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When Inspiration Goes to Seed

by John on August 10th, 2010

I was sitting at my desk, playing with a grapefruit (hey, my office, my play things), minding my own business, when he walked by. This is an old coworker. At one point, I reported to him via “dotted line” in the org chart (as a liaison to the European business users), though I’ve only had very infrequent dealings with him. I work for corporate, he works for one of our divisions, but we always got along.

When I first met him (while on a IT Governance summit in London), he surprised me – he was a big person. I mean, I’m big, and have been quite large, but he was bigger. A lesser person would feel good about the fact that there was somebody so obviously larger.

This person works in the UK, and while any dealings with him were quite infrequent, face-to-face meetings were just plain scarce. In my first three years with the company, I saw him twice. So, it was a bit surprising when I saw in a corporate bulletin that a few of my company’s employees had completed the London marathon in 2008 – and the employee with the best time was this employee. Upon seeing the bulletin, I was quick with an email of congratulations, and we went back & forth about weight loss, and running (he started by saying “yeah, I lost so & so many stone so I got into running”) and biking (by this time, I was biking into work pretty frequently — he stated that there was an American employee who worked in his division that was a “Category 2” cyclist at one point, which is no small feat).

Since then, work interactions between this person and myself have been limited (his role continues to be division-centric while my role remains at the corporate office), but the fact that he ran a marathon is a big part of what got me off my ass to start training for one myself (and you better believe that I’m running the Harrisburg marathon in November). “Person X did it, so can I” has been running in my head.

Whenever speaking to this person about work-related stuff, cycling was always near the top of our conversations. I was going to pull the “nobody saw this coming”, run the Harrisburg marathon, then tell this person that his running the London marathon was part of what got me to consider training.


All of that leads to today. There’s a bit of an IT Summit going on in the corporate office this week. Since Monday, there’s been a steady stream of people into & out of my personal office to say “hi” (I’m one of the people that just about every user in my company, and most especially every IT user, has to deal with at some point). For some people, this is the first I’ve seen them. For others, they’re familiar faces. I was curious if this weight-losing marathon runner was going to be part of the summit, though I never asked around.

I just saw & heard him walk past my office door. There’s no mistaking the gray, disheveled hair or the grating cockney accent. That weight he lost? Well, he’s found it. And I think that maybe any fat he had lost got busy, had babies, & when he found those original lost pounds, whole families of fat moved back in.

I’m being unfair, but this is really hard to take. Working for my company is downright stressful at times — there’s constant talk of reorganization, they opened an offshore office to hire talent at a fraction of the cost of American/European talent, “going lean” is the mantra (which, no matter how it gets stated, means that you do more work with less people), it’s not uncommon for entire projects to be scrapped at the 23rd hour. Heck, I’d be surprised if he kept in the tip-top shape he once was in. This, however, is far from what I had expected.

In the grand scheme of things, this is but a mere speedbump. I’m not changing my approach (try to eat right, train for endurance events to the point where I’m able to just go out & run a marathon or bike a century as if it’s not a great big thing), The only thing that’ll be different is that there will either not be a “thanks” email, or if I choose to write said email, it will be carefully worded.

I suddenly feel like John Larroquette’s character in the one episode of the John Larroquette Show that I watched. Larroquette was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when they were doing roll-call. When asked for new members, David Crosby, Larroquette’s sponsor, stood up. Apparently, Crosby had been the stalwart for Larroquette’s recovery from addiction, and here he was, admitting he had fallen off the wagon.

Person X’s influence on my life was much, much less than this, but I’m still taking it as a blow. I’m moving on, I’m not changing, I’m getting healthy (if I’m not there already) . . . but I was really looking forward to writing that email the first work day after the marathon.

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One Comment
  1. Hey did you think that maybe if you make that email it might inspire HIM to get back in shape again? Anyway, you've inspired me to get off here and go to the spin class that I wasn't in the mood for this morning so thanks!

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