Two Hours (#198)

Most of us waste two hours on a Saturday morning without realizing where the time went. For Eliud Kipchoge, two hours changed his life.

This past Saturday, Kipchoge, a world champion runner from Kenya, became the first man to run a marathon in under two-hours. On a specially-chosen course, Kipchoge clocked 1 hour, 59 minutes, 40.2 seconds.

Until recently, running a sub-two hour marathon was a feat many believed impossible. This led Nike to launch Breaking2 in 2014; a project with the sole purpose of creating a team of elite runners focused on breaking the two-hour marathon barrier.

Kipchoge was one of those runners.

Although Kipchoge’s time won’t count as an official world record since the run didn’t take place in an open event, running the fastest marathon ever recorded is most certainly an awe-inspiring marvel. And the preparation and characteristics required to accomplish this Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) are definitely worth highlighting:

Have a Compelling Vision – And Share It

Most great accomplishments start with a vision that, at first, seem a bit crazy. Whether it’s a vision to have a desktop in every home or putting a man on the moon, BHAGs serve as a North Star and have the power to rally people around a worthwhile cause.

Nike’s Breaking2 documentary was a very public commitment to their goal, generating excitement and awareness for their vision.

Reverse Engineer the Vision

This is where history separates the big Doers from the big Dreamers. Having a big idea or a vision is commendable, but it won’t get you very far. What’s required to make that vision a reality are resources, planning and action. This is what Nike did with Breaking2, bringing together a world-class team of athletes, scientists and product designers. At Acceleration Partners, we also put this attribute into action as part of a bold three-year Vivid Vision to triple the company by breaking down our BHAG company goal into twelve quarters of deliverables to get us there and identifying missing parts we would need.

Plan and Prepare

Nothing was left to chance for this historic sub-two marathon attempt.

On the day of the run, Kipchoge was supported by 41 professional runners who acted as pacesetters. Running in an aerodynamic V shape to shield wind, they each followed a pace car that projected the ideal position on the road with a laser beam.

Even the location of the race was chosen with great plan and preparation. It was flat, the temperature was perfect for running this time of year, it was close to sea level and only one time zone from his training camp in Kenya.

Learn from Failure

In 2017, Nike held a well-publicized event with three runners, including Kipchoge, in the first attempt at breaking the two-hour barrier. No runner succeeded. Subsequent attempts also failed. However, instead of giving up, the team focused on learning from each situation. They reevaluated, reassessed and readjusted. Those learnings helped make Kipchoge’s sub-two hour marathon a reality.

Keep Going and Pushing Forward

There are two types of people: those who quit and those who keep going. Nike’s philosophy reflects the latter, as does the statement on their Breaking2 website:

“We will never stop pursuing what some believe to be unimaginable—we continue to push forward.”

There are many people who let self-limiting beliefs get in the way of doing things they never thought possible. Similarly, there are dreamers who sit frustrated watching other people do what they had conceived, but never acted upon. New breakthroughs need big thinkers, but also discipline, planning and execution to bring them to fruition.

Kipchoge’s accomplishment reminds me of the motto I have developed for my kids: “You can have anything you desire as long as you are willing to do what’s required.”

 

Quote of The Week

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

 

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry