In 2011, I traveled to Winnipeg, MB in central Canada to do a speaking engagement for a non profit group. The guy who invited me to speak was Albert Martens, a local philanthropist from Winnipeg. Albert was also a very accomplished marathon runner, having logged hundreds of marathons in countries around the world. I told Albert that we should do an impromptu marathon the day before I spoke. Albert arranged a 26.2 mile run for 5 of us including myself. The temperature on the morning we ran was a balmy -32c, which for us Americans is -26f.
On our run, I got into a discussion with one of the five runners. HIs name was Matt Duhane, a local Canadian bush pilot who flew people into very remote places in the Canadian north. Being a fan of cold weather and out of the way places, I asked Matt a lot of questions about his work. I then got a wild idea to see if he could get us a plane into a place called Churchill, which is known as the Polar Bear capital of the world. It is located about 750 miles north of Winnipeg on the western shore of Hudson Bay. My idea was for a group of us to venture to Churchill in the winter with the intent to run a full marathon and see Polar Bears in the wild. I called it the Polar Bear Marathon. Matt said he would work with me, and so Albert, Matt and I gave birth to a Polar Bear Marathon.
Two years later, November 20, 2012, fourteen of us ventured to Churchill to take place in the first ever Polar Bear marathon. Albert did a remarkable job of contacting people in Churchill to provide vehicle support, medical help if needed and most importantly, Polar Bear escorting. Polar Bears are the only known animal on earth that will instinctively attack man for no reason. Having bear chaperones was a must, especially in light of the fact that we were coming in at the end of Polar Bear migration season in Churchill. The chances we would run into a bear or two was pretty good.The weather on this day was very favorable, as the temperature was 4 degrees at start with very little wind. We had runners from Canada, the US and two from Germany. Our trip was photo documented by Birgit Duval, a German blogger and photo journalist. Her work can be found here: http://www.takkiwrites.com/churchill-der-tag-nach-dem-marathon/. Although we were spread out, all the runners had a great day and found there way back to town, completing the 26.2 miles. Albert and I brought up the rear of the pack, finishing in about 6.5 hours. We did not care about time. It was about the accomplishment and the relationships we made with each other.As I was on the plane back to Winnipeg, I thought to myself, “this is not just a marathon. It was a chapter in the lives of all 14 of us. We partook in something that had never existed. We inspired a northern Canadian town like they had never seen. The mayor of Churchill came out to support us. Two of the runners had never run a marathon before and were inspired to do so when they heard about what we had planned. It was so much more than just another marathon. It was an example of creating something that did not exist, using creativity and planning like we had never done.Transposing this on the world of business, this is exactly what great employees are looking for. They want their boss, manager or leader to be someone who inspires them to be more creative, take chances and use their skills in ways that they never have had to. As a leader or manger, let me ask you this: Thinking of the people you are responsible for, are you creating chapters in the book of their lives? Are you inspiring them to use their skills and talents in new ways that fully employes them? This is what top performing people want. If they don’t experience this under your watch, they will very likely find someone else to work for.