Each season, the same dread. The time or threshold test.
A time test is the runner’s lab. Usually a 5K or 10K full-effort run approximating race conditions. Pace, time and heart rate info all determine training paces for the big or “A” race. In a time test, the drive and determination come from the runner — no exceptional and external energy of race day.
I love running. Yet I have a hang up about these tests. Guilty of overthinking, excuse-making and even dodging a few.
There are bright spots. First, the millisecond my watch beeps finish time. Then the data. It is irrefutable and timely. Coach Matt Imberman and I assess current ability, not a vintage PR or an idea of what could be (@bkdistancecoach). Spiritually, I feel clear. My ultimate goal may be elusive, but I know how far I can push my training. And this is where two of my worlds converge.
Wise and creative nonprofit experts use data. Beth Kanter, the Social Media guru, details not only a plan for nonprofits to use online channels but the means to measure and maintain that work (@kanter). Blackbaud’s Steve MacLaughlin tracks charitable giving month by month and publishes info-rich annual reports. He shows the helix of online and real-life campaigns, by size and organizational category (@SMacLaughlin).
Like runners, nonprofits need a lab. Whether deep gift analysis, or a simple tracking of events and online activity, it is good to be grounded. Data excavation can be trying. Internal culture, expertise and resources may limit how far a nonprofit can go. Many organizations are focused on the day to day. Even a pause to look at history — not to mention test the current moment — is burdensome.
Large and small organizations share this dilemma. How to plan? Start simple. Select a few choice lines of data to really understand and follow. Find the earth beneath your feet and agree with staff and board — this is where we are.
Runners are loud. We swear and cheer, complain and self-congratulate. The best runners own their numbers. Mile 20 pain at mile 5 is never good. No one wants to slog to the finish.
Understanding this moment opens a season of testing and maybe triumph. I like a solid plan that allows for bold moves and bursts of creativity. Running a path with a willingness to go for openings when possible — that is transcendent.