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 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.