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Home » Blog » Miles to go before I sleep

Life is a marathon. It is not a sprint. This analogy is true because like every other marathon, it has a start, it has an end and in between are the painful and the joyous parts too. But what’s interesting is that it is long. It is a wave of emotions until we cross the finish line. 

 Nathan Farrugia is an ultra-marathon runner. He has completed 27 marathons in 27 countries in 27 days. This time on The xMonks Drive, Nathan explains the true meaning of a marathon. He shines the light on how every marathon leaves us as a better version of ourselves.

Meaning of Life

Gaurav: What does life mean to you?

Nathan: Life is about the experience. It’s about the curiosity of experience. This is a reason why I try new things all the time, explore, and adventure because of the curiosity to find out about new experiences. So it is work, or with family or with sports, life is always about the question mark of what would it feel like? What would it be like? What would the results be of trying something new? And that should be the reason to get out of bed in the morning. 

Experimenting, being curious, and adventuring is something that shapes my mindset. And the fear of missing out drives our curiosity. So, it is extremely fulfilling to make these discoveries about ourselves, our personal growth. So pushing our limits and seeing how far one can go physically and mentally is a challenge that allows us to find out new things about ourselves. It is not about the place. One can even explore in their own mind, or in a book, it doesn’t necessarily have to be adventurous travel or climbing a mountain, or running a marathon.

Life is a Marathon

Gaurav: Nathan, you are a CEO of an organisation, you run with the top leaders in your country. What are the parallels that you have been able to draw from the experience of running 27 marathons and when somebody is running an organisation, how do you bring out those learnings and apply them in your organisation?

Nathan: A marathon is a metaphor for life. Running an organisation is a selfless act because you are there to serve the people within that organisation, your leadership team directly, and eventually your customers through your employees. So the idea of self-sacrifice is similar to the mindset with which one needs to run a marathon because you are going to put yourself through pain and discomfort and accept to lead an organisation.

I have coached top CEOs, Olympic athletes, high performers, and they have a deeper understanding of why the pain and the discomfort are worthwhile, why the easy life is not an option. Some are dogged about the result, they want to achieve something, be the best, be the greatest. It’s typically not about money at that level, it’s more about their perception of what success means. It is also about the journey, it’s also about the fact that they are continuously growing and stretching themselves. And typically, what you see is that they move into bigger and larger organizations, or if they started their business, they diversify it and grow the business in different ways. The good ones, the successful ones are the ones with a growth mindset. They’re the ones that stay curious. And typically, they asked themselves the question, What’s next?

27 Days, 27 Marathons, 27 Countries

Gaurav: I have personally known people who run one marathon a day. It is a herculean task. I have done a few half marathons. But I have never been able to dare to even think of running a complete marathon. And here is somebody who did not even think. But has finished 27 marathons. Not only this but he is running his family, he is running his business, he is a CEO of an organisation, in Malta. So there’s enough and more that Nathan, you are doing. Now help me understand what kind of mindset is required to get into that groove and touch the finishing line?

Nathan: The mindset needs to be one that is constantly self-aware. You need to be checking on yourself to make sure that you are treating yourself properly, whether it is in your training or preparation, you need to understand the fact that if you push too hard, you are going to get injured. If you don’t push hard enough, you’re never going to improve. So this self-awareness around, finding the sweet spot when it comes to preparation, but also balancing and managing everything else in your life, to put everything on hold to run a marathon or an ultra-marathon is important. Managing to balance work and life is important. The self-awareness to say, how do I rebalance that equation, is important. 

So the mindset for me is positive. But it is also about being realistic about what you can achieve, running a marathon is not about finishing a marathon, you can finish a marathon, you can walk a marathon, and you can finish a marathon, it’s not about the distance, it is about the speed and how fast do you want to run that marathon. Because that is the limiting factor from a physiological perspective.

What is Flow?

Gaurav:  How do you define flow?

Nathan: Flow is an amazing feeling, it’s when you are at your best when you are totally immersed in an action or an activity, you’re 100% focused, there is no distraction. The world outside of that does not exist, you are totally in your own head, listening to music, you could be out on a run, going beyond your physical limits, you could be in a deep conversation where you’re so engrossed in peeling the onion of the layers of that conversation. So flow for me is when your mind and heart are connected. And it feels great. It’s a great feeling. Flow is something I look for on a regular basis and I create as many triggers as I can around me in my day to be able to get more of it.

Gaurav: What are these triggers that you’re speaking about? How can you actually tap into that flow?

Research has proved that to trigger flow, which is a typical state of the brain, we need to have a number of things aligned, we need to be extremely focused, we need to be slightly uncomfortable. And there needs to be a level of newness so we don’t use our brain and rely on experience and memory. We need to make sure that we remove distractions, we find space to develop and get into the flow without feeling rushed to move on to the next thing. And so, therefore, we need to engineer it. It’s something that we can do in our day to be able to be at our best.

Identifying your Core Responsibility

Gaurav: One of the biggest challenges with most of the organisations is that people don’t have the clarity of the roles and responsibilities that they have. How can they identify their core responsibility in the role that they are playing? And how can they stick to that?

Nathan: One cannot stick to their role because as a leader, our roles and responsibilities change according to situations. So my role and responsibility on one day may be to lead from the front because people are in disarray, and they need someone to guide them and to set the direction. But then other times we help our team grow, so we need to sit at the back and lift them up. So our role changes. The answer is that the consistency of your role is to make sure that you are making people better, or helping people become better versions of themselves.  

About the Speaker

Nathan Farrugia is an endurance athlete, business performance coach and entrepreneur, and has led organisations in technology, education, healthcare and hospitality. He is also the owner and representative of Vistage in Malta, a TEDx and Motivational speaker and philanthropist. Nathan has completed some of the world’s toughest extreme challenges, raising thousands of euros for charity. 

In 2011, he ran a million steps to complete a world-first marathon by running 27 consecutive marathons in 27 days in each of the 27 European Union countries. He is married to Deirdre and has two children, Robyn and Keira and lives in Malta.

Prior to joining Inspire as CEO in 2009, he was the CEO of the Razzett tal-Hbiberija and the driving force behind the Eden Foundation’s merger with Inspire. Nathan, along with the rest of the board of trustees, guided the organisation through dedicated and capable senior managers who, in turn, empowered the rest of the team and volunteers to work with clients, provide support, and raise funds with the common goal of ensuring that all people with disabilities are included in society. He was named President of the Board of Directors in September 2014. He is the chair of the Malta Voluntary Organizations Council and serves on the boards of several organisations and businesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the phrase life is a marathon mean?

Life is a marathon. It is not a sprint. This analogy is accurate because, like every other marathon, it has a beginning, middle, and end, as well as painful and enjoyable parts in between. But what’s interesting about it is how long it is. Until we reach the finish line, it’s a roller coaster of emotions.

What is the meaning of life?

Life is all about the journey. It’s all about the thrill of discovery. This is one of the reasons why, out of a desire to learn new things, one should constantly attempt new things, explore, and adventure. So whether it’s at job, with family, or in sports, life is always a matter of what would it be like?

What is flow?

Flow is a fantastic feeling that occurs when you are completely absorbed in an action or task, are completely concentrated, and have no distractions. The world outside of that does not exist; you are completely immersed in your own thoughts, listening to music, or engaged in a lengthy conversation in which you are completely immersed in peeling the onion of that discourse’s layers. Flow, in my opinion, is when your head and heart are in sync.

Does our core responsibility change?

Because our duties and obligations as leaders fluctuate depending on the scenario, it is impossible to stay in one capacity. So, on one day, my function and responsibility may be to lead from the front because people are in disarray and need someone to guide and steer them. Other times, we need to sit in the back and boost our team up to help them grow. As a result, our role shifts. The response is that your responsibility is to ensure that you are improving individuals or assisting them in becoming better versions of themselves.

Who is Nathan Farrugia?

Nathan Farrugia is a business performance coach, entrepreneur, and endurance athlete who has headed companies in technology, education, healthcare, and hospitality. He is also the founder and representative of Vistage Malta, as well as a TEDx and motivational speaker and philanthropist.