Inside Nomadic

How Running Makes Me a Better Project Manager

As a project manager in advertising, I thrive in what could be considered organized chaos—and sometimes the best escape is a quick jog where I can be alone to sort my thoughts. When I’m running on a familiar trail, I’m able to engage in meaningful conversations with myself. I can put my legs on autopilot to do the physical work for me while I do my best creative and strategic thinking.

The purpose of my run usually determines the trajectory of my thoughts. A short, leisurely run is ideal for reviewing my previous day or planning for the week ahead. A longer run is my best opportunity to let my mind wander, from watching ducklings to planning a trip to Italy to preparing for an important client meeting.

Having recently moved to Phoenix from Chicago, I also use runs to get to know my new home. I’ve traded harsh gusts and ice storms in the Windy City for dry heat, palm trees and breezy mornings in the Valley of the Sun. Instead of squirrels, I’m now greeted by ducks and pigeons along the Grand Canal. The mountains here in Arizona are an exciting change of scenery after the long stretches of corn fields in the Midwest, and I’ve watched avid runners bounding up and down the hills to test their endurance. It’s inspiring to see a new adventure ahead; soon I hope to sprint alongside them at the summit.

Regardless which city I’m in, the biggest challenge and most rewarding part of running for me is mental. Yes, completing the Chicago marathon was physically demanding, but in order to do that (twice), my mind had to be just as strong as my legs. Running has taught me to be patient, to appreciate that growth takes time, to be humble when I reach my limit and to believe in myself when I’m ready to push past it.

It is mentally demanding to feel physical discomfort, try to quiet the desire to stop and then tell yourself to continue to run through that fatigue on a difficult run. Reaching a new personal record makes all of the training feel worth it, even if each run doesn’t go as planned.

Those lessons are just as valuable at my desk as they are on the trail. Training for a race is much like preparing for a project deadline. A successful project manager must plan ahead and work backwards from an expected outcome. A steady pace helps to keep myself and my team from getting overwhelmed and lets us focus on one milestone at a time. It’s fulfilling for me to see the journey of a project from inception to completion and learn from the obstacles that come along the way.

As I explore the area, I’m looking forward to joining races and being with fellow runners. The Arizona Sunrise Series, with seven separate 5k events in Tucson and Phoenix, looks like my speed. Next challenge: Training through my first desert summer. Let’s bring the heat!