Testing Lessons from Ultra Marathon Running

Valuable testing lessons extracted from a journey to ultra marathon running

As running became a hobby, and later a way of my life, I realise the parallels with testing and how my attitude, and approach to testing has been positively impacted.

When I hear a lot of testers say that they fell into testing, I relate this to how I fell into running as an experienced tester at the time.

As running became a hobby, and later a way of my life, I have reflected and learned lessons that have been extremely valuable in improving my testing skills and my life on the whole.

In this talk I will share on the parallels that I have experienced in the continual improvement of my running and testing.

Some of the lessons I will share are:

Start in your correct seeding batch:

Before the race, you have to start in your correct seeding batch. Do you have the correct running shoes for your particular weight, stride and gait. Understand the system and context well enough to understand the signals. Reading the signals from the systems and make meaning out of them.

Value what really matters:

Are you running the race to win gold or to finish? Understanding the purpose and bigger picture allows you to make realistic goals and start measuring what matters. It keeps the motivation to focus on what is important and aim for excellence. Who are your customers and your organisation’s values and principles? What other dependencies should you be aware of?

Even the best race plans can crumble, learn from them.

No matter how we plan the race, there can often be surprises. Software will often surprise us by reminding us that there is more complexity in the architecture, context and other undocumented and unknown requirements that can be missed. How do we keep going and continue to learn when we are faced with these?

Setbacks and disappointments will occur but these do not have define us nor last forever. We must learn to extract the lessons and apply them in order to improve on the next outing and seek perseverance in the face of adversity and falling short.

Remember the strength training

Even though the focus is always on running; key to good long distance running are the cross training activities such as core strengthening, eating right and maintaining balanced physical and mental health. Great testing is not just about executing the system under test. There is a great benefit in testers being actively involved and being heavily invested in design and sizing sessions; being present to help developers to assist with testability; collaborating and building relationships with stakeholders. A personal commitment to learning and seeking mastery in the craft, a willingness to learn the tools and improve oneself is super important.

You are not alone.

Even though each one is on their own journey and running in their own shoes; there are many other runners in this race. Discovering the power of pairs, team work and a wider community; and harnessing this to create valuable mutual relationships is vital for learning, growth and continuity.

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