Training for an Ultra: The Biggest Project Management Test – Andrea Savignano
I spent the majority of the spring and summer training to run a 50k trail race, which equals approximately 31 miles. This race distance is commonly referred to as an ultramarathon (or an ultra), which is any distance above a standard marathon of 26.2 miles. This goal was at times too big to wrap my head around – I’m running how far? How long will that take me? Can I even do this?
Even the most meticulous plan isn’t always followed to a tee. So, adjustments are necessary. It’s important to not beat yourself up over a missed run or a week with less mileage than planned. One workout will not make or break your training. Shake it off and reset.
Training for this race made me realize the parallels to my job as a project manager at an ad agency. Here are five tips that can help you keep a project, or training plan, on track.
For race training that means finding a training plan that will work for you. Plans range in the amount of time, running frequency, and intensity. Essentially you need to be prepared to log the miles and stay healthy in order to develop the necessary fitness to run your race.
At Rinck, it means doing your homework on the client, and on the specific project. Review or prepare a brief with as much information as possible on exactly what needs to be done. Ask questions and get clarification. Meet with your team to establish which department is doing what. Establish the budget and timeline.
Trust your team
When I’m not running ridiculous distances, I’m a mother, partner, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. Those parts of life carry on whether I’m running or not. I have found that having a supportive partner, family, and friends is essential to keeping all the other parts of life going as normally as possible. I rely on my family and friends even more during a training cycle. I entrust them with the care of my daughter, and my own mental and emotional support.
As a project manager, it’s critical to trust that everyone on your team is getting their parts of a campaign done. Weekly status meetings provide a touchpoint to see where progress is being made, where the roadblocks are, and what additional information or resources are needed to keep a project moving along. Project management platforms (e.g., Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Workamajig) provide a place to track milestones and communications.
Things will not go to plan
A lot can happen over the course of a 5–6-month training plan: injuries, illness, family emergencies, etc. Even the most meticulous plan isn’t always followed to a tee. So, adjustments are necessary. It’s important to not beat yourself up over a missed run or a week with less mileage than planned. One workout will not make or break your training. Shake it off and reset.
Advertising campaign timelines almost never happen in a straight line. From kickoff to launch there can be many micro-adjustments made: budget reallocations, platform shifts, client contact changes, national and world events, etc. As carefully as you plan things out, be prepared for something to change and to adapt as you go.
Just keep going
There will be a bad run or a challenging week of training. It will be too hot, too cold, you will be dehydrated or depleted. The secret to successfully training for and running an ultra is to just keep moving forward (as long as you aren’t seriously injured, then call for help). I have to remind myself that as bad as things feel, “it almost always never gets worse” (Anton Krupicka, endurance athlete extraordinaire).
The same is sometimes true at work. Maybe things have gone off the rails and the launch date seems impossible to reach. Taking a deep breath and a quick screen break to reset does wonders to clear your head. Then you can come back and break things down into incremental, small, attainable steps to help regain control of an unruly project.
Remember It’s Worth It
Making it to a race starting line is an accomplishment in and of itself, regardless of how the actual race goes. One of my friends told me to remember that the race is a celebration of all the training, so enjoy it!
Seeing a campaign launch brings about a similar flurry of feelings: pride, satisfaction, and relief. Celebrate with your team!
Enjoy your success, but don’t get too comfortable – in running and advertising the next adventure isn’t far off.