Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tom Mackenzie Interview - 2007 Chicago Marathon

In 1997, an eager 19 year old had a vision, and a goal. While overlooking Lake Michigan he thought to himself, "I am going to run a marathon before the age of 30 because it will show my hard work and dedication towards fitness." As the years passed, Tom Mackenzie remembered this goal and accomplished it on October 7, 2007 while running the 2007 Chicago Marathon.

Tom is the lead programmer on the Market Risk Team at Bank of America. He is a highly motivated and competitive individual. I got a chance to interview Tom about his experience, and intriguing goal pursuit. I have paraphrased his responses for clarity purposes.

What were you expecting after you fulfilled this goal and ran the marathon?
"I believed that running a marathon would show my commitment to staying fit, and boost my confidence in different areas of my life. For example, I believed that running a marathon would motivate me to be more productive in other areas of my life."

What did you realize while you were preparing for the marathon?
"One of the toughest, and weirdest, realizations I had was that you are born on your own and you die on your own. No one is going to fulfill your goals for you, you have to get off your a$$ and do it yourself. The sooner you accept this fact the better off you'll be." Tom spent approximately two hours per day, four days per week preparing. There were situations where he depended on people to be there for him, was let down, and eventually became mentally phased, and depressed on that particular training.
I agree with Tom completely. I believe that people are our biggest asset, but can also be a huge liability. People may be obstacles, and can diverge our plans if we allow them to.
"Some other troubles that I encountered while running was that my short-term goals were too ambitious and unrealistic. I was trying to run fast times for the short lags, and found that this ended up hurting me because I would be sore for the following day, and would have to take it off."
Surprisingly, Tom rarely thought about the end-goal (The Marathon), he stayed in the present and would think about the current day. So the end-goal was in his subconscious to do whatever needed to be done. When the marathon was coming closer, then he started thinking about this actual run, and realizing that he was truly going to fulfill the goals he set as a teenager. In addition, he thought of the end-goal when he was having a tough time getting motivated to run his daily race.

How was the actual marathon?
"The race was brutal. It was 90 degrees, and people were dropping like flies. I experienced some heat-exhaustion symptoms and had to start walking for part of the race. There were ambulances everywhere and people were laying all over the place. Three quarters through the race, they announced that the marathon was cancelled, but this was only a strategy to get the injured people to stop running/walking. I continued on my course."

How did you feel after you crossed the finish line?
"I felt sick, hot, and exhausted. I finished the race in 5:30:43, and my goal was to do it in under 4:00:00 hours. I don't feel that I completed my goal, and I don't think I would do it again. The marathon was not anything that I expected."

As Tom believed that running a martahon would not only help him reach his goal, but would also be a catalyst in other ares of his life. Hopefully it would spark ambition in his work life, and help him focus more intensely on his job, and/or other opportunities. In the end, the confidence was not boosted in the external world, but was increased in the marathon running world, where he saw that focusing on one thing so intensely, only made one better at that one thing, and atrophy in other areas of your life.

When we originally set out goals, it is to venture into lands, and emotions that we have not experienced before. A goal is a dream with a deadline. Thus, we don't set a goal to learn how to drive a car if we already know how to do it. We set goals in areas we haven't experienced before. However, by setting goals in areas where we are not experienced, we have a preconceived notion of what the results are, and what they are going to bring to us. In Tom's case he thought it would bring him confidence in other areas of his life, but it didn't really do that. It only made him a better long distance runner. We assume that something is reality, and have associations with certain things in our life and what they mean to us, but this is not true.

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