Manage Your Way to the Marathon Finish Line!

Published by Nikki Angle

A few years ago, I set my sights on the California International Marathon. At that point, the longest race I’d ever done was a 5K, so getting ready in just six months seemed daunting. But I quickly realized that preparing for and running a marathon is very much like a project. It has a start date; it has a finite duration; it has assigned resources; it requires task execution to “go live”; and progress must be monitored. So, I put on my project manager hat and set out on my adventure.

Initiate – My first step was to be clear about my goals and objectives in order to shape my plan. My goal was to get to the start line healthy with sufficient training to complete the marathon within the 6-hour time limit.

Plan – Next, I gathered information to better understand my “project” to develop a realistic, achievable plan. I joined a training team with lots of experience and plans tailored to first-time marathoners. I needed to have a structure to support accountability. I connected with folks who had completed many marathons, and developed a series of interim milestones. I managed training time constraints, being a single working mom. My initial risk assessment included things totally foreign to me such as fueling, hydration, injury, recovery, and weather. Based on all that information, I developed my “project schedule.”

Execute and Control – The fun and excitement of executing a new “project” began! My training plan was plastered on the fridge so it was visible every day. I completed my “task list” (training runs) and reviewed my progress weekly. Trust me, there were MANY days that I didn’t want to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get my run in. But I was the assigned resource! I also planned for a variety of cadences: times allocated to sprint and times allocated for endurance (much like project lifecycles!). Early risk identification was key, as I had a plan ready for most challenges (like Achilles so sore I had to take a week off running and switch to biking for endurance). And I had a strong team to help me work through obstacles. The interim milestones allowed me to check progress and pace, and keep me motivated (YES! I completed my first half-marathon).

Then it was time for “cutover.” I arranged transportation to the start line. I fueled and hydrated before the race. My alarm was set. My backup alarm was set…. across the room. I went to bed on time. Cutover checklist complete: we have a “go” decision! I’m happy to report that I met my project goal: I was at the start line healthy and well-trained. I completed the race under the 6-hour time limit. Next task? CELEBRATE the success!

Close out – An important part of project management is closing out the project and documenting the lessons learned. What went well? I had a solid plan that I executed well. My support team was key to success. The relationships I built during the “project” would be leveraged for future endeavors. I was stronger than I knew. I was ready to set a new goal for the next race.

Whether running a marathon or delivering a large project, applying my project management skills has helped me reap many rewards!