5 Trail Running Lessons for Career Growth

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been listening to some interesting podcast conversations. In interviewing people about their lives, inevitably the conversations have turned to the twists and turns of people’s careers, and the opportunities for the future.

There are industries emerging that I have never even considered. For example, Australian Story recently shared the work of scientist Veena Sahajwalla who has led the world in creating green steel from plastics, and continues to transform recycling from a collection industry to a manufacturing industry.  Very clever work.

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So how do we keep pace with emerging industries and technology as we grow our careers?

Randall Smith trail runningWe focus on what we know and how we can grow.

Keeping pace has been taking some of my physical energy lately.

I have signed onto a Trail Running Series here in the south east corner of Queensland and for a couple of longer trails in the middle of the year.

I’ve been running in the mountains for a while, but always on my own.

I got the mental game down. I knew I could run long distances – it was just a question of time, one foot hitting the ground after the other.

I had no idea if I was fast, slow or in between.

Joining the trail running series has changed that.

In my first official trail run race down at Numinbah, I ran 12.8 kilometres. I got a time and a place. I walked up the hills and ran down – even took a pretty decent tumble on the dirt track in the process.

It was a bit embarrassing to be honest. I had to dust myself off, acknowledge that although my ankle hurt, no-one was going to come and get me so it was best to keep going. So I did.

This was a mental game, not just a physical one.

At the end, I got my race results: a place, and my time of 1 hour 46 minutes and 13 seconds.

My favourite part of my race results came down to two simple things:

I entered the race and I finished it.

Trail running results

Lots of people sat at home that same Sunday morning. They won’t stand a chance of knowing what they can achieve because they aren’t even lining up at the starting line.

Then came race two: 12.13 kilometres down at Bayview.

This time I slipped in behind two other runners – I thought I could use them to help set a pace for me.

And set a pace they did. Once they realised I was quite happy staying just behind them, we started to chat. They told me that they ran the flats, the downs and walked the ups.

I found out they were younger than me, one in her 30s and one in her 40s.

It was something I would remember after the race when my body reminded me of each of my 51 years!

They kept running when I would have walked,  so I ran too.

When I looked at my results I noticed that my overall pace had picked up because I had modelled my race technique on people more experienced than me.

Turns out they have photographers on these courses and I found some photos of me … some show me concentrating, some show the muscles in my legs pumping out the k’s and some show me grinning.

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I figure that the lessons I am learning in these trail running races are the same lessons we all need for getting into new industries, new opportunities and new careers:

  1. We always take with us the experience that we built up through the lows and highs of our careers that got us to this point.
  2. We can enter a new career or industry or stay in a safe zone, tucked away – it’s simply a choice.
  3. When we get going in a new job or industry, chances are we will take a tumble and not be the best on the track. Such is life. Dust off and keep going.
  4. Find others to learn from and make us better. There are plenty of good people ready to lend us a hand if we let them know what we are wanting to do.
  5. Remember, in navigating any career path, it is a choice whether we find reasons to grin or groan. I can tell you that the hardest parts of the trail are made easier or harder simply by the attitude I bring to them.

Meanwhile, my next race is scheduled for Sunday 7 March covering 18.1kms someplace I have never run before – Hinze Dam.

There’s always new ground to cover, isn’t there?

I’ll make it and so will you.

Stay safe,



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