Paul Butler: Marathons are a team sport

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

Last Sunday, my wife and I served as volunteers at the Santa Clarita marathon.

We were course monitors, which was a pretty easy task. Our main job was to encourage the runners and ensure they didn’t go the wrong way.  We were stationed on the paseo between Creekside Road and Valencia Boulevard.

We could tell some of the runners had their hungry eyes on the Black Bear Grill restaurant, but we kept them on the straight and narrow path.

Prior to the first runners coming through our station, we had some time to chat with David and Richard — two fine young employees of the city of Santa Clarita. Both of these guys were super-stoked to be working and living in the city we all call home. Our business does a lot of work with other city governments, and it’s rare to see this level of employee engagement and positivity from civil servants — many of whom aren’t civil and few, see themselves as servants.  

Whereas an individual person runs a marathon, the hosting of a marathon is most definitely a team sport. The team consisted of paid resources such as city staff, sheriffs and medics roaming the course. In addition there were just as many volunteers giving about six hours of their Sunday to help deliver a safe, fun and memorable experience for each participant.  

In between bursts of runners coming through our station, I started thinking about the parallels between a marathon and the workplace. I consolidated my observations into these five points:

  1. Effective events happen by everyone giving their best effort regardless of pay level. Yes, some people were paid to work and some were volunteers but collectively we all served together to achieve a common goal.
    The workplace should just be like that. I often say all organizations are volunteer organizations, as people will choose how much to give of themselves. I saw for example in David and Richard, two highly motivated employees going over and beyond what was on their job descriptions.
  2. There is a right way and a wrong way.  There were numerous times yesterday where my wife had to call out the right way to go, as the runners sometimes got confused at her station.
    It’s just like that in the workplace — there are behaviors, which are right, and those that are wrong.  We would have far less corruption, abuse and negativity in the workplace if more employees adhered to what was right and didn’t run the wrong way.
  3. Only one person wins a marathon although all finishers got a medal. Competition is a good thing in all organizations as it encourages motivation, innovation and creative thinking.
    When a business wins a contract there’s only one winner — everyone who participates (i.e. employees and vendors) on that contract wins a medal, which is what we call a paycheck or purchase order in business.
    People who stay at home or stand on the sidelines or registered runners who choose not to show up don’t get a medal. It’s like that in the real world of work.
  4. I should imagine the positive economic impact of the events from this past weekend surrounding the marathon and the other related runs was very significant. I don’t know what the number is, but I think it would be reasonable to assume an inflow of about $10 million.
    The winners would be local hotels, restaurants and gas stations to name just a few. This is a perfect picture of the economic cycle of business — government provides the platform for businesses to conduct commerce.
    In turn, businesses generate profits, which are taxed and employ people who pay taxes on their income. That’s macro-economic teamwork!
  5. So the old adage is true as cheesy as it sounds — teamwork really does make the dream work. It was an honor to serve alongside David and Richard, as well as all of the other paid and unpaid resources to help create a safe, fun and memorable experience for all who participated.

Thank you also to all the hotels, restaurants and gas stations etc who provided superb service that generates tax dollars to enables us to do this all again Lord-willing in 2019.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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