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The Runner’s Checklist Manifesto

By on May 5, 2014
The Runner's Checklist Manifesto

Until a few years ago, very few people had heard of Dr Peter Pronovost. But a few runners did – and, in the process, they discovered an invaluable tool in the fight for running health.

Pronovost was (and still is) an intensive care specialist physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 2001, Peter came up with simple, low-tech idea:

  • Require all doctors, nurses and other operating room staff to run through a 2-minute surgical safety checklist.
  • And to do this before, during and after every surgery.

You can see the checklist for yourself here.

Now, if that’s where the story had ended, it would have been a pretty unremarkable tale. But what happened next, was truly remarkable. And it has far-reaching implications – including for runners.

Dr Atul Gawande and colleagues at the World Health Organisation had a simple but important goal: seek out ways to reduce surgical deaths across the world. When they came to test Peter’s checklist in hospitals in a variety of locations – ranging from cities like London and Seattle to rural Tanzania – they discovered that the checklist made a difference.

Not a small difference. A breathtakingly huge difference. The researchers found that use of the checklist reduced surgical complications by an average of over 30%.

The Pronovost checklist protocol is thought to have saved thousands of lives, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars. In the words of Gawande, Pronovost’s work has already “saved more lives than that of any laboratory scientist in the past decade”.

Fittingly, in 2008, Time magazine named Pronovost one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Miracle on the Hudson

This is no isolated example.

In 2009, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was hailed a national hero. Sully was the airline pilot in charge of US Airways Flight 1549. Shortly after take-off from LaGuardia Airport his plane was struck by a flock of Canadian geese. Engine power was lost. And 155 lives were at risk.

With two tricks up his sleeve, Sully executed an emergency landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan.

His two tricks? Well, his experience and skills were obvious. But the second trick? His trusty checklist.

When the engines failed, the flight crew followed the emergency instructions in their checklists. The plane landed safely. All 155 passengers and crew survived.

The Checklist Manifesto

In 2009, Dr Gawunde shared the power of the checklist, and the remarkable stories that prove its worth. The Checklist Manifesto (Wikipedia | Amazon) became a surprise hit in a large number of countries, making its mark on countless bestseller lists.

The ideas behind The Checklist Manifesto have been applied to a variety of industries – from health to aviation and far beyond. And there’s an important lesson in there for runners too.


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