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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Running and My Professional Self

Comments (7)

Yesterday, I got the following question via email: "I was wondering if you think running has had a long-term impact on your professional self? Does it help keep you focused and motivated while you work, or does it reduce the amount of time you could spend reading about business and financial trends?"

This question hit an interesting chord with me – both because of the general nature of the question as well as the "or" part (e.g. the specificity of the "reduce the amount of time you could spend reading about business and financial trends.")

Running has definitely had a long-term impact on my professional life.  I categorize it as a hugely positive long-term impact.  While I’m physically healthier, I’m also mentally healthier as I find running to be my equivalent of meditation.  I need time away from everything on a regular basis to clear my head, and running is my time for this.  While I used to run with headphones, I now run naked (no headphones) so I just let whatever is in my head wander around.  I find that after an hour, the wandering becomes either (a) very interesting or (b) non-existent. 

Those of you that know me know that I am extremely intrinsically motivated.  I’m not motivated by the external scorecard (what other people think of me, what I get public recognition for); I care entirely about the internal scorecard (what I think of myself and what I’ve done.)  Running gives me extra time to ponder my internal scorecard without distractions.

I’ve also written about my split introvert / extrovert personality.  I need time alone.  I don’t get very much of it.  Without it, I eventually start to melt down.  Running gives me regular jolts of alone time that rapidly recharge my extrovert battery.

I could continue for a while on the benefits side.  However, as I puzzled through the cost side ("what does running cost me?") I couldn’t come up with anything substantive.  With regard to the specific question asked by the blog reader, it has no impact on the time I have to read anything as I already read much more than "I need to" for business.  I also substitute other stuff quickly – I watch very little television, I don’t have kids – so running even 10 hours a week barely cuts into the time spent by others on their kids, TV, other stuff. 

There is one area that I’m trying to figure out better, which is "recovery."  This has been in my face this week – I ran a marathon on Sunday and have been on the road continuously since the previous Thursday.  Monday was a tough day – I was tired and sore from the marathon.  The second day after the marathon is always the hardest for me as exhaustion really sets in.  Usually by the third day I’m more or less back to normal.  However, during this trip I’ve been nauseous (ranging from low grade annoying to "oh shit, where’s the bathroom") regularly through the day (and night) all the way through last night.  I feel fine right now, but we’ll see how the day goes.  While this isn’t impacting my professional life (I’ve been fully engaged in all the stuff I’m doing this week), it’s definitely been harshing my calm in my downtime.  Fortunately, I get home tonight from this road trip and have a nice quiet weekend in front of me, so I expect I’ll feel 100% by Monday, but it’s been a little strange (and physically uncomfortable in an unusual way) this time around.

  • http://www.mapmyrun.com Kevin C

    Brad – I also relish the moments of quitetude when out on the road listening to your own breathing, feeling the pace of the world around you, free of the buzz of the blackberry. Many of my best ideas came from the clear headedness of a good run. Any reason you decided to go sound free? I find myself drifting more into ideas when there is a soundtrack…

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I tried iPhone free a while ago and realized I loved it. I run in the mountains a lot so the sights and sounds are very different than the city.

  • http://internalpigdog.blogspot.com/ Brian

    I also can't imagine my professional (or personal) life without running. At some point, it became intrinsic to who I am. I run in NYC, so there's less of the getting away from it all, yet even running down the Hudson I eventually slip within myself and barely notice the cars inching their way along the West Side Highway. Sometimes, I work out story ideas — I'm a reporter –but often I just enjoy the time alone. Since I run quite a bit, I'm frequently asked, “What do you think about all that time?” My usual answer: “Everything. Nothing.” Classic traits of distance runners are introspection and the need to figure out life's riddles.

    As for the costs, I do believe there are some. My training now takes a fair bit of time, and it also is at the level where I'm sometimes physically exhausted at work. But then, like you, I struggle w proper recovery to make sure I'm not spaced out.

    BTW, excellent to hear you lost the headphones.

  • http://www.davehodson.com Dave Hodson

    I find that running marathons is quite helpful in my professional life – my avg training period for a marathon is 16 weeks. I recently ran the Portland Marathon and looking back over the training, etc is really satisfying. It has taught me to put off short-term gratification and helped me with goal setting, etc.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Congrats on Portland Dave!

  • Niall Smart

    Brad, I find there is a difficult balance to strike. Too much volume / intensity leaves me brain-wasted and saps my creativity. Too little, and my focus and attention span goes out the window. 10hrs/week sounds about right. You might be interested in this author's thoughts on same: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0307269191

  • Brian

    I also can't imagine my professional (or personal) life without running. At some point, it became intrinsic to who I am. I run in NYC, so there's less of the getting away from it all, yet even running down the Hudson I eventually slip within myself and barely notice the cars inching their way along the West Side Highway. Sometimes, I work out story ideas — I'm a reporter –but often I just enjoy the time alone. Since I run quite a bit, I'm frequently asked, "What do you think about all that time?" My usual answer: "Everything. Nothing." Classic traits of distance runners are introspection and the need to figure out life's riddles.

    As for the costs, I do believe there are some. My training now takes a fair bit of time, and it also is at the level where I'm sometimes physically exhausted at work. But then, like you, I struggle w proper recovery to make sure I'm not spaced out.

    BTW, excellent to hear you lost the headphones.

  • Dave Hodson

    I find that running marathons is quite helpful in my professional life – my avg training period for a marathon is 16 weeks. I recently ran the Portland Marathon and looking back over the training, etc is really satisfying. It has taught me to put off short-term gratification and helped me with goal setting, etc.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Congrats on Portland Dave!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I tried iPhone free a while ago and realized I loved it. I run in the mountains a lot so the sights and sounds are very different than the city.

  • Kevin C

    Brad – I also relish the moments of quitetude when out on the road listening to your own breathing, feeling the pace of the world around you, free of the buzz of the blackberry. Many of my best ideas came from the clear headedness of a good run. Any reason you decided to go sound free? I find myself drifting more into ideas when there is a soundtrack…

  • Niall Smart

    Brad, I find there is a difficult balance to strike. Too much volume / intensity leaves me brain-wasted and saps my creativity. Too little, and my focus and attention span goes out the window. 10hrs/week sounds about right. You might be interested in this author's thoughts on same: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0307269191

  • http://www.theautopedia.com Max

    Running make people healthier and has an impact on their whole life.

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