Where marathoning meets professional development

Long haired woman wearing grey sweater and black pants sits in red chairIf you stop by my office desk around noon on a given day (and I’m not running a WinSLAMM or HydroCAD model), you’re likely to find I’m running outside over my lunch break. One of my biggest passions outside of the workplace is running marathons. At first glance, these two interests—engineering and marathon-running—seem very separate. Eventually, I realized there are certain traits that complement each other that I use to be successful at both.

Trial and error/work ethic

With a STEM background, it’s easy to use theory and data to make sense of what you’re doing. Sometimes you have to go through trial and error to learn. This is often how I feel when working on orifice/weir designs in HydroCAD; no two stormwater ponds are identical. It’s the same reason why marathons are more interesting than 5Ks—you have to try out different ways of fueling/hydrating yourself during a race until you find a method that works specifically for you. Having a strong work ethic and problem-solving mentality allows me to learn from and evaluate my mistakes. In turn, this helps develop skills over time that, through repetition, eventually become instinctive knowledge—very useful in both marathoning and engineering.

Goal setting/using time efficiently

When it comes to setting a goal for a project deadline or race time, I would be lost without my planner. When I’m training for a marathon, I have set weeks where I have to run more than others, but I always balance training around work and my weekly to-do lists. I’ll look at a given week in my planner and see I have a work meeting at noon, so I won’t do a run at lunch and instead run more right after work. Or if I have a dentist appointment after work, I’ll run a bit longer over lunch. I often have a plan to make the most of my time each day, but if something comes up, I often go with the flow and adjust to the task thrown at me. This ability to be adaptable while still keeping track of my goals and deadlines has definitely helped me across multiple facets of my life.

Woman wearing blue running gear and hat runsSwitching perspectives

I sometimes find myself overthinking on work projects (maybe when I’ve had too much coffee that morning). When I go on a running break, I find it often helps me turn off my “analytical” brain momentarily and allows me to change gears. Then when I come back into the office, I feel more motivated and a different idea or thought process clicks within my mind. This mental shift often allows me to find solutions to tough challenges.

Working with a team

Teamwork can propel us forward. If I see something as a red flag on a project, I’ll often bring it up to one of my coworkers so we can bounce our ideas back and forth out loud to make better sense of the problem. Working together helps us find solutions neither of us may have come to alone. Similarly, if I need to get a longer run in on the weekends for marathon training but have low motivation to do it, I’ll often go to the local running club in downtown Madison so I can run with a group of people. This helps my long runs go by faster, and plus I get to socialize. Working together as part of a team helps get the best results from everyone involved—both in running and engineering.

Running makes me a better engineer and engineering makes me a better marathon runner. Both take time and patience to be successful, but if you enjoy the process doing the little things each day, it feels more rewarding. Fostering passions outside of work can lead to professional growth you never could have foreseen initially.

Young woman with long curly hairKiera Depies is an Engineer working in Mead & Hunt’s Environment and Infrastructure group. She’s passionate about providing innovative, sustainable solutions to clients that elevate communities. When not at work, you can find Kiera training for her next marathon, the 2020 Chicago Marathon in October.

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