“No human is limited.” – Eliud Kipchoge
Last week, an extraordinary event left an indelible mark on our MBA class at IMD. It was the 30th anniversary of the Lausanne Marathon, and with the help of the MBA office and the Sports Committee, 25 of our classmates got the chance to challenge themselves in three different categories: 10K, half marathon, and full marathon.
While the run itself was obviously a physical challenge, the journey leading up to it gave us an invaluable lesson on setting ambitious objectives and having the resilience to accomplish them.
The catalyst: Why a marathon?
I admit the idea was initially met with skepticism. Did I really want to run my first full marathon (42K) at 36 while dealing with academic pressures and deadlines looming? Participating seemed like an added burden.
The aim was simple: to step out of my comfort zone and prove that with the right mindset, I could achieve more than just academic milestones and inspire my classmates. Simple, but not easy.
I had a change of heart when my colleague Nicolaas Heemserk told me: “It Is tough, but I trust you can do it, Juan. If you give yourself time to put minutes on the legs, you could achieve it.”
The decision was made. I was going to run a marathon.
Training days: Collective sweat equity
Our training became a parallel curriculum. Classmates from various professional backgrounds, including finance, technology, and retail, were running before lectures and weekend-long runs became the norm. As we pounded the pavements around campus, a camaraderie developed that transcended classroom interactions.
Overcoming obstacles: A test of true team spirit
Despite some of our group being natural athletes, injuries were inevitable. This is where our collective spirit truly shone. We wrote to each other to see how we were doing, and recommended audiobooks to listen to – such as Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Some of us tried to complement our running hours with strength training in the IMD gym to get stronger, and for our bodies to function like well-oiled machines.
Race day: The culmination of our journey
The adrenaline was palpable as we donned our matching team jerseys. Throughout the event, the unity we’d cultivated was evident. Whenever a teammate flagged, another would step in to offer encouragement.
I ran half of the 42K with my good friend Harry Davies. We checked how we felt constantly and planned our “pit stops” to get water, gels, and energy bars.
The most emotional time from this rollercoaster was crossing the finish line. It was not only a physical feat but also an emotional moment.
The aftermath: Lasting bonds and lessons learned
While the marathon is over, the unity it fostered is not. The teamwork, dedication, and collective problem-solving we experienced have enriched our professional skillsets, and the bonds formed have remained.
The marathon did more than test our physical limits. It served as a testament to what can be achieved when diverse individuals unite toward a common goal. As we forge ahead in our respective careers, the lessons gleaned from this experience will undoubtedly serve us well.