01 | 2021
© Daniel Mahon

Jill Boag

OCCUPATION ⇨ Project Director on the Monash Freeway Stage 2 Upgrade, Melbourne, Australia

MISSION ⇨ Expanding your mindset

The idea of participating in an ultramarathon grew out of a whim. Back in October 2014, Jill Boag happened to see an ad for the Big Red Run, a five-day charity run through almost 150 kilometers of the life-threatening Simpson Desert in the dry outback of Australia. The run was scheduled for June 2015. “A great fundraiser,” she thought—and then couldn’t get this idea out of her head. Although she had never yet run more than five kilometers at a stretch, she was intrigued by the challenge. So she searched for kindred spirits, and after Christmas she began to train for the run.

Jill Boag soon managed to finish her first runs—ten kilometers at first, then 21, and finally 42. That June, the moment of truth finally arrived. Ultramarathons come in various lengths, and this was an especially tough one: It consisted of a marathon on the first and last days, with two half-marathons and one 15-kilometer run in between. For most people this would be an unthinkable effort, but Jill Boag mastered the challenge—and had a surprising experience. On Day Five, she ran the second marathon in less time than the first one: in six hours instead of seven. How did she manage to do that? “By letting go,” she says. “On the last day, everything hurts, but you know that you’ve almost made it. So you let go of the pain and go on running.” All the same, she was astonished by the difference. “Only then did I understand that it’s really only our mindset that holds us back—and that you can achieve anything if you commit yourself to it,” she says.

This realization released something inside her, gave her career a boost, and had an impact on her leadership style. Today, this 45-year-old project director encourages her colleagues to express their ideas, no matter how crazy they sound. “New challenges constantly crop up on a construction site, and we need teamwork to deal with them. If we listen to everyone’s ideas, aspects of various ideas can be combined to point us in the right direction,” she says. “Sometimes the tiniest details can result in a change you could never have imagined.”