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Comment: Life beyond numbness

By Græme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity


Recently I was very fortunate to be able to run with colleagues from DHG (Dixon Hughes Goodman) as part of the Blue Ridge Relay (BRR). For those of you who don’t know the Blue Ridge Mountains – and yes, it is the same Blue Ridge that Stan and Olly sang about – they are truly beautiful.

The BRR is a 210-mile relay race from Grayson Highlands National Park in Virginia to Ashville in North Carolina. Teams of six, nine or twelve (although this year there was a team of four) run in sequence, the average distance for the twelve-person team is 18 miles over 3 legs, for a team of six it’s 35 miles and 23 miles for a nine-person group. At least one leg is run during the night, with only a very brief chance to sleep, normally taken in one of the support transit vans.

All of which, by now, is probably making you think “Why? The scenery can’t be that good!”.

Well it is, and I find the scenery, the clean crisp air, the warmth of the locals very appealing. And if that was the only reason for going, it would be good enough for me. Even with my dislike of running.

But that is not the driving rationale for me or, I suspect, for DHG supporting its staff to run in it either.

You’ve no doubt heard of extreme sports, when individuals or teams take sport to a ‘new level’. (You may even have heard of ‘Extreme Ironing’, where mad individuals try to outdo each other by ironing clothes in extreme situations like hanging off a cliff edge). Well, consider my involvement here as ‘Extreme Networking’.

The team spirt generated by this event – 12 people travelling in two vans and running over 30+ hours, cheering for everyone in your team, encouraging each other to succeed – is an amazing way to get to know each other really well. What makes each individual tick and, in my case at least, how to be able to better deliver resources that they, and colleagues in similar positions, will need to advance their business.

This year, the team was formed of DHG personnel from all over their office base, plus a client and an intruder (yours truly). This is historically the usual breakdown, with runners from Ashville being ‘augmented’ by those from Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, DC and others, along with two or three key clients.

While I was the second oldest, I was certainly the slowest on both paper and in fact. The only redeeming feature for me was that I was quicker than I’d expected on all three runs.

So, what about the run itself? The Extreme Networking was, as in the previous four occasions, a great success. However, for the first time in eight outings, we were beaten by the EY team. Although beating them had been our key aim, we handsomely met our two other goals – having a good time and finishing with style. We’d already noticed that EY had been getting better and better over the years, and we did unfortunately have a couple of injuries on the run. But we certainly weren’t the last team to finish – seven teams didn’t make it at all – so that’s one more feather in the team’s cap.

Don’t worry, we’ll get EY back next year for sure.

And the winners this year? Well, it’s always a tussle between Charlotte Running Club and the Ashville Collective and this year was no different. The Charlotte team beat the previous record by several minutes, finishing the whole course in 19 hours 20 minutes.  But this year, Ashville beat even that in an amazing 19 hours and 12 minutes – an impressive average of 5 minutes and 35 seconds per mile, up and down these steep mountains. Stunning!

By the way, if you’re wondering about the title, DHG’s corporate branding strapline is “Life Beyond Numbers”. So, I owe an apology to the great DHG marketing team there for plagiarising it for this run, as it was certainly true at 3am on the second day. I was so cold!

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