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Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Laura Diepeveen
Laura Diepeveen Published at

How the R&G team ran 204km to raise funds for charity

Imagine. One day, after a long day at work, you notice you’re having difficulty pronouncing words. Before long, you discover your fine motor skills are not the same as they used to be. Within two years, you can no longer speak the way you used to. You cannot walk or cycle without losing your balance. Eventually you have to give up your profession because walking, talking and typing are all too difficult… This is what Ataxia can do to you.

And two years ago, this rare, little-known disease was diagnosed in one of our colleagues. On Friday 12 April, he left R&G Global Consultants because of it.

To transform our sense of powerlessness into positive action, a team of us decided to organise a relay run from Goes to Duiven (both in the Netherlands) to raise awareness and funds for research into Ataxia. A challenge that would cover a distance of 204 km and take 18 hours to complete.

As our departing colleague was one of the ‘fathers’ of R&G and of our core product ‘Stable Operations’, it took us no time to decide to name this relay the ‘Stable Run’. We made it a point of organising it as if it were a client project – to the highest quality and standards, rooted in our core belief of creating stability. This inspired us to share our reflections of the event…

Reflection #1: The power of resolution

Although people are often full of good ideas, many of these never get to completion. That’s because simply having an inventive, well-reasoned idea, isn’t always enough to get everybody on board. Turning ideas into actions also depends the resolve of those who’ll have to take them. More often than not, this all comes down to the back story of why the idea was tabled in the first place. If it’s just a nice-to-have, the level of resolve will probably be quite low. But if there is a good hard reason, such as averting disaster, resolve is strong and the energy and motivation to make it happen are sky high.

This is how we felt when confronted with losing our colleague. It was imperative to take action. Not doing anything wasn’t an option. The initial announcement of the relay run idea immediately struck a chord with everyone in our team. There was no need to explain the pain or the sense of powerlessness we felt. It wasn’t necessary to explain why this was a good idea. There was no need to first discuss the details. The goal was understood and the resolve to take on this challenge was unanimous.

Reflection #2: There’s nothing to fear but fear itself

After a project’s issues and opportunities have been identified, that’s when feelings of both excitement and fear take hold. Excitement for the opportunities that lie in wait. Fear of the unknown. Fear of having no idea of how the transition to the future state will be realised.

That’s how we felt once we’d resolved to take on our challenge. All we knew was that it had to happen. And we felt it had to be perfect. No pressure…

After the initial high of the “Let’s make this happen!” we got to discussing our concerns and possible issues and risks. There was Health: were there enough experienced runners among us, was everyone fit enough to run over 15km? There was Safety: is it safe to run on country roads through the night? There were so many reasons why this could fail. How could we possibly tackle it all?

The biggest hurdle to taking that first step towards change is so often the fear of the unknown. When we can’t clearly see all the details of the path that lays before us, we fear all the monsters lurking in the shadows. And that can be paralysing. It’s a vicious circle, as not taking that first step will prevent you from learning what you need to eventually master the steps that will follow.

The first step is both the most difficult and the easiest part of any transition. It’s difficult because it means facing – and conquering – your fears. But if you remember that it’s only a single step, it can be easy. You don’t have to perform this first step to perfection. You don’t need to know every detail along the road to the end goal before you start. It’s OK to have failures, as long as you treat them as opportunities to learn. And then every step brings you closer to perfection. You just need to get it done. And so we did.

Reflection #3: When fears become failures, oh wait – learning opportunities!

Even though we’d braced ourselves for difficult times ahead, and eliminated expectations that all would be perfect, the reality of dealing with things when they didn’t go to plan was still tough. After carefully planning the route, the runners schedule, the changeover locations and the team instructions, the first 5 to 7 kilometres were still chaotic, to say the least!

We all set off to run the first kilometre together. Blissfully unaware that the support vans (for collecting and transporting resting runners to their handover points) were not able to leave Goes city centre via the same route as the runners. Shortly after we’d completed 1.5 km we realised something wasn’t right. Where were the vans to pick us up? This situation was not foreseen (with hindsight – how could we have missed it..?), and we hadn’t set operating rules to tell us what to do.

If a situation like this had arisen in a client project, we would almost certainly have advised our client to take a break. Step away from the chaos, regroup and start again with a new plan. So, of course we followed our own advice and regrouped… yeah right – if only we had!

Amid all the chaos, the runners who were scheduled to take on the next two individual stages decided (with group consensus) that they would just run on ahead and we would eventually catch up when the vans found us. For some reason, they assumed they’d only each need to run one extra kilometre for us to sort things out..
As it turned out, they’d covered 5 kilometres together before we finally caught up with them in the van. Ah well, just another learning opportunity – we’ll do better next time..!

Reflection #4: Celebrate every victory along the way

We finally started to get back on track and settle into the planned routine. During the first few kilometres, most of us were still caught up in the rush of excitement, but soon we all fell into a more settled condition of focussing on our task. Then the energy rushing through our veins in the initial stages began to subside. Most probably because the realisation we were still so very far from the finish line was starting to daunt us..

Then, almost without noticing, we suddenly found ourselves at the 50k handover point! As the runner of that stretch was nearing those of us in the support van, we realised, just in time(!), what a milestone that was! Luckily, we discovered you don’t need to prepare to celebrate – as it turns out, the hardest thing is actually just remembering to do it!

Even though we were still 154km from our finish line. Even though we felt we’d hardly done anything yet. Even though we hadn’t yet started feeling the pain of the effort … we celebrated, we danced and we sang. And this was the perfect way to revive the team’s energy.

Reflection #5: Finishing with a flourish

The 144 kilometres that passed from the 50k mark to the final 10 km stretch had us laughing, singing, dancing, hugging (I went from never having hugged my colleagues to hugging everyone numerous times in one night), high-fiving, massaging sore muscles and even some sleeping (believe it or not). How any of us managed to sleep on a freezing van floor was beyond me!

The experience was both painful and amazingly beautiful. It took forever, and yet it was over in a flash, all at the same time.

To symbolically show we couldn’t have made it without each and every single one of the team, each member ran through a guard of honour during their final solo stretch, accompanied by a carefully (read: in last-minute panic) selected song.

For the very final part, we all ran together, with our departing colleague (who this was all about) in our midst. We tried singing, we tried running together at the same pace, we tried filming while running, we tried fighting back the tears. We probably weren’t as good at any of these things as we would have liked. But it didn’t (and still doesn’t) matter. We achieved our goal. As a team, we ran 204 kilometres and enjoyed every painful bit of it.

We are still raising funds for ATAXIA, your donation would be highly appreciated!  Click to donate 

Laura Diepeveen is Business Process Consultant for R&G Global Consultants in The Netherlands

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