Week 21: eating the elephant

Women can’t do everything at the same time, we need to understand milestones in our lives come in segments – Madeleine Albright.

My mother’s partner has a saying that is wheeled out every now and then: “You eat an elephant one bite at a time”. This refers to when you are faced with an enormous challenge – the best way to overcome it is to slowly plough in, bite-sized piece by bite-sized piece. Then the seemingly insurmountable becomes somewhat manageable.

As a Prince2 project manager, this is a common occurrence to me. Long term or complex projects must be broken up into milestones for a few reasons:

  • They are useful for marking the completion of key activities (and are often payment triggers in contracts)
  • Breaking a project into time or outcome based milestones allows for early indications of any concerns.
  • And particularly, any critical path deliverables can be monitored closely.

How many milestones should there be? There is never a set number that is a rule of thumb. Too many or too few lose their value, but there should be enough to gauge how the total project is progressing.

What has this got to do with running, or with life? Heaps!

When I first mapped out my ultra training schedule, it was a little insurmountable to me that I would be able to run 50kms, or to train for 28 weeks. All that running day in day out – how would I manage it? How could I fit it in? Surely my body would not permit it?

I broke my training up into milestones of weekly periods, which were actually fortnightly periods (one long mileage week, one short mileage week). I also identified and registered for a number of milestone ‘fun runs’ throughout the earlier stages of the training. This would give me short-term goals to achieve.

The tougher period has been the current one. No fun runs or mini-milestones. So how have I been eating the elephant? Creating other targets or uncovering them as I go, and celebrating them in some fashion:

  • Run the same distance a tiny bit quicker the next fortnight
  • Count how many kilometres I have run to date (now over 1000kms as of this weekend – a surprising milestone)
  • Learn something new technically, nutritionally or physiologically and incorporate it into my training, etc.

I now have less than 8 weeks until the Tan Ultra, and have financially registered for the race now – so all of the mental and physical commitment has been backed up financially! After next weekend I will be travelling with my mother on holidays for most of July through Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, England, Belgium and France. This will reinvigorate my running as I head towards race day. I love running in other cities, and cannot wait to lace up in what will be summer! No running thermals required! It will be all shorts and singlets for me soon. Yay!

Let me come back to that quote from Madeleine Albright for a moment. Her statement resonates with me. I most definitely cannot do or have it all, no matter how many milestones. It is a bit like the project quality triangle.

If time is pressured, there will be impacts on costs and quality. If I try to run too much, add too many milestones in, fit too many things into my life – I will spread myself too thin and all aspects will suffer (quality).

So I will keep eating this elephant while I continue to nibble at all of the other goals in my life. Slowly and mindfully.

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4 Responses to Week 21: eating the elephant

  1. Kristine (Kipwil) Willems says:

    I cannot WAIT to see your new running pics in other countries! That would be AMAZING!

  2. Carol says:

    And you must take selfies of you running too 😉 for cross-cultural purposes of course!!

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