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Why Marathoning is Good for Business in 2015

Monday, January 12th, 2015

What business lessons can be learnt from running a marathon in 2015.

Is running a marathon on your bucket list?

Is 2015 the year you make it your business to attempt “The Great Suburban Everest”?

Perhaps. But it’s unlikely.

Running 26.2 miles has captured the world’s imagination for the past 130 or so years. But just 0.5 per cent of us will ever complete one.

And even then, ticked off the bucket list, it’s often a case of “never again”. The urge fulfilled, it’s on to new challenges.

This is a shame.

Why? Because I believe there are some good business lessons to be learnt from running marathons in 2015. And, as the owner of a Glasgow public relations company and recent marathon convert, I’m going to share them with you!

You Get Out What You Put In

Don't take unneccessary risks in business like Icarus.

Here it depends on your aims. Are you happy coasting along or do you want to see if you can fulfil your (and your company’s) potential? How much training (focussed work) are you prepared to put in? How much do you want to succeed? And what is success. Set your goals low and they are easier to achieve. Aim high and you might go on to great things. But be realistic: you don’t want to “hit the wall” like Icarus, who famously flew too close to The Sun.

It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

To be successful in business you have to be in it for the long haul. Few companies are built overnight and it’s important to have a strategic plan to achieve your goals. Short-term success is welcome but it’s consistency which gets you results.

Have a Clear, Articulated Goal

The average finishing times for the 500,000+ US marathoners in 2013 were 4:16 (male) and 4:41 (female). Walkers take eight hours+ while Dennis Kimetto set the world record in Berlin last year with 2:02:57. Whatever goal you set, whether in a marathon or for your business, make it clear, focussed and stick to it. Articulate it too. The more people you tell the more likely you are to put in all the legwork to achieve it. And don’t be scared. Aim high. What’s the worst that could happen.

Kimetto and Mutai.

Dennis Kimetto and Geoffrey Mutai at the 2012 Berlin Marathon. Kimetto went on to beat his compatriot in 2014.

Plan A and Plan B

If you have a realistic, achievable yet challenging Plan A, you shouldn’t need a Plan B. Which is different from saying “don’t have a Plan B”.

Let me explain.

You’ve set your goal. You’ve told people what it is. And you’ve put together your business plan/training schedule. Now it’s just a case of following the plan. Simple? Maybe, if you’re lucky. But training for a marathon/running a business is not an exact science. What if you get injured? What if you get a sudden rush of contracts your company cannot handle without recruiting. The key is keeping the end goal in sight. What is the aim? What are you trying to achieve? Can you adapt to reach that original goal? “Yes you can”.

Having a Plan B is just about being flexible. It would be great if everything ran like clockwork. But training for a marathon/running a business is seldom like that. At the Berlin Marathon my Garmin (a GPS watch set to tell me my average pace per mile) stopped working 55 minutes in. My race strategy hinged on hitting an average pace per mile. I panicked but soon adapted while keeping my sights set on the goal. Plan A went out of the window, Plan B kicked in and I stuck to my goal. A clear case of prior preparation and planning preventing poor performance.

All Rest and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

Or so they say. One mistake I’ve made during my first year of business is believing the more hours I put in, the more I’ll get out. This is sort of true. But to borrow a hideous phrase from corporate life, sometimes it’s about working smarter not harder. It’s the same with marathoning. If you run every one of your training sessions at the same pace, racking up the miles, running every day, you are not going to get far. It’s the road to certain injury, and will see you plodding through your marathon. Take time off, read a book, spend time with your family. Play.

Let’s Go On a Learning Journey

Buffer is one of the world's best marketing blogs.

One thing marathoning has taught me is that to excel at something you have to enjoy it. You must want to find out everything you can about it: be the best you can be. Similarly, if you’re not doing a job you love, find a new one. Succeeding in business is not about making money. Let me rephrase that: if your sole motivation for being in business is making money, it’s unlikely your clients are getting a good service.

I get marathon inspiration from friends, my coach, social media, books, blogs, races…the list is endless.

Likewise, if I’m not learning new things every day about PR, content marketing, social media and SEO (which comprise my day job) and putting them into practice, I’m not doing myself, my company or my clients justice.

I spend at least an hour and a half every day reading for work. Usually late in the evening. Why? Because I’m an enthusiast…I love my job. I also want to know all the latest worldwide developments in my field so I can help my clients sell. The more you know about a subject the better you perform. Then it’s just a case of having the work ethic to back it up.

Form

As you progress in marathoning/business you will want to be as efficient as possible. While there are many examples of great marathoners with strange and inefficient running styles, none of them would tell you they wouldn’t want good “form” if they had their time again. Greatest effect for least effort surely has to be the Holy Grail in business. Being efficient.

Surround Yourself With Good People (and Get a Mentor)

When you’re training for a marathon you need support from family, friends and your coach. In business it’s the same. No man is an island and however strong your mentality, you need help from others. Having a mentor/coach who’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt is invaluable. I’m lucky to have both.

Rocky Balboa had a coach called Mickey and maratoneres businesspeople need one too.

Rocky had a mentor and coach; and you need one too.

Never. Give. Up

There’s always some point in a race, usually after 20 miles, when every marathoner is tempted to give up. Don’t. Keep going. Stick to the plan. Trust your training. Believe in yourself. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Imagine if you pull through. Imagine if you nail your goal. You’ve put all that hard work and dedication in…and you deserve the reward. It’s the same in business. Stick to your guns, keep at it, and if Plan A really isn’t working, you’ve always got your back-up, yeah?

And Finally

Bruce Lee said be happy never satisfied, a metaphor for marathoning and business.

“Be happy, but never be satisfied”, as Bruce Lee said. To succeed in business you have to be hungry. There’s always a new challenge. Once you’ve achieved your goal, savour it for a week or two by all means but then set a new one. Never stand still. If you do, you’ll get bored and lose that enthusiasm and drive which was key to your success.

My name’s Dave @zudepr Glasgow PR man and content curator David Sawyer

I’m a multi-award-winning Glasgow PR guy providing media relations, content marketing, social media, and SEO services to clients across the UK. Over the past 21 months I have completed five marathons. My PB (PR if you’re American) is 2:43:48. In April 2015 my goal is to run the London Marathon in under two hours and forty minutes. And if I need a Plan B, there’s always Berlin.

Have you run a marathon? Are you planning to in 2015? What business lessons have you learnt from going the distance? Is it the challenge? Having the right gear? Knowing how to pace yourself? Not setting off too fast? Nutrition? Or even the importance of caffeine? Whatever it is, I’d be intrigued to hear your perspective.

Head over to zudepr.co.uk if you are interested in learning more about what I do.

Or sign up to my list to receive free actionable PR, SEO, and digital marketing tips via email. Each and every week.

Learn About Digital Marketing Little By Little: It’s a Marathon Not A Sprint

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