I Owe My Career In Software to Running

I Owe My Career In Software to Running

I started running my junior year of high school. Apparently I had a knack for it. My first year of cross country I made varsity and while I wasn’t the fastest on the team, I was considered a team leader.

In college, I started to run longer distance. I found out I was an endurance junkie. I did my first half marathon in my freshman year, first marathon my sophomore year, and my first Boston my senior year.

While in college, I started coaching. It started through a running company I worked for, then eventually evolved into running my own little coaching side-gig.

After graduation, I started my career in software immediately. I stopped coaching on the side, but I kept running and competing. I ran a few majors, posted a lot of PRs, and really came to find myself with running.

Now, 8 years later, I run a cloud development team and am leading a major initiative in my company.

So how did running get me where I am today?

Photo by Chase Clark on Unsplash Photo by Chase Clark on Unsplash

Running Increased My Focus

When I was a junior software developer, I didn’t do much more than write code. I would be tasked with writing some code that solved a particular problem. Some problems were easy, others were a little more difficult.

There were times where I was tasked with a problem I could not figure out. I’d work on it for days at a time, but not be able to figure out how to make the program do what it needed to do.

This is where running came in.

Running provided a way for me to eliminate all distractions and focus on solving a problem. I would go out for a run and have an hour of dedicated think time. It allowed me to hone in on ideas and eventually come up with working solutions.

This continued throughout my career and has absolutely built up my problem-solving ability.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

It Kept My Motivation High

You know when you finish a race and you hit your stretch goal? You get that infamous runner’s high that makes your whole day great. That surge of endorphins carries you to commit to your next event, then your next, then your next.

You can get a runner’s high from workouts too. Simply nailing an interval set will drive that sense of euphoria.

This is exactly what has happened to me over the years. I go out in the morning for a run, hit all my goals, and come into work highly motivated and ready to seize the day. I have motivation to do my best work, motivation to branch out and help others, and motivation to volunteer for extra responsibility.

Motivation + hyper focus = career growth

Coming in to start the day with ambition is what makes you feel like you have a career, not a job. For me, that mentality came as a direct result of running.

Drive, Drive, Drive

As I said earlier, I’m an endurance junkie. For a while, the shortest race I competed in was a half marathon. If there’s one thing I learned from thousands of miles on the road, it’s how to drive.

How to push through when things get difficult. How to drive toward the end when I’m hurting. How to push myself to the limit.

I run a team of software engineers in a fast-paced environment. We know how to drive toward results. We push past issues and when something needs to be rewritten, we grit our teeth and get it done.

Having ambition is not enough in your professional career. Simply wanting to achieve your goals won’t get you there. You need to have drive to make your dreams a reality. Get out there and do it.

All of my fellow marathoners out there know that is a life lesson learned early on a Sunday morning.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

It’s Not About What You Know, It’s About Who You Know

I’d be lying if I told you I am where I am today because of my drive and motivation alone. I’ve been given opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise because of who I know. But how did I get to know these people that give me opportunities?

As it turns out, everybody runs. I’ve worked out with everyone in my company from directors, VPs, the president of my branch, to even the CIO. I didn’t do anything special besides show up every day.

That’s the beauty of running, everybody does it. And we all like to talk about it. It doesn’t matter if you’re in high school or the CIO of a major company, you run the same way — one foot at a time.

I’ve used running as a means to network with people I otherwise wouldn’t know. We talk about running, do some runs together, suffer together, then talk about work afterward. I can’t think of an easier way to get yourself out there. Show up, run, repeat. People will notice and they will ask to join you.

Running — thank you for all that you’ve done for me. You’ve shaped me into who I am today, both physically and mentally. When I joined the cross country team in high school, I never would have guessed it would have turned into all this.

You’ve taught me discipline, lent me motivation, and given me drive. You gave me opportunities to make new friends and see places I never would have imagined.

The best time to start something new was yesterday. The second best time is right now.

See you on the road.

Allen Helton

About Allen

Allen is an AWS Serverless Hero passionate about educating others about the cloud, serverless, and APIs. He is the host of the Ready, Set, Cloud podcast and creator of this website. More about Allen.

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