On a dark Monday night in 1989 I am gasping for breath and I don’t think I can run any faster, I am now at 100% of my racing ability, yet this is only supposed to be a club training night!Running - back in the day

I have just arrived in Colchester in the UK after a couple of years in Berlin.  I have joined Colchester’s athletics club so I knew I would be stepping up but crikey this is tough!  I was trying to keep up with the elite runners and I was just about keeping the fluorescent stripes on their running kit in sight.  My fear and motivation is if I don’t keep up I will get lost!

At 33yrs old I had not reached my potential with my running and I was determined to do so, hell I was going to go further than my potential.  I was only going to do this by training with people who were better than me.  (A tactic which I have used in both my careers to reach my potential, and then to kick on and go further)

As a leader, coach, mentor and a trainer, I feel that supporting people to reach their potential is a key aspect of leadership.

Ever since leaving school at 15, I have been on this journey (both in my career in the Army and the one that I have been in since 1996, supporting people with learning disabilities)  I must admit it has been – and still is – great fun seeing how far I can stretch myself and what I can achieve.

I hope these thoughts and ideas will support you on your journey too.  (You may even be tempted to get those running shoes on)

Through running this is how I aimed to reach my potential and go further (each bullet point can also be applied to your work):

  • Running with the best and those who were better than me. I wanted to learn their techniques and from their mental attitude.  What are their secrets?  I was going to find out!
  • Do something no one else is doing – there were plenty of athletes at the club doing 5000m on the track, however,  at one race meeting  they had no one to do 3000m steeplechase and although I had never done one before, I gave it a go.
  • Keep out of the comfort zone. It is all too easy to get comfortable with what you are doing (you are cruising) but as someone once said ‘if it was easy everyone would be doing it.’
  • Train harder than everyone else. In work and sport everything comes back to having a strong work ethic.  Top Tip?  Get up early each day.
  • When fear and doubt is ok. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said do something each day that frightens you.  So feel the fear and do it anyway.   Let’s face it, what is the worst that can happen if it doesn’t work out?

5 commitments I think you need to make to fulfil your potential and go further:

  1. Make a plan. For each quarter I had a plan of objectives I wanted to achieve for Track, Road Running, Cross Country etc.
  2. As soon as you complete one objective make sure you have another equally challenging objective ready in your sights
  3. From the 1 January 2016, work to improve every aspect of your work by 5% – between now and 1st January work out how you will do this and then aim to achieve this annually.
  4. At the end of each task, meeting, presentation, project etc. score yourself out of 10 then strive to beat your scores on every occasion. Don’t worry if you fall short on occasion, the fact you have made this commitment is a guarantee you will succeed.
  5. Always… aim to be better than you were yesterday.

How can you support people to reach their potential?

  • Inspire them – tell them what you think about their potential
  • Find out what their hopes, dreams and aspirations are
  • Find challenging projects that will stretch them
  • Be there for them with constant feedback, guidance and encouragement
  • Share your networks – introduce them to people you think can help them fulfil those dreams and aspirations

Footnote:  I never did beat those elite runners ahead of me but after a year or so I was able to keep up with them on training sessions without feeling as if my lungs were going to burst as they did that November night in 1989.


26 years later from that night in 1989 I am still striving to fulfil my potential as a runner.  In August 2016 I will be 60.  Before I reached my 40th birthday my goal was to run under 7.5 minutes for 1.5 miles which was for the British Army’s Basic Fitness Test.  Really I just wanted to be able to say I could run under 5 minutes (it was an ego thing) I did it with 2 seconds to spare!!

Now as I approach my 60th birthday (and again for my ego) I want to run under 10.5 minutes for 1.5 miles,  this is the time set for soldiers under 28yrs old.  I am also training to get fit for my annual trip to Whitby on the North East Coast of England (we call it #Whitbyfit) to do my favourite route up to Whitby Abbey.

So from December I will share with you a monthly blog post of training schedules, progress reports and running tips as I work towards my August goals