Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

StrengthsFinder 2.0

Seeing as this is a running blog, I don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about my day job. (Except that time they paid my entry for the Capitol 10,000. That was sweet!)

Suffice it to say that while it’s a good job — probably even a great job — it’s very corporate and kind of complicated and probably not all that interesting to explain to a bunch of runners.

But, every so often my company does something cool that actually is easy to explain to outsiders. No, I’m not talking about the deck parties where they bring in a bunch of Texas microbrews, although those are indeed very cool. I’m talking about stuff that I can apply to running.

This week, a bunch of people in my group are participating in a book club based on Gallup/Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0. If you’re not familiar, it’s one of those books with an accompanying test that purports to tell you something about your personality and therefore your strengths, or talents, in the workplace. It’s the kind of activity that some people love and some people hate, where the people who hate it probably have the most to benefit. (You know, like speedwork.)

We’ll be meeting this Thursday around lunch to talk about our individual strengths and how they apply to work, but I decided to do some early homework with my own “talents”. I’m going to dissect how they apply to running!

I know this sounds ridiculous, but bear with me. Is it not beneficial to know something about yourself before you toe the line on race day? If this stuff is reasonable enough to take over corporate America, why not running America? (Or anywhere, for that matter?) You always see famous athletes quoted as saying things about sport being “90% mental”, so why not spend some time on that mental aspect? There must be a reason sports psychology is considered a legitimate area of scientific study, right?

Alternatively, this could be the greatest ego trip I’ve ever taken. I won’t be offended if you leave now.

Still there? Okay then, without further ado, here are my top 5 “themes”:

  1. Empathy
  2. Futuristic
  3. Learner
  4. Restorative
  5. Achiever

Empathy: “People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.”

Well, duh. I mean I can imagine myself running an Olympic marathon, no problem. Shalane Flanagan, I am you. Errr, or not. But this one is still pretty easy to see in my own running. It probably accounts for that mildly guilty feeling I get every time I pass another runner who is struggling on a run. I would say it also accounts for my deep-seated fear of bearing children. I’ve seen those ladies with the triple joggers. That does not look easy.

Futuristic: “People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.”

Well, I don’t know about the “inspiring others” part, although I certainly can’t imagine a higher goal! Honestly though, surely every runner shares this theme. Especially in the south. How could you possibly justify the hours and hours and miles and miles of intense training in truly deadly heat if you weren’t able to envision a future marathon with a started temperature around 50 degrees? (Fahrenheit, of course. It’s just the summer training runs that feel like 50 Celsius.) Running really is the ultimate sacrifice of the present (that extra glass of wine, that gallon of ice cream, a full night’s sleep) in the name of future reward.

Learner: “People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.”

Ah ha! I knew there must be an innate talent that justified why I just sent Running Times a renewal check for the next THREE years. It certainly wasn’t that “free watch” they included with my order. (Although that did bring up fun childhood memories of Cracker Jacks.) Seriously, I won’t buy new jeans, but over the years I’ve sent Rodale gobs of money for Runner’s World, Running Times, and even those weird little booklets that claim to tell you everything you need to know about a topic like nutrition. You know, the ones that feature cover photos that are clearly stock from 1995.

Restorative: “People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.”

Hmm. Hang on, I’ve got something for this one, I’m sure of it… Well, there were those few — okay, multiple — times when I couldn’t find a clean sports bra so I ran in a normal one. Problem solved! Or the time I forgot a hair tie and used a rubber band from the office supply cabinet. Actually, that one wasn’t such a great idea, but don’t pretend you’ve never tried it. Maybe the best I can say for this one is that long hours of running give you lots of time to think, which inevitably helps you solve problems. So, this talent isn’t reflected by running. It’s born from running. What do you think? Plausible?

Achiever: “People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”

Well shoot. You might as well just call this one the “Marathoner” theme. “People who are especially talented in Marathoner have a great deal of stamina and a strong working knowledge of overuse injuries. They take great satisfaction from being busy, productive, and maintaining a cadence of 180 strides per minute or greater.”


My running friends and I often talk about how running shows you who you really are. Usually we’re talking about how you lose all sense of politeness or mind-to-mouth filter after a couple hours of sustained effort, but I have to think the positives — the talents, if you will — are equally visible. What do you think? Have you ever taken these types of tests for school or career? Do they apply equally well to running?

Next week: An attempt to calculate the total hours of my life spent running and compare it to Malcolm Gladwell’s mythical “10,000 hours” of practice required to become a true expert.

(Totally kidding.)

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This entry was posted on September 12, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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