A View from Blue Grotto

Monday, October 02, 2006

Marathon offers Milestone analogy

The Twin Cities Marathon, considered the most beautiful urban marathon in America, celebrated it’s 25th anniversary yesterday. Appropriately, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press offered up some wonderful historical facts in Sunday’s newspaper. Being a historian of sorts, I love factoids. They offer a snapshot, even if just in the highlights, to some of the successes, challenges and practical learnings of an institution. And, at twenty-five years, the TCM is indeed an institution. Runners from around the world participated yesterday, with many serious competitors for the $25k prize money.

We live just a few blocks from the marathon route in St. Paul, and each year my husband and I walk up to the route to cheer those determined, sometimes haggard – we are at mile 21 – runners, exhausted but still moving toward that finish line. And as I stood there on the sidelines, shouting for a guy with “My name is Mike, cheer for me” painted on the front of his t-shirt as he ran past me, I thought about the magnitude of running a marathon. It is essentially a game you play against yourself. Though you may be running alongside ten thousand other exhausted, haggard people, and hearing the applause of 26 miles of supporters, a marathon is a solo milestone experience. Marla Runyon, a two-time Olympian, and this year’s women’s winner, was quoted as saying “It’s a very humbling event.”

Milestones, big and small, are a part of every day life. And the Twin Cities Marathon illustrates some wonderful examples, from the folks out there running their first marathon, to the folks running to raise money, to the folks just wanting to run a marathon in their lifetime. Most importantly, milestones serve as benchmarks.

As in personal life, companies and organizations celebrate milestones as well. Anniversaries, milestones of programs, product launches (3M recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Post-it Notes, who can imagine life with out Post-it Notes?), leadership and leadership changes all offer the chance to celebrate, to reinvigorate and to learn. Many business and organizational leaders can relate to the marathon experience. Think of how many times you hear an experience described with the analogy of a marathon.

Something worthy of that analogy could also be a milestone. Remember to celebrate even the smallest triumphs, use them as the chance to reinvigorate your troops and take the time to learn from them. Even the occasional 5K runner celebrates with a Powerbar, logs her finishing time, and makes note if she thinks she could shave a few seconds toward her personal best.

Email me with milestones you’ve celebrated or acknowledged. We at Blue Grotto hope you continue to make the most of them!

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto