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What Do Marathon Runners Have In Common With Business Growth?

May 27, 2016

Business growth and marathon runners discussed in the same article? Strange you might think but there are a lot of similarities between business growth and marathon runners that you might not have considered.  

I’m training for a marathon. But this is mad – it’s training for an Ultra Marathon (35 miles!!).  It is for Charity so there is a higher motivation for me .  Just after the London marathon I read an article that tried to suggest that businesses could learn from marathon runners from a business growth perspective.  My first thoughts were – businesses could learn a lot from me but that had little to do with the miles I put in!

business growth and marathons

Finishing The North Lincolnshire Half Marathon

When I’m on mile 15 of a 16 mile training run I’m not really pondering the issues about poor productivity in UK business, how business owners could improve the engagement of their staff or any other business growth related issues for that matter.  My mind is thinking about getting to the end and having a rest (and a slice of cake) if I’m perfectly honest!  On reflection, reading the article made me think about a few points worth making that would be useful for businesses…

Marathon Tips For Business Growth

Fueling for an Ultra Marathon is critical – I’ve heard an Ultra is a meal on the run – there’s a lots of advice about what to eat.  The Ultra I’m doing has the usual energy gels at the feeding stations but also offers cake – a real incentive for a cake-lover like me!  But how does fueling relate to a business? The article suggested that the fuel in business is motivation.  The accountant in me would say cash is the fuel of a business.  It’s always a balance of cash out vs cash in.  Too much cash out compared to cash coming in and the business is at risk of stopping.  The same for me when running – I’m using up energy all the time and to get 35 miles done I’ll need loads of energy put back in – hence the constant eating every few miles.

Focusing on the finish line makes real sense in a running race. In an Ultra Marathon, especially for a beginner like me, it’s all about finishing.  Timing and beating others is not on the agenda.  So using the focus analogy, I must admit when I’m out running I do focus on how I’m feeling, keeping a steady pace and making sure I finish.  As some of you may know I do often refer to being focused when I talk to business leaders, in fact I even deliver a workshop on the subject! So focus on being focused is my big tip here.  And if you want to know how focused your business is, take my FREE TEST.

Taking note of each landmark and breaking the race into smaller goals makes perfect sense for a business.  The strategy for the next few years of a business needs some interim goals, supported by sufficient actions and timings.  This article has reminded me I must make a trip up to Ripon to check out parts of the route.  It’s mostly off road and includes going through Fountains Abbey – very pretty sights to help me keep going!

Start Slowly is the watchword for all long distance runners, especially beginners.  Running off too fast at the start is very tempting when everybody around you seem to be sprinting off.  My advice is to go at a pace you can manage.  In many races I have caught up with those speedy folk who ran out of energy later in the race. The comparison to business for me is about not rushing off to conquer the business world in one go – take your time, focus on successfully completing a few vital goals and avoid multi-tasking.

Support is a big help to runners – seeing that friendly face when you’ve just come to the top of a long hill does lift the spirits. I know though that with a 35 mile loop of Ripon there’ll be quite a few miles with nobody cheering me on – that’s where determination will come on strong.  Back in the business world it’s really useful to have supporters, whether it’s to seek advice, get encouragement or refer business.

A few extra thoughts come to mind as well:

Training – I will probably run about 1500 miles over the 9 months of training for this 35 mile Ultra marathon.  No way could I just go out and run that distance.  In the business world I see too little training of all levels of staff yet they are expected to put in top quality performances.  My message to business owners is to consider how well trained your staff are to do their job to the best of their ability?  And training isn’t a one off exercise. Every runner is training for the next race!

Follow a plan or routine – I record all my runs and have a plan of what miles I need to do and what mix of runs to do – some long slow runs to build up the time on my legs and some shorter, faster runs up hills to strengthen my legs and push my heart and lungs.  I would always say a business needs 1) a plan for its future and 2) a series of process and routines that all the staff understand so they know what to do.

If these words have encouraged you to run yourself then call me for a chat and perhaps we can organise a run together. Whatever your attitude is to running 35 miles I would really appreciate your support for The Children’s Society by sponsoring me through my Just Giving Page.  Thanks in advance and I’m looking forward to sharing my post-marathon thoughts with you later in the year!