Every year for the last five years, somewhere around the beginning of May, I have run the RAC 60km Loooong Training Run, in preparation for the Comrades Marathon which happens about six weeks later. This year is different, and at first when I realised it’s that time of year when I would normally be testing myself, I was really sad. For the last six months I have only been running for fun, mostly on trails, and mostly short distances of less than 10km. I have my reasons of course, and if you haven’t read my previous articles, you can read these which provide relevant perspective: Serving my time, and Choosing my pressure release valve.
Being unemployed for five months has been, and continues to be, the toughest endurance challenge I have ever found myself in. Unlike all the other ultramarathons which I voluntarily entered and for which I planned my milestones and roadmap towards achieving the end goal, this is one endurance race which I am living as it unfolds. It’s not a test I signed up for, but found myself running. Unlike organised races, I have no idea how far the finish line is or what to encounter along the way. I don’t know what are the landmarks to let me know where I am on the route. I have to keep refuelling without being able to determine for how long. There are no marshals showing me which way to choose when I approach crossroads. I don’t know what the reward will look like, I only keep moving forward so that I can reach the unknown finish line and get a medal as reward for my participation and arrival. With my first Comrades Marathon, that medal at the finish line meant I had gone from novice to Comrades finisher. I continue running my endurance race, towards the finish line which will earn me the medal which means I will have gone from unemployed to I Got The Job!
Going the distance
Even when I’m exhausted from the relentless race of job seeking, as described in my article Unemployed…90 days in, discouraged from the rejections and the huge amount of effort without result, and sore with the hurt of not having a platform from which to contribute my skills and attributes and add value, I keep on recharging and finding the energy to continue. I consistently stick to my plan as per my article My retrenchment survival guide and I remind myself that I am resilient, that I am adaptable and flexible and that I have previously reinvented myself and landed on my feet. I know I can do it again. I am confident that I have what it takes. Everything I need to be successful, I have inside of me.
And with this realisation, I am able to go from being sad for what I’ve lost – in terms of running fitness and race goals which have become personal annual traditions – to being proud of myself for still being in the running of this endurance challenge. I realise how much I am actually doing, and I am grateful for all the positives I am achieving. Not measured by kilometres and finish times, but by sheer persistence, imagination, inventiveness, courage and determination. I take nothing for granted, and I acknowledge that it takes incredible endurance to keep getting out of bed, washing my hair, getting dressed and applying for yet another position. It takes enduring self-belief to write yet another motivation letter, and work on yet another proposal or idea, and to reach out and keep connecting and giving out my business card. It takes guts to navigate all the other difficulties of life while being in this endurance race. I recognize that I am successful every day that I keep on keeping on. I am a winner just for staying on my feet and not giving up. I am victorious because I maintain my positive attitude and am not bitter or negative. I am an endurance athlete, whether in running shoes in a road race or in work shoes on the job market.
Don’t give up
So here is a shout-out to anyone who finds themselves retrenched and unemployed. Try not to despair and keep working on yourself and staying positive. So that when you see that position advertised, you are inspired to write that motivation letter. And when you get the interview invite, you are still confident to shine.