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Running While Corporate: When One Door Closes, Another Opens

In November of 2018, Corinne and I were scheduled to run The North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco. It’s an elite level race with very heavy competition in every event. I signed up for the half marathon and Corinne signed up for the marathon. While we would have loved to run the same event, the thought of our 4 and 7-year olds who were with us, touring around San Francisco on their own made us concerned that they were the perfect age for one of the new “youth start-up incubators” to pick them up so one of us had to hang out with them while the other raced.

I was coming off a 5th place finish in a 55K race and went into my training block with a lot of confidence. I worked heavily on speed, doing strides and intervals that helped me PR in the one mile at the end of a 14-mile run that served as my last training run before The North Face. (It may have been a downhill mile, don’t tell anybody!) And then the Camp Fire in Eastern California began. As the fire grew, the wind shifted and blew a heavy amount of smoke into the Bay Area. This created some of the worst air quality that San Francisco had ever seen. The SF health department started raising concerns about people even being outside. To make a long story short, The North Face event was cancelled.

We were disappointed to say the least. We had been talking the trip up to our boys for a month and when we told our 7-year old that we weren’t going, he started crying.  We had airline tickets, non-refundable hotel, hours and hours of training – all for what seemed to be nothing.

But, we came up with another plan for the weekend.  We took the boys to a museum in downtown Denver, got a hotel and had a staycation. It was a blast. Maybe not quite the epic trip that we had expected, but still so fun.  And, I was able to bank the airline tickets, found another destination race in an exotic location (Virginia is exotic, right?), and we retooled a plan to run the Ultra Race of Champions in May 2019. Plus, my parents are nearby and can watch the boys!

In business, we are constantly faced with setbacks. In the spring of 2018, one of my sales associates found out that a well-known company was going to add a large team of developers in Denver. We built a relationship with them and aligned ourselves perfectly to help them acquire the talent that they needed. We jumped through legal hoops to get an MSA, spent countless hours meeting with managers to understand what they needed, hours of recruiting time developing a list of “ready to go” candidates. And then, the client received a corporate directive that all of these roles were going to be hired as full-time employees instead of contract or contract to hire. My team doesn’t work on full time roles, so we had to pass it over to our full time team.

Again, it was very disappointing. My sales associate had spent months working on this at the expense of building relationships with other clients. She felt that she had really wasted her time and we had a number of conversations about what to do next. But, boy did she recover! She shifted her focus to other clients and pushed to build relationships quickly. One of the new clients began to show promise and because of her work and timing, she became uniquely positioned her to win an RFP where she became one of six vendors in a $15M per year program. A game changer for her business!

In the Outkast song “Ms. Jackson,” Andre 3000 states, “You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.” He easily could have been referencing The North Face race or my sales associate dealing with a client with changing directives. Just because you plan it, doesn’t mean it is guaranteed to happen. However, if you are flexible, refocus your priorities, stay positive, and keep your key activity high, then your next outcome will likely be different.

I would like to recognize the North Face Endurance Challenge race organization for donating all race food and prize money from the San Francisco event to the search and rescue professionals and victims of the Camp Fire. We were so glad that the race dues were put to good use.

Graham Shalvoy is a leader for Edgelink, a technology focused recruiting and staffing firm.  He is also a competitive trail runner, logging 60-70 miles per week.  His wife, Corinne, is also a competitive trail runner and is a Director of Talent for Cologix, a data center company.  Together they have two rowdy boys and Corinne and Graham hold on for dear life juggling it all.