Finishing Well

Contributed by Dan Sheedy.

25 years ago I ran my first Marine Corps Marathon and last week I ran my final with the Marine Corps 50k. The conditions were challenging (rain/downpours/wind and then temperatures shot into high 70s), and I am certain some were wondering what they had gotten themselves into.  For me,  it was a privilege to run again in celebration of the Marine Corps (I am a Marine vet – a Captain), veterans, families of those who gave their lives in service to our country and people from around the world in what is known as “the people’s marathon” and 50k.

This day for me, however, was different for another reason and one I want to share.  In every race I have run over the last 25 years, I have always challenged and pushed myself for a best time, a best placement in my age group or even a best overall finish!  Competition is a value of mine and while I have had many great successes, the road is also sprinkled with some pretty epic failures and races in which I was unable to finish.

This race was different.  I didn’t even realize it until the start of the race when I wasn’t pushing myself to the front of the starting corral for position when the cannon went off.   For the first time, I didn’t try to race; instead, I took in the scene, the spectacle.  I looked at monuments, talked to Marines, families of the fallen, fellow runners and spectators.  I simply enjoyed the event and savored the day.   This was a big shift for me, taking off the competitor hat striving for a finish – instead, engaging in the present.

How often do we take off our striving hat, our competitor role and simply engage in the present?  Doing so doesn’t mean we are weak, or without goals.  Remember, I still had to run the 31 miles and finish!  What taking off the hat gave me was hours of time to be grateful for all the previous races and runs and a moment to pause and acknowledge my accomplishments without a focus on “what’s next.”  It gave me an opportunity to smile at the many peaks and valleys (in running and in my career) I have faced along the way, and like leaders in any profession, to smile at the resiliency I developed to navigate them.

Think of what taking off that striving hat and engaging in the present can do for you.  It may give you time to reflect and decide if your direction is really pointing to the destination you want.  It may help you more effectively navigate today’s 24/7 work life integration challenges.  It may help you simply pause, acknowledge your accomplishments and be grateful.  I challenge you to try it.  It helped me acknowledge a final completed ultra-run.  At the finish of a long day, I smiled when a recently commissioned 2nd Lieutenant put a finisher medal around my neck, saluted me and said Semper Fi, mission accomplished!

The 3000 Mile SMART(P) Goal

Contributed by Dan Sheedy.4186679237_4b0b96b573_o

We’ve all set goals, or set out to set them, or just set on them. Just that short sentence shows us how easy it is to “set” a goal and then discard it because no one is looking, we got distracted or we came up with a new goal or path to follow. So how do we set a goal for ourselves then honor that commitment? There are many leadership books and goal setting articles out there that do a great job in outlining how this can be done. Pick one and set a goal!

I want to share with you a goal I set for myself this year and the little “steps” I took in achieving it. You may find it helpful as you set out your goals in the coming year. First, the goal! I decided on January 1, 2013 that I was going to run 3,000 miles this year. As a long time distance runner this seemed to be a solid challenge. Think of it as 8.2 miles every day of the year without missing a day. Sounded reasonable to me, but how in fact do you actually put in place the process to make it happen, a goal that could take a year to complete and not lose focus along the way?

I used the SMART(P) process to make this happen.

1) Specific- you must identify exactly what you want to accomplish in as specific terms as you can make it. I said my goal is to Run 3,000 miles in 2013. Very specific without getting into the detail of how I am going to do it, but a goal that I can wake us and say to myself every day.

2) Measurable- the old adage is “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and with this goal measurement was quite easy. You have a Garmin GPS (or choose your own tool) and you know every day how far you’ve gone. Then every week and every month. This allows you to measure progress and adjust expectations along the way.

3) Actionable- every goal should start with an action verb (run, finish, complete, start) rather than a to-be verb (am, be, have). Here I was able to break out every month, week and day into exactly what I needed to do stay on pace. I used 10k, ½ Marathon, 25k and Marathon races along the way to break up the grind of the days and to give myself little wins along the way.

4) Realistic- this is where you have to be careful. It is great to stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone but remember to add a dose of common sense. This part has always been difficult for me. My tendency is to add to many miles and I have done it many times at the expense of my body. This time I used the series of races to help me maintain focus and not do to many miles and get hurt. I also decided I would set personal records in each of the distance. (a definite step out of the comfort zone).

5) Time- time bound is important for a goal. In this case I did this in the beginning with December 31, 2013 being the last day I could accomplish the goal. Remember, a goal without a date is just a dream.

6) Persistence- This is the ingredient I feel determines if goals are accomplished. What is that “it thing” in your head and heart that drives you to finish, to accomplish the goal in the face of any obstacles that may arise. For me it was persistence through heat, wind, rain, cold, aches and of course schedule, work, travel, etc. to honor a promise to myself.

On Friday December 13, 2013 I crossed the 3,000 mile mark. 18 days to spare and personal records in four different distance races. (yes, I continue to run and the finish should be around 3,150 miles) Mission accomplished and a Boston Marathon in my future that I can use to create a whole new set of goals that allow me the opportunity to compete and live a healthy life. What are your goals for 2014? Do you have a process for attaining them? You do, just write them down and be SMART and persistent in your pursuit.