn – perhaps this is the best that we can seek for our lives?