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Are ya leading, following, or just part of the crowd?

Life can be just like the Cowtown Marathon!

While I have only been a participant in the Cowtown about 5 times in my entire life, & those all 10Ks, it is an unforgettable, priceless, experience each & every time! I couldn't wait for it to begin, & yes, I absolutely couldn't wait for my distance to be met! I rushed to find others who were much faster than me & already in to congratulate them & to cheer on those who would be coming in at various times after us.

Most people already know running is just not my strength (although I do love walking as fast as I can & I receive lots of the same benefits as I did from running; it's just easier on my knees😊). In my early American Airlines days, I would run all around the headquarters facilities during lunch. More rational employees would be eating lunch & watching me out of the windows as I ran by. Oh my, did it attract attention & lots of conversation! With all the demands from work, being a mom, wife & student, there was literally no other time I could get running in other than at lunch. I loved what running did for me, you see. It was a huge stress reliever! Running was also my own time & when I could think deeply, solve problems, control my weight while conditioning my body, & see all the beauty of nature around me. I didn't typically want any intrusions from music, etc., as I really guarded this "me" time.

Soon conversations from others turned from good natured heckling to "hey, why do you do it? How long do you run, how far, how often, & how beneficial?" Where did I buy shoes & clothing, products for protection from the weather elements, what did I routinely eat & is that why I permed my hair to avoid impact of the humidity? Ultimately, though, people began to go beyond the conversation to join me!

At first, I admit it, I missed the "me time." But then came something so much better! I could encourage others as people joined that if I could do it, they sure could! I could provide empathy through sore muscles, time constraints, & goal setting. We all began to celebrate one another as we felt better, looked better, & literally performed better in our respective work units. We felt a culture change from those increased positive attitudes in our immediate personal & professional environments.

This became a growing, inspirational support group full of all levels of staff & management to executive leaders. Not only did we support each other running together, but we were really friends, close colleagues who could discuss personal & professional challenges we faced knowing we could seek guidance & inspiration such as how mentor / mentee relationships might work, like coaches, relationships closely connected & people interested in helping others (way beyond self) to also reach their fullest potential.

I found my strength grew so much further than I could ever have been able to accomplish alone. I loved the connection & it was a huge adrenalin stimulant for me. It was the journey - the planning, growing, developing & frequent celebrating we all did together, our genuine caring for each other - that I loved, cherished & eventually missed as our careers continued to change shapes.

Now, where does the Cowtown Marathon come in, you ask? When I was first running by myself with the others watching me from the windows inside the cafeteria, one of our VPs told me he had read about the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth at the end of February as he was also a runner (no, he was a REAL RUNNER). Ultimately, he DARED me to enter the Marathon even to do the 10K & I literally felt I had NO choice but to do it. That first year he did not enter, it was just me. As our runners' group got underway, he did join us the next 4 years, running the full 26 miles each time! I could do 13 miles, but there was not an ounce of desire in me to do what it took to run that full distance. No regrets to this day!

The Cowtown is an incredible annual event! They just tend to every single detail with professionalism, with care, & with deep love for our amazing City & all those who are a part of it. Now, the runners actually come through my neighborhood which is so much fun to watch, to cheer them on, & to remember how much I loved everything about it (along with all the amazing time I spent as an American Airlines employee).

Life is so much like a marathon, too! There's the actual conditioning, this is the work that only the marathoner can do (learning, growing, developing our own gifts & talents through education, training, experience on the job, etc.). Then we have the planning, the setting goals, & establishing / nurturing relationships with others such as mentors, coaches, & accountability partners. We all need to connect, to be part of a team (family, workplace, community), cheering each other on while celebrating successes & someone (others) who can be empathetic when we fall short of expectations, helping us to get up after we have fallen to not give up, & to keep going - moving - forward.

We must have those who are leaders throughout our lives, those we trust & look up to, & those whom we would follow just about anywhere they wanted / asked us to go. We can't always be followers, of course. Sometimes we absolutely must lead - by choice, by design, and / or by being called for such a time as this. We all know those we have called "natural born leaders." I really believe we are all natural born leaders for our own sense of purpose, that which we have the passion of fire to accomplish (to make better, to impact, to change, etc.) - yes, our calling. Many times it can feel like just being at the right place, at the right time, & the right thing to do. I also offer nothing is ever by accident. Sometimes we are just needing to be cheered on; others times we need to be the cheerleaders for others.

Being part of an overall whole (in a race, a workplace, as a volunteer in an organization we value deeply, a community, a society, a global world) can make us feel so much a part of something much bigger than we individually are & providing the foundation, the anchor, the grounding we need to keep pushing forward for "better" in ways bigger than we can ever comprehend. I call it dreaming the BIG dreams, & really allowing ourselves to experience the "bigs" within the "littles" along the way.

Call To Action:

1. Reflect on how your own life is / is not like a marathon;

2. Have you found yourself launching a "runners group" or something similar as I describe above? Share what you learned from those experiences with others in your close network & invite they share as well. How did it help you grow closer to your own full potential? What caused a "stall out" if that happened?

3. Describe what brings out the leader, the follower, & the need to be part of the overall whole in you? Where do you feel strongest? The most vulnerable? The most comfortable? Share with others close to you & begin a dialogue!

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