The running community is a truly amazing thing.
You already know that running is a way to improve your health, challenge yourself mentally and physically and spend time with friends (new and old).
What you may not have realized is that, like many other sports, it can also be a way to connect with others professionally.
For decades golf has been a way of building client relationships and getting the ear of a boss.
Companies organize softball leagues as a way for employees to interact. It is a team-building exercise that fosters relationships between employees of all levels and across departments.
Other than a select few companies (typically those that are running-centric, like sneaker companies and running-related publications) most do not offer running as a company-sponsored sport.
Events like the Corporate Challenge are great and encourage employers to get their staff up and running.
But I think that most runners run apart from coworkers.
And in most cases, we don’t even know who the other runners are.
The discovery that a business contact is a fellow runner can help you build your relationship.
It provides common ground.
Racing and training is a shared experience. It is something that you want to talk about, so inevitably they will want to talk about it, too.
On a sort-of awkward telephone call with a business contact today, I mentioned that I have been working hard and putting in some pretty long days. He said that it is good to be focused, but just as important to do something for myself. He said, “Now is the time to be training for a triathlon.”
I think he was joking, but responded by saying that I am a runner and that I have been using outdoor running as a source of sanity and clarity.
He then chimed in that he is a runner too and that he ran the NYC Half last month.
We then realized that we’ve both crossed the finish line at the same two races so far in 2013, and that both times we finished within a minute of each other.
Instantly, the conversation went from awkward to super comfortable. This guy isn’t just a business contact that I sort-of know anymore. Now he’s a friend and fellow runner who works in my industry.
We’re even going to schedule a long training run for the New York City Marathon together.
This will give us hours together to get to know each other better as colleagues.
And it is a relationship and bond that may not have been built were we not also runners.
Moral of the story: when building a relationship with a business contact, search for common ground…even if it means running on it.