The Financial Times’ US banking editor is charting her training over the course of a year. Catch up with the series here.
Dawn is breaking in Central Park, and the city’s joggers, cyclists and dog walkers are already basking in what promises to be a glorious day. Only one thing stands between me and a relaxing run — Huw van Steenis, a senior adviser to Bank of England governor Mark Carney.
I am about to take part in my first “running meeting” with Mr van Steenis, who is in New York for a few days. I know him from his days as Morgan Stanley’s bank analyst, and he has agreed to be my guinea pig.
The goal is to find out if we can have a meaningful work conversation while working out — and whether we can ever look each other in the eye again without remembering our Lycra-clad incarnations.
We are not the only ones to embark on such madness. The idea for this column came from a contact in New York, whose banker husband was opting for running meetings as a healthier alternative to the drinking and eating culture in finance.
A post on LinkedIn proves that running meetings — as well as walking and cycling meetings — are indeed a thing, albeit on the fringes, as busy professionals embrace multitasking and try to deepen bonds with colleagues.
Former Credit Suisse chief executive Brady Dougan used to invite his management team to join him for a cycle before meetings, though one of them recalls the pace was too “cardiovascular” for them to get much chatting done.
Philip Marsden, a professor at the College of Europe in Bruges and an adviser to the BoE, says he and a colleague organise “antitrust marathons”, where they talk business and then run 26.2 miles together.
“Ours is extreme, but running together is the core of competition. It allows new thoughts to bubble up, develops shared trust and camaraderie that can help cut through thorny problems, and always comes with a delightful endorphin rush after,” he says.
But not everyone has fond memories of efforts to combine fitness and work.
“The one jogging meeting in which I participated was hell,” says one insurance professional. “Being asked a question as we headed up a hill seemed to me to be nothing more than a power ploy.”
Several other contacts express “horror” at the very thought of combining workouts with work. “I come from a banking background where the team walk to Pret can become an exercise in who can walk the quickest, who is the alpha male,” says one woman.
Others say running meetings could discriminate against the less fit, or that running is their “me” time that they would not dream of infecting with work.
Being shown up is my biggest concern as I eye up Mr van Steenis ahead of our run. He has warned me that he is recovering from an injury, but training for the Windsor half marathon in a few weeks. I suspect he is fitter than he is letting on.
The wonderful transparency of online race results means I can see he ran a half marathon last year about 25 minutes faster than my personal best. In short, the scene is set for humiliation, similar to when JPMorgan’s Germany boss Dorothee Blessing left me in her dust at a social 5.6k run.
Mr van Steenis and I set out at what I imagine is a leisurely pace for him, and we are soon at one with the throng of runners looping around Central Park’s undulating hills under the towering New York skyline.
Keeping on topic is an unexpected challenge. We are supposed to be talking finance, but our conversation strays to race plans, the glory of New York on a fine morning and the ludicrous cuteness of dogs in booties.
By 8am we are done. I bask in the smugness of having completed a meeting and my workout before many people have even begun their day.
Talking, it turns out, is a pleasant distraction from the run, as is the mental effort required to commit key points to memory. I draw the line at simultaneously running and taking notes.
Patrick McGee’s update
My favourite runs are when I get lost in thought, become oblivious to time and pace, and then get a pleasant surprise of the many miles that have gone by. The only problem with this approach is a certain complacency, which leads to a slow tempo.
This week, I want to recommend Freeletics Running, an app for interval training that makes it easy to incorporate sprints and fast runs into your running routine. The app offers a series of sprint-rest-sprint workouts of varying distances. What makes it different from others, such as Nike+ Run Club (also great), is the way it uses your phone’s GPS to track your progress.
In a 200m sprint, you will hear audio cues for “first quarter” at the 50m mark, “halfway” at 100m, etc. Usually apps of this kind use a time-based approach (“run for 30 seconds”), but the GPS element feels more like having a coach. The best part: it is easy to stack one or two of these workouts at the end of a long run, so I can still enjoy being lost in thought before shaking out of my complacency.
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