Leadership Lessons from NYC Marathon and Edison Pena

Yesterday’s New York City Marathon was notable for several reasons.  First, with more than 45,000 participants it was the largest marathon to date.  And then there were the runners themselves.  Gebre Gebremariam, an Ethiopian, became the first man to win in a marathon debut since 1980.  Other racers included a double lung transplant patient, Meredith Viera and Al Roker from the Today Show, and, most surprisingly, Chilean miner Edison Pena.

Not even a month ago, Pena was rescued after being trapped for 69 days in a collapsed mine, where he kept his hope alive by running in a winding network of underground tunnels.

“What I thought about as I ran in the mine was that I was going to beat destiny,” Peña said in a news conference. “I was saying to that mine, ‘I can outrun you, I’m going to run until you’re just tired and bored of me,’ and I did it.”

What Can We Learn?

Compared to this life-or-death experience, running on the streets of New York City didn’t seem nearly as daunting – it was almost like a victory lap!   There is much leaders can learn from Pena’s journey.  Among the lessons I took away:

  • Even when a situation looks hopeless, you must still maintain your faith in yourself and your abilities, and model that faith for others who are looking to you for inspiration.
  • Pace yourself through difficult periods.  Not only did Pena do this in the mine, but he struggled with intense physical pain throughout yesterday’s race due to a knee injury he sustained while trapped.  His time of nearly six hours wasn’t enough to win, but the accomplishment was in the finish.
  • You must take advantage of opportunities to increase your visibility and gain support for your cause.  By seizing the chance to participate in the Marathon just after his rescue, Pena received international attention for his country and the miners’ plight.

What inspired you about yesterday’s race?

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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