I just finished my second Peachtree Road Race. If you’re not from Atlanta, you may not be familiar with the race. It is a 10k course held in the city of Atlanta on the 4th of July every year, and is affectionately known as the world’s largest road race. This morning I joined 59,999 other people to compete in the race.
I didn’t run.
I’ve never been a runner, and I doubt I will become one. My knees will keep me from ever reaching that distinction. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t do what a lot of runners do.
Just because I may not have the same abilities doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the experience.
Let me just tell you – I walk fast. Faster than some people run (I have to admit – one of my favorite things to do during a race is pass someone who is running). I finished 6.2 miles yesterday in 1:24:56, which means my average pace for a mile was 13 minutes and 12 seconds. Not bad for a walker!
I had time to think while I walked, and I realized there were some great lessons I was learning along the way.
Find your own space.
The road is pretty crowded when 60,000 people are all trying to get to the same place at the same time. Even with over 20 starting corrals, it’s crazy. The first quarter of a mile you just try to survive not being trampled. That’s when I look for my own space. I like to walk on the right side of the road, toward the middle. Running etiquette demands that the left side is for the fastest people, and the far right is for the slowest. I find an area near the lane-marking stripes on the road and claim it for my own.
In leadership, you have to find your own space, too. You can’t be distracted by what other leaders are doing, and you must know what you are called to do. You can look at at other leaders, and even learn from them. But you can’t be them.
Learn how to dodge.
I can’t choose my optimal area to walk and never veer from that path. Someone is going to be in my way at some point. Groups of runners sometimes stretch across the whole road as they run together, and in my start wave, very few people run the entire race. Most people do a walk/run combination, and that means people randomly just stop running right in front of you. I have the choice to walk right into them, or to dodge them. Dodging is much less painful.
As I lead my team, I have to be flexible enough to adapt to whatever comes up. I don’t want to veer so far off my path that I get distracted, but I have to be able to dodge and adjust quickly. Making micro-corrections actually keeps you on a straighter path.
Don’t forget to enjoy the experience!
So many people come participate in the Peachtree Road Race just for the fun! I’m not sure you can find a more fun atmosphere. It could be tempting to put your head down and just focus on your race, but you would be missing out on the whole experience. There are live bands along the route, not to mention multiple radio stations broadcasting live and playing music. Random civic groups hand out popsicles or suckers or bottles of water. Mellow Mushroom was handing out bracelets that could be later redeemed for a free cheese pizza. And they were handing out slices of pizza and PBR for runners during the race. Don’t forget all of the crazy outfits and costumes on the racers…lots of red, white and blue, firefighters in full gear carrying American flags, lady liberty, and so many more. All of that, plus the sidewalks are lined with families out to cheer you on. Some may have runners in the race. Others have just made it a tradition to pull up a chair in the shade near their lawn and cheer on everyone passing by. It’s impossible to get bored.
As leaders we can sometimes get so focused that we neglect to see what is actually happening around us. That can cause us to miss great relationships, incredible encouragement, and FUN!
Next year will be my husband’s 9th Peachtree Road Race. Soon he will have been running it for a decade. I have a lot of years before that’s true for me, but I look forward to continuing this fun Atlanta tradition. I can’t wait to find my space, do some dodging, and have a ton of fun!