This weekend, I’m facing a big challenge. I’m running my first marathon: the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. Not only that, I’ve set a difficult goal for myself: I want to be in the top 5% of runners, with an average pace of 4.20 min/km. I have many reasons for challenging myself this way:
1. It’s life. Growing up in Cameroon, Africa, village life didn’t include any form of transportation except walking and running. We lived in a mountainous area, and it wasn’t uncommon for my mother and I to trek two hours one way to visit the farm. I quickly developed a high tolerance for the lower oxygen levels associated with running. I ran in high school, and when I went to Ottawa University in 2001, I naturally began running in their cross-country program, becoming one of their top performers. Only my desire to focus on academics made me stop. (Incidentally, when I run, I listen to 90s techno or Kizomba music. The 90s techno is straight from my childhood. We didn’t have TV, and our only modern music source was the radio. Somehow the dial always ended up on the techno station!)
2. It’s family inspiration. My mother is in her 70s, but she doesn’t let that slow her down. She still lives in an African village, and she walks everywhere. I want to keep physically fit, as she does. One of my older brothers also rouses me. Last year, he traveled from his home in California to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania – the highest point in Africa. He had no formal training – just his home village hiking days. I also think running brings people together. The half marathon this Sunday will unite more than 15 family members and friends to cheer me on.
3. It’s business. Running helps me get into my zone. While running, I think more clearly, feel inspired, and find solutions. In fact, two of my recent business ideas came while running: We will be investing in Ivory Coast and Congo businesses this year. Running helps me think outside the box – and, as my chief business advisor David Smith (from Silicon Valley Durant) recently said during one of our regular business update phone calls, “Running a marathon and running a company have many similarities.” Running helps me change the world, one step at a time.
4. It helps me lend a helping hand. While running with the Nike Toronto Running Club, I realized that unlike other sports, which require purchasing equipment, running is the perfect sport for cash-strapped Africa. I believe I can make an impact on a continent through this sport; I’ll be forming African running clubs soon. And more than that: Karen Francis, director of Mathew’s House, asked me to run for her charity this weekend. What a good cause it is! Mathew’s House helps people pull themselves out of difficult life circumstances to live self-sufficient lives. Yet another way running impacts the world in a positive way.
5. It makes me aspire. Every year, I set new goals for myself, and then achieve them. Running a half marathon – and doing it in under 90 minutes, among a group of 10,000 runners from around the world – was one of my top goals for 2017. Next year, one of my goals is running a full marathon.
I love running, It challenges me, inspires me, and (I hope) helps me inspire others. And this race – it’s like an Africa “START” button. My drive and commitment to the race is the same drive and commitment I have for telling the world what Africa has to offer: Some of the world’s greatest long distance runners, yes. But also diversity, resources, and abundance.
Yes, it’s been 15 years since I ran. Yes, I only started running again a few months ago. I believe I can meet this challenge – and then exceed it. Africa can meet the world’s business challenges, too, and I have no doubt, it will exceed them. What challenges can you create for yourself today?
My Training by the Numbers:
* Trained in less than 90 days.
* Ran more than 400k in 28 SHLR (8 Speed Run, 11 Home Runs, 9 Long Runs, 4:37 Average). * More than 11 intense workouts.
* 2 yoga sessions.
* 2 Running Technique Academy sessions.
* 1 full body/muscle massage.
* 72 hours, total training.
Special thanks to Nike Toronto for the excellent training program – especially to coaches Britt and Inge, and to pacers Brandon, Scott, Adam, and Michelle. Thank you to my business partner, Marc Andre Hart, and my amazing board of directors for their tremendous support and encouragement. Special thanks also goes to Karen Francis, Mareika Muller, Kristina for helping me put my ideas together, my mom, my amazing sister-in-law Tata Catherine, and everyone coming to see me run this Sunday.