Why Training for a Half Marathon Will Make You Better at Your Job

Image via Thorpe Triathlon

Image via Thorpe Triathlon

I was skeptical at first, too. Running for anything besides the mall during a scarf sale wasn’t something I previously enjoyed, let alone dedicated my precious free time to. But when someone made a bet that I couldn’t run the entire Great Wall of China Half Marathon, I accepted the challenge and got my butt into gear. And after successfully running two half marathons this year, this is what I’ve found:

Image via Thorpe Triathlon

1)   Distance running improves your time management.

When you work at an agency, you learn very quickly that you only have 18 waking hours in the day (give or take a few). Then, as you attempt to squeeze in time for a 9+ mile run, you begin playing a mental game of “The Price Is Right” and become an expert at estimating how long something will take you, to the minute. Need I explain how useful this will be at work?

2)   It forces you to get creative.

Speaking of time; what do you think you think about when you’re running for 60 minutes? Once you get past the torturous part of training, your breathing regulates and your mind is free to wander towards ideas you may have never pondered before. While I am a big advocate in preserving a life outside of work, this is a time when I say just let your thoughts flow. Maybe a song on your playlist or a billboard you jog past sparks a great idea for a client. Or perhaps during this time away from outside pressures you finally unlock a solution to a problem you’ve been having. Either way, you will discover a way to entertain yourself, and it usually isn’t counting pavement squares.

3)   Patience is a muscle that strengthens with use.

It is widely agreed by experts that you shouldn’t increase your mileage by more than half of a mile per week as to avoid injury. With that in mind, when creating your training schedule you must be deliberate, strategic and realistic in setting your goals. Sound anything like creating a PR plan?

You’ll learn that baby-steps, though small, meaningful steps forward. You’ll more easily acknowledge and accept your limits and find ways to work with them rather than try to hide them. Patience is a virtue that is essentially a public relations job requirement. Because we all know, PR is a marathon not a sprint.

4)   Stress (and desserts) are no longer an issue.

Stress is a simple word that for most people causes a lot of anxiety. However, I find that having pre-designated training times throughout the week lets me easily pour out my frustrations on the pavement, helping transform my anger into focused energy (a great skill for the workplace). In fact, I recommend running angry! You’ll run harder, faster and with more determination. And by the end of it, you will be too exhausted to carry that extra baggage all of the way back home, or to the office.

5)   The rule of inertia.

The rule of inertia: every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion UNLESS an external force is applied.

Newton was spot on with this one. Get up and get moving! Life isn’t a spectator sport. The more active you become outside of work, the more energy you’ll have during work. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. An active free time will be the external force to propel your career to the next level.

6)   It’ll toughen you up.

Everyone almost brags about how PR is “the most stressful” job, but not a lot of discussion is devoted to the emotional toll PR can have on its greener members. You will face rejection. A lot. Rejection during the application process, rejection from the media, rejection from the client… It’s everywhere, and you’ll need to have a strong sense of self in order to thrive in this business. Distance running will both literally and figuratively thicken your skin and force you to develop a mental toughness that will help the no’s in life just roll off of your shoulder.

7)   The importance of quality time with me, myself and I.

During your training you will spend a lot of time by yourself. Sure you might have a running buddy keep you company every so often, but unless you are one of those fitness freaks of nature (you know the ones, having a full conversation while running uphill in 90 degree heat), the majority of the time will be spent silent with only the sound of your thoughts. You will, by mere force and repetition, truly get to know yourself. And as your run farther and faster, succeeding in your goals, you will learn to trust yourself. This is important. When you trust yourself, you believe in yourself, and we all know how essential confidence is in this profession. You won’t be afraid to share that “stupid idea” or second-guess your writing. You have confidence and trust that what you’re doing is your best. And THAT, is everything.


Megan Nicole O'Neal headshotMegan O’Neal graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, emphasizing in mass communications. She is currently the PR Coordinator at Marketing Design Group and volunteers with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, freelancing for the public relations department. Connect with her on Twitter @megannenicole.  

Networking: Keeping Contacts as a New Professional

YBusiness Meetingou studied hard, joined PRSSA, did multiple internships, networked, graduated, networked some more and got a job. Phew! Now, you no longer have to worry about your LinkedIn activity, participate in that Twitter chat or attend local industry events, right? Wrong!

In case you haven’t already figured it out, the PR industry is like a big small-town. There aren’t six degrees of separation, in many cases there are barely three. It seems everyone knows everyone (or knows someone who knows someone). This tight-knittedness is capable of swinging the pendulum in your favor–or not. The choice, really, is yours.

How do you hold on to that network you’ve worked so hard to build? How do you continue to build that network, and make it work for you?

  1.  My first suggestion is to not just attend your PRSA chapter meetings, but volunteer and get involved. As current president of the PRSA-St. Louis Chapter, I can tell you that having new pros on our committees are just as important as having senior pros. You provide a different perspective, and we need all viewpoints represented. In addition, You will work side-by-side with seasoned pros, who will get to know your solid work ethic first-hand and meet people you may have not have had access to otherwise. Volunteering is work, and creates work experience.
  2.  Participate in Twitter chats. Not just #NPPRSA, but other industry-related chats, such as #PRprochat started by Carrie Morgan, or the #SoloPR chat spearheaded by Kellye Crane. Not only may you meet your next recruit, but many senior pros participate in those chats as well. Doing this keeps you in front of your network, expands your network, and may even provide informational content you can later expand into a blog post!
  3.  Join applicable LinkedIn groups and participate in the discussions. Don’t feel like you can’t contribute if you don’t know the answers–ask questions, there may be others with the same question.
  4.  I’m sure you have certain industry-leading blogs to which you subscribe. Don’t just read those posts, comment and reply to other comments. Add value to the community. Warning: be careful to not over-do it; you don’t want to comes across as a stalker.
  5. Finally, swinging back to #1 – involvement in your local PR organization. You should at least set a goal of attending one event per quarter (4 per year).  And, don’t just attend make a point of introducing yourself to at least three new people at each event. Then, within a couple days of the event, connect with them on LinkedIn—reminding them where you met and thanking them for the conversation, then follow-up. The follow-up doesn’t have to be often but does need to be pertinent and professional.

A case in point: a while back I wrote a post on mentoring for BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog. In it, I mentioned that Lori George Billingsley, director of issues communications at The Coca-Cola Company and past PRSA Multicultural Communications Section chair, claims her mentor has been instrumental in helping her secure all of the PR jobs she’s held.  That’s a pretty powerful testament to her networking, diligence and professionalism!

There’s no doubt that social media makes it much easier to keep in touch with people. However, no matter how much you keep in touch electronically, nothing beats face-to-face conversations to build your network!

Share what you’re doing to build and strengthen your network in the comments below.

Tressa RobbinsTressa Robbins is Implementation Vice President at BurrellesLuce, to ensure successful onboarding of major accounts with traditional and social media monitoring, media contacts and press release distribution, as well as reporting and analytics. She is the president of the PRSA St. Louis chapter, a PRSSA mentor, professional advisor to the Southeast Missouri State PRSSA chapter, and serves on Southeast’s Mass Media Department Professional Advisory Council as well as teaches a special topics course this semester. You may follow and connect with her on Twitter.