[Images sourced from Runner’s World]
The closest I will ever come to running the Comrades Marathon is scurrying to the fridge and back whilst it’s on the telly, and I guess I’m OK with that.
There’s always the gut-wrenching final few minutes when those who have already run close to 100 kilometres try and beat the cut-off time, and I can’t imagine what it must feel like to fall a few seconds short.
Of course, the race is about so much more than just fitness, and someone who knows that firsthand is Nunben Dixon, Head of Operations at Gumtree Auto.
He penned a quite excellent reflection on the race, titled ‘Four Leadership Lessons I’ve learnt while running the Comrades’, so I think we’ll take a moment to listen closely.
Over to Nunben:
Running a marathon is tough, but an ultra-marathon even more so. I have run the Comrades several times now and it doesn’t get easier. Twice the length of a traditional marathon (with an extra 5kms to boot), giant hills, the heat and the humidity all make for a daunting race.
I’ve realised that in running (like in business), reaching the finish line is not about your personality or the distance or the terrain. It is about your strategy.
Play to your strengths
Ultras are long and arduous. Here’s the thing about distance: it’s a great equaliser. I’ve completed racers where faster runners, stronger runners, fitter runners and younger runners than I have dropped out. The smarter runner is almost always the better runner, the one who knows when to speed up, when to utilise their strengths and how to work around their weaknesses.
Our team regularly outperforms global peers – with more staff, more resources and more favourable metrics on their side. We don’t confuse our limitations with weakness. We play to our strengths.
I know which of my sales staff are “hunters” and which are “farmers”. I know our customers. I make sure I strategise with the resources I have, not the ones I wish I had, as a runner and as a leader. It pays to box smartly.
Know what you are going to do before you even start
I have a goal in mind long before the starting pistol goes off. Whether it’s to finish the race, reach a certain time or merely to enjoy myself – I know what I’d like to achieve and I commit to it fully, no matter what. When you don’t, that’s when doubt creeps in. When you lose your focus, you open up the window to that nagging inner voice in your head that gives you permission to quit.
Your ego starts congratulating you for being so bold as to shrug off the race. It tells you, you can do better next time. With more training. That it’s not important.
It’s the same in every tough situation, including work. When sales and morale are low, when the company isn’t doing well, when you are facing with tough calls and challenges, it’s easy to give up, to tell yourself that you’ve done all that you are capable of and that it is time to move on.
When you make a commitment to see things through, your staff will pick up on it and climb the hills with you.
Don’t buy into your own hype
Comrades marathon runners will often warn you about “second-year syndrome”. The first time you run, you analyse every incline. You train harder. You prepare mentally and physically. But once you have completed a race, you tend to relax ever so slightly. You question whether you should go through quite so much effort. It is an attitude that can sneak up in Year Two or Year 10, in running and in life.
The truth is that past achievements and accolades are in the past. Every year comes with new challenges. Your team can easily differentiate between hype and self-promotion and true grit and determination – and so can your customers. You need to stay restless and prepared.
Don’t peak too early
I don’t buy into the strategy of “quick wins”, a rapid and visible contribution to the company for the sake of appearances. As leaders, we want to prove ourselves quickly, but often times the rush to impress trips us up. Sure, you get the outcome you wanted, but the process isn’t pretty and often times the fallout can have unforeseen repercussions.
Clients don’t buy into hype and bursts of success. If you want them to be with you for the long haul, you’ve got to understand their needs before you lock onto a quick-fix solution.
Tackling any large task – whether it is a gruelling 90km, a challenging financial year or organisational change – should start with your thinking. Strategise, plan and keep your eye on the finish line. It’s worth it in the end.
Some wise words from Nunden, who knows a thing or two about growing a brand. Under his leadership, Gumtree Auto has become the most-visited automotive website in the country, clocking around two million unique browsers looking at vehicles and motorcycles a month, beating out the likes of AutoTrader and Cars.co.za.
Not bad, but then again with Gumtree being the most visited South African site for the month of April, it’s no more than we have come to expect.
We should take this chance to say congrats to all of those who competed at this year’s Comrades, whether or not you made the cut-off time, because just setting off from the starting line is a feat in itself.
Oh, and if you have a little juice left in the tank at any point in the race, remember to dance:
[imagesource:here] When it comes to sporting debates over who is the GOAT (greatest of ...
[imagesource:here] In the early days of the pandemic, herd immunity was put forward as ...
The South African online retail space has a clear top dog, and that dog is Takealot. Ac...
[imagesource: Freepik] When trying to find out whether or not someone is truly happy in...
[imagesource: Ashraf Hendricks / GroundUp] The first time South Africans were told that...