Quick Burn or Easy Pace?

What We Can Learn from a Running Legend

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Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
I was back in Atlanta (still the most puzzling city to drive in) on the eve of the Radio Advertising Bureau "Bold Signals" Conference. I was out for a run, thinking about the week ahead, and I noticed that my pace was a little faster than usual. Now that I'm a little older, I thought it would be best to slow down, lest I end up with a bad hammy. Running is still a little new to me (I prefer playing soccer) and it seemed an appropriate metaphor for year two of our "official" existence: still very new in the larger scheme and not exactly sure what our pace should actually be.

Sure, we want to grow, but do we want the bad hammy, the pulled back and the flare up of plantar faciitis? This year, we may very well be running a 5K, next year, a half-marathon. It's hard to tell. But, as I sit up working until 1a.m. on various projects, all of this feels more like a startup and definitely more serious than before. We are running a race and we're just learning what pace we need to run. It could very well be that we are trying to run too fast.

I find great inspiration from and have great respect for running legend Alberto Salazar. I found some possible answers to some of these questions I've been asking myself in his 2002 book Alberto Salazar's Guide to Road Racing : Championship Advice for Faster Times from 5K to Marathons. On page 40, he talks about how increases in volume should be done gradually. Specifically, he points out that a no more than 10% mileage increase per month is a good way to approach it. In two years, you can go from 25 to 50 miles per week. In a business environment, 10% growth per month seems daunting and downright impossible, but I think we can all agree that a 100% bump in growth is something we would certainly like.

The numbers may not be realistic (especially in this environment), but what I really got from Alberto's book is that it is all about incremental growth and opportunity. We have targets that we hope to hit, we have goals and stretch goals. But, in our case, we think that monthly wins on top of an overall annual number will make the process more enjoyable and easier to manage. This approach may not work or be appropriate for everyone, but it seems to be one that is favorable for our philosophy.

Another great point that Alberto makes is on page 12: Before you can become a racer, you must first be a runner. We are far from being racers. In fact, we are still learning how to be runners. Don't get me wrong, we'd love to be in a dead sprint to big things, but the truth is there is no finish line.
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