Finish the Race

Katie_CAllow us to introduce to you The 16 Percent’s newest blogger—SGR’s own Katie Corder. Katie  joined SGR in 2012, managing the SGR webinar training program.  In 2014, she became an Executive Search Manager for SGR’s Executive Recruiting division. Katie previously served as Assistant City Manager for Rowlett, Texas, and has also served the communities of Sedona, Arizona, and Olathe, Kansas. A graduate of Leadership ICMA and the Senior Executive Institute at the University of Virginia, Katie holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Tulsa and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Kansas. 


I completed the Dallas Half Marathon last month. I have enjoyed running since competing in high school cross-country, but it took me nearly twenty years to commit to train for this “bucket list” race.

For the last several months, my family has endured the long runs, obsession with new shoes, and a desire for the perfect musical playlist. In the midst of packing my pre-race bag the evening prior, my four-year old, very competitive daughter asked if I was going to win. I quickly told her, “no.” Very confused, she looked up at me and innocently asked, “Then, why are you racing?”

Great question. Why are you racing?

Since Kimutai Cheruiyot finished the full marathon of 26.2 miles at a time of 2:17:11, minutes before I even finished the half marathon of 13.1 miles, winning was not an option. So, why race? Why train?

Long-distance running is an endurance running that requires stamina. Humans are considered among the best distance runners—game animals are faster over short distances, but they have less endurance than humans.

In recommended training for marathons, the runner gradually builds to running slightly less than race distance, usually over a four to five month period.  In addition to the long runs, the interval training also consists of short runs, cardio exercise, and rest. On race day, it is recommended that you have an A, B, and C goal. If you cannot reach goal A—for example, completing the race in a certain time—you move onto goal B, so that you still race for a goal.

When it comes to local government leadership, strategy is similar to long-distance running. You outline the finish line and when you will begin the race. You train. You coach. You train again. You have a set-back. You get back on track. You rest. You train. You finish the race.

To truly change an organizational culture, it takes three-to-five years. Three-to-five years. Leaders are often tackling a marathon when they strategically set-out to change an organization or to implement a project. To train for the end goal, change may need to be gradual. Set your goal in motion and reel it back in a bit. Go a little further and then rest. Three-to-five years takes stamina, patience, and an unending determination to cross the finish line.

Along the way, leaders may need to adjust your goal to your B or C goal due to timing or a cultural, financial, or political shift; but leaders keep their eye on the finish line. Leaders finish the race.

So, why do I race? I race to finish.

What races are you running? Are you going to finish the race?

2 responses

  1. Love it, run your own race, and finish it! Thanks, Katie.

  2. There is something about long distance running that makes an excellent analogy for leadership. While there are times when leaders need to sprint, much of how a leader truly makes a difference for others is in little things done regularly over a long period of time, things that others easily overlook. No one runs a marathon or half marathon in one day. It is the culmination of weeks of training and preparation, the sum total of hundreds of choices made when few or no one was looking. And the end goal isn’t to win something, it is to become something. Great post, Katie.

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