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KerryOn: Leadership on the Run

Running and leadership go well together… foot in foot. I’ve been running since my mid-30s. Yes, yes, I know most runners have been doing it their entire lives – probably running right out of the womb. Me, not so much. I was an athlete in high school and college, but never considered myself as a “runner”. I began the running journey with one simple goal 'to find out why the heck people like to run.'

It wasn’t until I had been running for a few months that I could answer this question, and I began to understand new elements about myself. First, it was a great opportunity to be alone, to process thoughts, and just give my mind some unstructured time. Second, I became physically stronger, which allowed me to run longer distances.

The third benefit was one I didn’t see coming, and it’s probably the most important; running helped me become a better leader. Once I actually began the running journey I realized that I had a vision for myself, one to keep on running and push myself past what I thought was possible.

What I find fascinating about running, and specifically training for marathons, is the similarities that exist between running and leadership. For starters, they both include a vision of crossing the finish line. This vision pulls us forward, one foot in front of the other, and gives us strength and purpose for the long training miles required to run the 26.2 mile race. This time on the road getting ready for the race can feel endless. But our vision becomes the reason we take a beautiful Saturday away from those we love and spend 3-4 hours on the road. It’s the reason we get up and get ready during snow, rain, and sunshine. The reason we run when others rest.

And all the while, just like being a leader, during the race we are only running against ourselves. We can run through the motions and pass others with the greatest of enthusiasm feeling strong and confident. And then on the next mile, it can feel like we’re running backwards, and we wonder why we even began this journey. Every injury and insult is raw. We question ourselves, our abilities. In the end, the game we play is almost solely in our head.

Yet with all these challenges – even when everything around us screams “STOP” – we stay the course because we know it’s the right path.

While you may never have placed on pair of running shoes, I would guess you know the bruises, the pain, the frustration of breaking barriers. And perhaps like me, through it all – you get ready to lace up and do it all again.

Special Note: While the image is of my 8th marathon, I completed my 16th marathon on May 13, 2023. During this marathon, I was struggling with an injury and wasn’t able to complete my regular training miles [200-300]. My family ran legs of a relay with me while I completed the 26.2. I most likely wouldn’t have finished this marathon without them – it’s an example that even if we are running alone, we need others for support.

KerryOn Questions

- What are the bruises, the pain, the frustration of breaking barriers you’ve experienced?

- Are there times when you have experienced “running against yourself”?

- What is the vision that keeps you running forward?

The Kerry behind KerryOn

My name is Kerry K. Fierke, Ed.D. (pron. Fear-Key) I have a unique combination of skills and experience – decades of fast-paced corporate experience in Fortune 100 companies and large health care organizations, combined with the academic rigor of a highly ranked research university. My focus is supporting others to create their own path to leadership development, lifelong learning, and a unique leadership legacy. Take a moment to focus on leadership, then KerryOn!

To see all KerryOn's and other leadership stuff, visit

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