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Lessons from "The Office": Fun Run Addition

Let's jump in to the Fun Run Part 2 episode of The Office and lessons we can learn from our dear friends Michael, Toby, Jim and Pam. This episode starts out with Michael hitting Meredith with his car (bonus lesson, don’t hit people with cars) and while she is in the hospital, she receives a precautionary rabies shot. Michael takes this opportunity to credit himself with saving her life and creates the “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for The Cure”, and offering a $340 check made out to “Science”. From here, everyone, in their own unique ways, sets out on the 5k race and offers lessons we can learn from.

Toby- First let’s examine Toby. Toby starts off by stretching and paces himself throughout the run. For the majority of the race, he is in first place and feeling confident in himself. Look at him go. When he crosses the finish line, he excitedly exclaims he is the winner, only to have the lack of support of Kelly who is distracted by her phone. He then realizes the race wasn’t a circle and is now 5k from the office. So he sits in metal fold out chair and his demeanor changes from excited to bummed out. There is no celebratory mood.

Lesson: From Toby we learn that sometimes we put all this added effort and work to be the best or in first place, only to feel disappointed when we achieve it. Being the best or in first place can lack the pizazz we are looking for or starts to die out over time. This can lead us to feel “not enough” all over again. Back to the hustle and grind of proving ourselves- like a sad Toby sitting in his fold out metal chair next to a distracted colleague. From Toby we learn that it doesn’t have to be a race and to let go of the hustle and scarcity mindset. We learn not to seek validation and approval from others, but to be our own cheerleader and celebrate our accomplishments. Whether there was a party of not, he still did the damn thing.


Michael- Michael has the opposite approach of Toby. Michael decides to carb load right before the race, chowing down on some fettuccine alfredo. He refuses to drink water and risks dehydration.

He is also filled with resentment for Toby, per the usual, and pulls Toby’s pants down before he takes off running. As he continues to run, he begins to battle negative beliefs, “I can’t do this”, “I can’t finish”, and “I’m a fool”, becoming so discouraged, with himself and the world, that he contemplates discontinuing the race. Let us give him props, because he did finish that “GD race”, saying “finishing that race was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I ate more fettuccine and drank less water than I have in my whole entire life”. And then he threw up and went to the hospital.

Lesson: We learn from Michael the need to adequately take care of ourselves. Depriving ourselves of our basic needs, like sleep, water, adequate nutrition, and connection don’t help us reach the finish line any faster and when we do, we are so worn out and exhausted that it’s just not the same. This isn’t just limited to eating a ton of pasta, but can include drinking, overworking ourselves, not getting enough sleep, isolating ourselves, holding onto resentment, etc. In Michael’s case, his inability to care for his basic needs created resistance and a spiral of negative thoughts that almost cost him the whole race. He became so sidetracked and self-critical that he lost focus on his vision and purpose for the whole run. Had he properly supported himself along the way, while there still may have been obstacles, he would have been more equipped to navigate them. Or at least avoided going to the hospital. As a second lesson, we also learn to ask for help. When we are down, discouraged, and lost within ourselves, it’s okay to ask for help and guidance from those around us who can reflect truth back to us.


Jim and Pam- Let’s take a look at their perspective on the race. Jim and Pam quickly realize they are in last place, and after a sarcastic “darn it”, they embrace hands and leisurely stroll along.

They even decide to take a look inside an estate sale where they bought a “really cool” lamp for $8. It appears they are generally enjoying themselves, their walk, and their day. As they come alongside a discouraged Michael, Pam offers logical advice, “you don’t have rabies and chances are you won’t get it anytime soon” , helping to motivate Michael to finish the race. Even though they were in last place, they smiled, clapped and celebrated Michael.

Lesson: We learn from Jim and Pam to not take life, races, and the need to be the best so seriously. They create their own rules along the way, stopping to see an estate sale, and move at a pace that allows them to be present in their walk. They are also intentional in their time together, creating connection as they talk and hold hands. Overall, they appear to have a good day, enjoying their time away from their desk. Because they are honoring their basic needs along the way, they have the mental capacity to offer encouragement, motivation, and logic to Michael who is shame spiraling. Jim and Pam seem to be centered and grounded in who they are, a sense of, “I am enough as I am”, allowing them to cheer on and congratulate teammates who finished before them, without judging or personalizing being in last place.


As we reflect back on this episode, we had four people who encountered the same “fun run” and yet had three different outcomes and experiences. I encourage you to reflect on whose perspective you most identify with and the mindset that would most serve you. What grace can you offer yourself to help shift your engagement. What can you learn from the fun run?

Written by Chelsea McDonald, MA, LPC


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