What Marathon Running Taught Me About Business

I’m 18 miles into my first ever marathon, and walking. I’m aware that by walking, I’m kind of missing the point, but the heat, hills and distance are taking their toll. No one, I’m thinking to myself, could run up this hill, just now.

Then two women bound past me with no appearance of effort, and rapidly disappear into the distance. The gentleman next to me grunts “Make it look easy, don’t they?”.

This was my cue to stop my pity party and dig deep; I didn’t disgrace myself, in the end, but neither did I come close to catching those two up.

What went wrong, that so far into the race I could so easily be over-taken? Is running a marathon anything like running a small business? Let’s see!

Prepare for every eventuality

I had trained on hills, and eaten the right food, and done the miles the books told me I needed to in order to be ready. But I’d not factored in 30C / 86F heat; in fact I’d actively avoided training on hot days.

Business take-away: when you’re forecasting performance, don’t shy away from the worst possible case scenario. An aggressive competitor could move into your territory. You could lose your best client. You can hope that it doesn’t happen, but be prepared to overcome these challenges.Running shoes


Competition is a good thing

I thought I was giving it my all, until I was over-taken. Then I found that bit extra.

Business take-away: Competitors, when they make you raise your game, are a good thing. Complacency is the silent killer of business; learn from the best and always aim to do better.Running shoes


A supportive team is priceless

I trained alone, and never felt lonely. But during the race that changed, as groups of friends ran together, clearly motivating each other. With hindsight, if I’d been running with someone who knew what I was capable of, and vice versa, I probably wouldn’t have slipped into a walk.

Business take-away: a good team, who support you, and hold you accountable, is essential. If you’re a sole trader, that might be your family, or even an online networking group.

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Set high expectations – and don’t be set back by failure

I’d aimed to finish some 40 minutes faster than I did. Lots of excuses to hand but the fact is, I didn’t achieve my goal. So I limped to my laptop that evening and entered my next marathon.

Business take-away: aim high. If you fall short, don’t make excuses; identify why and fix it. Then go at it again.

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Use the right equipment

When I started training, I had a tatty pair of 5 year old training shoes, and I was pretty scornful of people who had nicer looking kit. “All the gear, no idea”, I sneered. Then I turned my ankle and put my training program back 6 weeks. The shoes went into the trash the same day…

Business take-away: invest in the best you can afford. Be that a website, order management solution, computer, internet connection – equip yourself so that you’re ready to become the business you want to be.

Shop around, compare functionality, check out reviews and make a considered decision, but don’t ‘make do’ with the cheapest option available. There’s generally a reason it’s the cheapest, and it’s not because it’s the best.

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