How a Marathon Became a Team Event

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You’ll have seen in the news that Kenyan, Eliud Kipchoge, achieved a remarkable thing – he ran the distance of a marathon in under two hours, shaving nearly two minutes off his own marathon world record of 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds. 

To put this achievement into context, it meant running an average speed in excess of 13mph for the entire race; the equivalent of running 26 four and half minute miles back to back! (I’m not sure I’ve ever run that fast, even sprinting at full pelt to get to the cake shop before it closes!)

The thing that most struck me about Kipchoge’s remarkable performance was actually the contribution others, from diverse backgrounds, made to his success.

A huge amount of preparation had taken place before the race:

A flat route, close to sea level had been scouted and parts of the route had even been resurfaced to ensure a surface as near to perfection as possible. On parts of the route, the fastest route had been marked, and a green laser acted as a pacemaker throughout the race to ensure he sustained the correct pace. 

In addition, a rotating plethora of Olympians and stars of long-distance running ran with him, shielding him from the wind in formations devised by an expert in aerodynamics. 

Kipchoge wore specially designed shoes from Nike and a cyclist rode alongside the group to ensure that he had easy access to the carbohydrate-laden drink he’d need. 

And of course, a huge crowd gave him constant, enthusiastic and much-valued support.

The race was so much of a team effort that it does not qualify as a world record. Kipchoge and the team were aware of that before he ran; it was described as a ‘exhibition marathon’. 

Whether the official record was broken or not, hardly matters; to run 26 miles in under two hours is an outstanding achievement and, for me, the teamwork adds to the achievement, rather than detracts from it.

Indeed, I think Kipchoge’s incredible success beautifully illustrates two very important points that we can all apply to life and work:

  • Individual success is rarely, if ever, achieved alone. Indeed, it is more usually, if not always, a symptom of team success. 
  • Continuous Improvement is always achievable; particularly if we’re willing and able to look at the situation differently and apply a little creativity.

(As you’d expect, we’ve got loads of material in Trainers’ Library designed to develop high performing teams and to encourage continuous improvement.)

Until next time...

Rod

p.s., It would be remiss of me not to point out that the women’s marathon world record was also smashed, officially, in the same week!

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