How Product Management Has Helped Me Run a Half Marathon

In April 2019, I decided to pick up running shoes and commit to racing my first half-marathon (21 km) in under 2 hours. I was not much of an athlete when I was younger, so I didn’t take this decision lightly in my thirties. With a network of support, I was able to put a plan in place that would build my stamina and strength over time to achieve this goal. I was aiming to do so by the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon, which was last Sunday, Oct 20th, 2019.

5 months, 300 km, and 60 runs later I was amazed by the progress and performance I had achieved on the day of the race. My finish time was 01:46:30, and my average pace was 5:03 min/km. The journey itself was full of doubts and struggles. I recall being exhausted after my first 4 km with a 6:30min/km pace. Running has taught me a lot about myself and finding ways to skillfully overcome self-limiting beliefs. Teachings that I found to resemble learnings from my career in product management. As I reflect back, I want to share three most significant lessons from my product management career that helped achieve this goal.

1. Consistency Yields Results: we tend to underestimate how today’s effort could contribute to the larger goal. It’s especially hard when you have to break through new barriers or achieve things you have not done before. Once you build a robust process, trust that this work will lead you to your destination. I was doing 3 runs per week, each serving a different purpose. Long runs to improve stamina, speed runs to improve my pace, and benchmark runs to recover/evaluate weekly progress. I have only skipped two weeks in total over the course of 5 months; one for travel and another for being sick. Committing to this schedule and building the persistence needed to go through this work is what I believe has got me here today.

As a product manager, long term goals on your own product(s) need patience and consistent effort to bring about high growth. Stay focused on the process, ensure learnings are feeding back to it, and the result will follow.

2. Reflection Is As Critical As The Work Itself: sometimes in our professional and personal life, we get caught up with our day-to-day and forget where we need to go. The time I have to sit with myself to evaluate my progress has led me to the most significant growth. Being honest with myself is a chance to acknowledge my shortcomings and what I needed to improve on moving forward. 3 months into my training after achieving my first 15 km, my left knee was in a lot of pain. I could not run my next scheduled recovery run, and I had put the plan on pause. At that time, I was reading a blog about how to perfect your balance and investigate the most common causes of knees pain. I learned that my knee would compensate for weak muscle in the hip flexor and the buttocks. I immediately added workouts to my daily routine to prevent hurting myself again. Over three weeks, I slowly got back to my regular running schedule as a better and more mindful runner.

As a product manager, regular post-mortems and retrospectives are an essential part of any path to achieve building a successful product that users love. These learnings will teach you to understand your customer and your market needs better. If things fail, pause and use that time to your advantage to improve yourself, your product and your team building up to achieve an exceptional result.

3.Do The Work For The Right Reasons: as much as I loved to see myself achieve the half marathon goal, I realized I needed more than just a medal to keep myself motivated through cold mornings and rainy days. I needed a stronger reason to keep my momentum going. I started looking more in-depth into my why; I found out that running helps me stay focused for my job and personal life. It has given me the mental clarity to achieve more with less by being intentional about the work I do. I rewrote my goals to achieving better mental and physical health. The journey itself became more fun and less overwhelming. I saw a daily improvement in my goals while getting closer to my destination.

As a product manager, you must spend the right amount of time to understand the reasons you choose one goal/feature over the other. This ultimately will strengthen the trust and gain you the buy-ins you need from your stakeholders, aligning the team more effectively.

These concepts have made me a better product manager over the years, and I love seeing similar results in my own health. Yesterday’s race marks a new journey in my life to prioritize my mental and physical being to live better and happier. I am grateful for my physical ability, friends and family for cheering me on through this path. I would love to hear your thoughts and similar experiences.

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Product Leader & Entrepreneur based in Toronto. I help build and launch tech for various industries. Runner👟 Muay Thai🥊 Comedy🎤 Mindfulness🙏

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Baker Baha

Baker Baha

Product Leader & Entrepreneur based in Toronto. I help build and launch tech for various industries. Runner👟 Muay Thai🥊 Comedy🎤 Mindfulness🙏

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