In learning about others in business, it’s not uncommon to come across some outstanding athletes. That being said, I didn’t think I was hearing Sue correctly when she told me she runs in 100 mile races – “What did you say?” I blurted automatically. “How long did it take you?” I pursued. “Twenty eight hours,” she replied.
Sue Edwards is an over 50, vibrant woman who participates in our Key Women’s Leadership Forum. She serves as Chief Compliance Officer at Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) in Tampa Bay. Sue is incredibly resilient. She has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and survived a skydiving accident where she suffered several broken bones and a few surgeries. Always pushing herself to be her personal best, Sue recently trained for her next big race, a 150 mile run. In her words, “it’s been a dream of mine.”
You understood me correctly, 150 miles! Our women’s forum group has been getting regular updates from Sue on her training and progress. She gets up at 3:30am and runs most mornings to prepare. She puts in a full day at UMA, eats nourishing meals to replenish herself and works diligently with a world class coach to maintain her strength and stamina. Sue’s big race was this past week – she ran it in 39 hours, 43 minutes and 51 seconds. She came in first and was the only woman in the race!
Sue now holds the all-time female record for this 150 mile race and has the second fastest recorded time as well. She stayed up a total of 46 hours without sleep. When I spoke with Sue to congratulate her on this amazing feat, I asked her to share some of the keys to her success in the 150 mile race. I think each applies to our lives whether we set running as our goal or something else.
Here are some insights from Sue that can build our resilience:
- “I visualized each 25 mile segment ahead of the race, seeing myself feeling good and completing it,” Sue shared. “I set up my mind for success ahead of time.” She visualized what she would feel like and her progress at each segment as she practiced for the race. Sue commented that during the race she felt a familiarity with reaching her short-term goal for each loop in the race even though she had only practiced the actual run in her mind.
- “I continuously reminded myself that I’m stronger than my fears,” Sue added. When I asked what her biggest fear was, she easily answered, “not finishing – I didn’t want the regret of not completing the race.” In Sue’s daunting run there were alligators and coyotes roaming her path as well as the wall of psychological fatigue that can play tricks on your mind. “I kept remembering the ‘why’ behind what I was doing and used the mantra of ‘head down, stay focused, stay focused,’ – that made all the difference,” Sue shared. She alternatively used a second affirmation, “through grit and grace, I’ll get this done.”
- The race was actually 152.25 miles and Sue believes that part of her success in finishing it was building in consistency; there were 21 loops in the race and she projected the time she needed to keep for each one. Sue was consistent in her execution of each loop, not deviating from the time she assigned to completing it.
- Sue had a team of four support people who were stationed on the run. They were inspired by Sue’s passion to complete the 150 mile race. Being inspired to provide for Sue wasn’t enough. She set specific parameters for them that helped Sue beat the past female record. “When I stop, I can’t be there for more than 5 minutes and I expect that you will be prepared with my food,” Sue had instructed her team. “If they aren’t prepared, I told the team that I’d run past them; it was their job to run and catch up to me so that I could eat.” Sue had clear expectations for her team and it paid off. She feels that her 5 minute pit stops helped her to beat the past female record by 9 minutes and 38 seconds.
In summary, it’s important to first visualize in detail the outcome you desire along with the short term goals to get there; include the feeling state you want to experience as you achieve each one. Find ways to overcome your fears like a mantra or affirmation that focuses your mind on the positive. Build a plan and be consistent in how you work toward your goal. Consistency builds habits that can support your resilience. As with anything in life, having a team to support you can make all the difference. Be sure to set clear agreed upon expectations and hold yourselves accountable to the teams vision.