Friday, 20 January 2012

Stick 'em up! Your running or your job?

The past 6 months I've been running more than I ever have before. It's not only made me a better runner--I was thrilled when I started running an average of 40-45 miles a week in December--but renewed my love for running. I realized I wanted to continue challenging myself so I signed up for my first marathon AND triathlon. And of course, I still have that pesky 2 hour mark to break in the half!

All this has been possible for one main reason: I've been on a career break since September. I'd been working long hours and become frustrated with the work I was doing and the people I was working for. After 6 years it felt like the right time to go....and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to take some time off.

My plan was simple. To recover and relax, and take some time to think about what I should do next. Although I had a few random interviews and conversations, I didn't want to actively start looking for a job until after the new year. That meant I could really take a good chunk of time off until I started working again. And run, run, run!

But just before Christmas I got a job offer. Suddenly, I needed to make a decision about going back to the working world.

I spent a lot of time thinking about it over the holidays. For the past few weeks I've been negotiating as well as meeting a few of the people I'd be working with. So I can't stall any longer, and next week I have to let them know if I'm going to take the job.

Never, ever did I think that running would be a consideration when it came to deciding about my next job. It's a great opportunity but there would be long hours and travel. The reality is this job will average about 60 hours a week. I've done that before but now these questions keep playing over and over again in my head...

When will I fit in all my running? At my old job I never managed more that about 23 miles a week. How will I ever fit 45 miles in?

Even if I did fit 45 miles in, would I just be completely exhausted all the time?

What if I really can't find the time to run at all? What happens with my marathon? Or my triathlon?

What if taking this job means that running is no longer a priority?

Will this be the beginning of the end of my running life?

Some people might think that I'd be crazy not to take the job. But I've actually thought--maybe this is my chance! I can change my career! Try something new! I can have a job that allows me to ALWAYS make running a priority and leave those crazy hours behind.

But these kinds of thoughts can take years to ponder and now I'm down to a few days. I can't help feeling a little bit like I'm being held up and forced to choose between two incredibly important things. running or my job.

What would you do?



  1. Chin up, it may not be such a big dilemma as you think! If this new job is a good life choice, you'll know it already in your gut. And if you are passionate enough about running, you will always find time for it. If you can't find time, you'll make time. There will always be other things you can give up instead that will be less of a wrench. Take it from someone who works similar hours, and has managed to squeeze in a fairly demanding running habit!

    1. Thanks for your comments, and I'm glad to hear that you've been able to make it work! I've never had this combination of working hours and running, and I don't know how I will respond physically and mentally!

      But you're right, if it means enough then I'll find time for it!

  2. Hi - so here is what happened to me and you can draw from that. I was a slow back of pack happy to finish runner and got interviewed for my "dream job" days after a strong (for me) Athens Marathon finish. I got the job and had an overseas induction before I began. Packed run kit! Everyone I met said I wouldn't be able to run marathons and do my job. It was not a great positive vibe. I tried to run while travelling but it was humid so it's not a good environment for a slow runner!
    I used the money from the new job to get a good gym membership and a personal trainer. I decided to train in the morning to give the best of my energy to me. I scheduled run times in my lunch break and after work. In reality the lunch runs rarely happened as I manage too many staff and work in an emergency environment. Someone always wants something. After work I was too tired. The PT sessions in the morning were great and I scheduled sessions in the evening at Run School / Nike Town runners and put them in my calender.

    Due to work stress caused by a bad incident, strangely I developed a condition that blistered the soles of my feet :( I couldn't walk. This is really specific to my situation, the kind of manager I had etc. Because of this, I had to scale back from Istanbul marathon to Istanbul 15km. Like you when I did my year end review, this really hurt.

    Because I missed that goal I feel running has become even more important to me than before as you can tell from my tweets! I have to be very strict about training in the mornings by running to work. Sometimes having to work through lunch can throw your fuel and whole run schedule otherwise! I always try and get out at 5pm so I have some time to myself before the long run weekend.

    I find that I am really tired in the evenings so it impacts my social life and my night shift volunteering A LOT. So yes you do give other things up but that affect you too. Also I find that with a partner running different schedules we might not see each other with quality time a lot.

    My long term plans, put enough finances in place to move to a less demanding job, and train to be a personal trainer. I've decided I want to work with people positively and I will change the world through my volunteer work and keep running for charities.

    Sorry that went on Forever!! But it's something quite close to me.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with me, Rowena. I can totally imagine how job stress can affect your running and general well-being!

      Your long term plans sounds great and I'd love to do something similar one day. But like you would probably have to work for a while before I can move on to a new career.

      I know you'll get there one day! Sounds wonderful!

  3. I graduated in Law in 2009, soon after finishinig my first marathon. I went to a few events hosted by big law firms during that time and got discouraged by meeting their trainees and hearing their experiences of 'working in a million pound contract' through the night. These people were excited but I thought I would never run again or see my family. By the time I hit my forties I'll be fat and stressed. No way!
    Obviously you have to make ends meet and pay your bills, running and especially triathlon aren't cheap. Gladly I work as a train driver and it is very reasonable although weird hours but it pays ok and my wife works too. I get to see my kids everyday, I train quite a bit, about 10hours a week and I am a much better person for that. It's about quality of life for me. You only live once and you have to make every day count while you have health.
    I hope I never regret my decision. @braziliangunner

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Rodrigo--very inspiring. I think you have to be very brave to make that kind of choice, especially after you spent all that time studying for a law degree!

      I hope to find that kind of balance one day...I guess for me it is a question of when as it would be a major career change for me.

      It sounds like you already have no regrets about your decision! :)

  4. This is such a tough decision. I've always been a work-to-live rather than a live-to-work person. I never imagined I'd be a live-to-run person, but somehow I am now! I'm still a student, although doing a PhD which I get paid for and treat like a job. As I'm only in the first year it's not been too stressful so far, so I'm still able to fit in marathon training. But I know that over the next couple of years it will get more and more stressful and there will be more work and longer hours. I've accepted that occasionally my running will have to take a backseat, but at the same time I'll try to do everything I can to ensure it's still a priority. At the moment I do my weekday runs in the morning. Although it's difficult to get up it's nice to think that it's done. Plus, if something comes up at work and I have to stay late for any reason then I'm not disappointed about missing a run. I'm sure that you'll find the time for your running, although it will be difficult. I know some people who work crazy hours (night shifts etc) and still manage to get their running fix! Good luck making your choice :-)

    1. Thanks your your comments. I totally know what you mean--I never thought I'd be a live-to-run person, either!

      You're right, there are so many people out there with tough jobs AND families and they still find a way to make it work. I've been so spoiled the last few months that I think a busy job has just forced me to think about what my priorities are.

  5. I didn't realise you'd been on a career break, what a fantastic opportunity!

    It's amazing though how much a change in situation can change our priorities...I always used to be incredibly driven by my work, and defined myself by my job. It was who I was. Since discovering running though, I've found that's really changed - I define myself through my running now and I'm seriously considering a complete career change which although would pretty much halve my salary, I think would make me a much happier and more satisfied person - I feel so disconnected in my job at the moment, and think I need to be working in a field that is more connected with the running (although don't think I'd actually have any more time!).

    At the moment, including my commute, I have a minimum of a 55 hour week, although not having children, or having to travel abroad for work makes it much easier for me to get the miles in that it is for many. I tend to go out late during the week (10pm-ish) but agree with the other posters - if you need to, want to, love to run, you'll find the time, although of course, it might mean missing out on other things (enough sleep for one) ;)

    Wish you the best of luck in making your decision, and look forward to seeing how things work out for you x

    1. Thanks so much for your comments, Naomi. I did notice that you ran very late at night....which is an amazing commitment to running!

      I'm the same--my career has always come first! But you're totally right. If it means enough to me then I will find a way to make sure I can still run. Even if I don't sleep any more! :)

      A career change is something I'd definitely consider. It's just the timing that I'm unsure about!