10 Miles at Midnight (or 10 Minutes till the Grant is Due)

Mark DessauerThanks so much to guest blogger (and dear friend) Mark Dessauer, Director of Communications at Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina Foundation. I’m ever grateful to Mark for contributing this stirring post  to this month’s blog carnival—The Work Behind Your Work

Thoughts on facing insurmountable challenges…alone
There was not a soul in sight.  No lights, cars, homes, or other runners.  Only the steady rain on a rural road deep in South Carolina.

I had been running for four miles by myself in the dark with knuckle lights.  I had six more miles to go.  I could hear frogs peeping in the waterlogged forest.  I could see nothing but the road flashing under my moving spotlights.  I now knew I could do this and do it well.  I was at peace.

Two hours before this run, I was churning and second guessing myself.  I was on a nine-person team running a 200-mile relay race from Columbia to Charleston South Carolina that started under increasingly grey skies on a Friday morning and now, was almost at the half way point.  I was nervous because while I had never attempted one of these races, my original task was to run a total of 15 miles over three relay legs.

One of our team members had dropped out several weeks before the race, and I now had to run 23 miles over four legs.  But I had only trained to run about nine miles.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a runner and have run several marathons in my past. But this race was different because I had a six-mile run at noon, a ten- mile run at midnight, four-mile run at 3am and a final three-miler at 8 a.m.  I just wasn’t sure if I could do this.

Now what does this have to do with communications or Getting Attention?
I could build some analogy about being flexible and messaging my needs to the team but the real clarity came on that dark stretch of road after tackling my internal hill and lack of confidence.

It became clear to me that I was not going to die, suffer muscle collapse or even walk during this leg.  At that moment I realized that I could do this and do it well.  All fears behind me and enthusiasm to go forward.  It was a zen moment.

With that insight, I found myself running faster with more determination.  The motivational power of my new-found confidence was immense.

It took a while (and some coaxing via an online chat with Nancy) that I recognized that this road lesson crops up on the job as well.

It’s human nature to stay in our comfort zones and do our best at what we do best.  As new issues, partners, social media or sudden challenges push us out of that zone, we make a choice to turn away or tackle them head on.

I pushed myself to run ten miles at midnight, and I discovered that overcoming this unexpected challenge plus my internal consternation led to new self knowledge.  My revelation during the frog chorus spurred my confidence, and my ability to finish the race.  Or just change your life.  We finished the race with an overall time of 27 hours and 14 minutes and an 8:08 pace.  Our team came in sixth place.

I had no idea that we (or I) could have done this.  I do now.

When you or your organization sets out to change the world or your neighborhood and it is raining, dark and you have little energy or funds left.  Dig in.  Keep going.  Know that once you get past that challenge, your strength, capacity and confidence will carry you even further than you thought.

 Mark, thanks SO much for sharing your experience, and the motivation that came from it. Keep us posted on what’s next!

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Nancy Schwartz on April 22, 2014 in Professional Development | 1 comment
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