Monthly Archives: February 2012

A Lesson in Strength

By Stephanie Milam

Running a marathon is hard. Very hard. Not only does it take immense dedication to the physical training, but it requires the mental strength of which I have never before experienced. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s this mental strength that made me truly believe I can do anything.

The 2012 LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon was Sunday, February 19th, which was the first 26.2 miles I have ever run. I trained hard for 6 months and felt ready, but what I experienced during the race tested the limits of my mental will-power.

I began the race with a few friends from my training group and we all agreed to take it really easy for the first several miles through the South Austin part of the course. Because I live in South Austin, this was the most familiar part of the race for me, and I was having a good time.  Unfortunately this feeling did not last long.

By mile 7 I began to feel sick to my stomach. My stomach had gotten the best of me on a few runs during training, but it had never been a regular or predictable occurrence. Consequently I was becoming upset mentally and emotionally because I had done everything I could think of leading up to the race in order to avoid this situation.

Joining back up with the crowd of runners after taking a break, I felt better, but still not great. I told myself I would feel better soon, and to just keep running. I was most frustrated because my muscles felt strong and it was my stomach that was holding me back, and I just didn’t want to accept that. The next couple miles were a blur of discomfort and the mental challenge of keeping myself going. By mile 17, I was no longer concerned about my finishing time, because by now I just wanted to finish. I was disappointed because I had wanted so much to really enjoy the race, and it had instead become quite a struggle.

But then, finally, on mile 18 I actually felt good for the first time since mile 6. My stomach wasn’t killing me and I began to pick up the pace and run strong. I began passing other runners left and right – at last! This is what this race is supposed to feel like. As my legs pumped beneath me, I really started to soak it all in. I was able to now appreciate the struggle I went through during the middle of the race, and I was extremely grateful for how strong I now felt at the end.

As I ran through the UT campus for the last mile of the race, I just let it all go. I had experienced extreme lows and extreme highs, and I knew I was going to cross that finish line. I was happy and I just ran.

Crossing the finish line brought tears of joy to my eyes – I just ran a marathon, finished strong, and met my goal with a time of 4:31:22 despite some serious challenges along the way. My commitment to training had paid off.  It’s taught me that fully committing to something – whether it be work, a relationship, or a marathon – means accepting all of the guaranteed difficulties that come along with the benefits of your effort.

True mental strength is the commitment it to making it through a seemingly impossible challenge. Coming out on the other side of such a challenge provides the unyielding wisdom that you really can do anything you set your mind to.

My Advice on Career Day: Believe in Your Own Voice

By Jeanne Corrigan

Last year, I started volunteering for a non-profit called GENaustin. It’s a great organization that supports girls in making good choices as they navigate through adolescence. One of the activities that GENaustin sponsors is Career Week, an open forum between professional women and middle school girls.

I’ve signed up to speak and I’ve been thinking about what I might cover in my 15 minutes. I love the work we do at On Your Mark and I will talk about that but I also want to share my thoughts on communication because I think it’s so important in career success. Three points I’ll hit on are:

1. Listening is important but so is talking.
There’s a great blog post by Whitney Johnson about how business women sometimes hesitate to speak up to share their experience or own their expertise. When women listen more than we talk, we don’t contribute as much of our own value to the discussion. I love her summary – When we listen, we acknowledge others’ experience and expertise. When we talk, we acknowledge our own. Success depends on learning to do both.

I will encourage the girls to find something they’re interested in, learn all they can about it then challenge themselves to find ways to share what they know.

2. When you talk, do it well and with confidence.
As part of my work, I present findings and recommendations all the time, often to large groups. I’m comfortable with that so my focus is on the message, not my own performance. My advice to the girls will be to think about ways they can speak with more confidence and strength. Just putting themselves in the situation where they speak in front of people – like a speech class or theater group – is good practice. It’s an investment that’s sure to pay off, whether they want to become a scientist, teacher, financial genius or even a market researcher.

3. Ask yourself first, and then seek the input of others.
Many women seem to figure out what they think about a certain subject or problem by talking it through with other people. I identify with this because when I’m faced with a question or a decision, my first impulse is to pull people in to talk about it. I’ve learned that, for me, I have a stronger voice in the conversation when I pause, take a minute to really consider what I think and what’s most important to me and then seek others’ opinions.

I’m excited to meet these girls and talk about my career. But I’m equally excited to explore their strengths today and the paths they might take tomorrow.

Do Super Bowl Advertisers Get Female Humor?

By Crystal Markowski

In recent years there has been conversation around Super Bowl ads and their disregard for female audiences. Regardless of how sexist, crude, awesome, or ridiculous you think Super Bowl spots are, one thing is certain. Women are making up a larger portion of viewership for the NFL, and some advertisers are paying more attention to this growing audience.

While previewing the ads online (yes, you can do that now!), I was pleased to see one that was clearly targeted towards women. However, at the end of Dannon’s 30 second spot, my pleasure turned to disappointment. I had no laugh, not even an “I’m giggling in my head” reaction. The basic formula for the ad was to show a sexy man and sprinkle in some slapstick comedy. Though it was intended for women, this spot didn’t seem to actually consider women and how our sense of humor works.

To get their message across, advertisers shouldn’t just create an ad that shows a woman. They need to create one that speaks to her in her own language. Humor that appeals to a woman lets her laugh in an inclusive way. For her it’s about connecting through shared experiences and being able to say, “Oh! That happens to me too!” This weekend I’m hoping to see other female-targeted commercials that do a better job of connecting to women.

Tell us what you think. Does this spot get your sense of humor?