3 Business Lessons from Running a Marathon

It is no coincidence that I started my business the same year I started running.

Not only is running good for me physically, but it gives me time to think and it’s a great stress reliever.

Running also creates mental toughness. Every time I run a race, I learn valuable lessons that apply to both business and life.

And, just when I think I’m done writing about the parallels between running and business, I learn even more valuable lessons.

I ran my second marathon this past weekend and it was no exception. Once again, I was left with some takeaways about what it takes to succeed in business and in life.

Business Lessons from Marathon Running

Here are three important lessons I learned:

1. Goals are valuable — even if you miss them.

When I decided to run this marathon, I set a pretty aggressive time goal. I wanted to beat my first race by 23 minutes.

I knew this would be tough, but I wanted to give myself the challenge. I also knew I wouldn’t get where I wanted to be without setting that goal and planning for it.

It turns out that I missed my goal by 10 minutes, but I still beat my first race time by 13 minutes.

Did I fail?


I may not have reached my goal, but I’m confident I wouldn’t have done as well as I did without having a target to shoot for.

shoot for the moonThat’s why I’m a big fan of this saying from Les Brown:

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land amongst the stars.”

There is real power in goal setting. When I talk to business leaders, I’m surprised how few have concrete goals. They may want to increase their revenue or profits, launch a new product or service or expand into a new market, but they haven’t outlined exactly what they want to accomplish.

Goals must be SMART — specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Without being specific about your goals, how will you achieve them?

Set a goal and then build a plan to make it happen. That’s the only way to get to where you want to be. And, even if you miss your goal, I’m convinced you’ll get farther ahead than if you hadn’t set a goal at all.

2. There are things you can’t control.

Despite my months of training and preparation, there was one variable I absolutely couldn’t control — the weather.

My last two long training runs were phenomenal. I felt great and I was hitting my pace goal.

But, the race day was very different from my training runs. In fact, at the finish of the race, it was 20 degrees warmer than any of my training runs had been for the past six months.

Despite all of my preparation for the race, I melted in the 85-degree heat. So, I had to adjust my approach so I could get across that finish line.

Business is much the same way. The best-laid plans don’t always work. External factors can make a dramatic impact on your company’s ability to achieve success.

The economy tanks.
  Competitors enter the market. Neighborhoods transform. New laws are enacted. Customer needs change.

The big question becomes — how will you respond?

You can’t control what’s happening in the world around you. But, you can determine how you will handle it.

One of the best things you can do in business is to stay aware of what’s happening in the marketplace and, if need be, adjust your strategy accordingly. In business, it pays to be nimble.

3. It pays to have cheerleaders.

One of the greatest aspects of running a hometown race was the crowd support. It was awesome to have so many friends on the sidelines cheering me on to the finish.

I especially valued seeing my friend, Erin, at mile 23. Her sweet sign and cold sponge she had waiting for me was just what I needed to spur me on to the finish.

I was also blessed to have my friend and training buddy, Jill, beside me throughout the entire race. Her positive attitude kept me going when things got tough.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders need those cheerleaders too. After all, there are times when business can be incredibly challenging.

Having trusted colleagues, coaches and mentors to encourage you during the difficult times can help you keep moving forward.

That’s why, in addition to countless friends and colleagues; I also meet with the The Riverstone Group on a monthly basis. These monthly board meetings consist of fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders. Together, we help each other solve business problems and lend each other support.

Do you have trusted colleagues that you can lean on for support? Who is the biggest cheerleader for your business?

If you don’t have a network of support, take time to invest in building that up. You never know when you need those cheerleaders to help you reach your goals!

If you are a runner, what would you add to the list? What business lessons have you learned from personal accomplishments?



Share This Post

Laura Click

Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

4 replies on “3 Business Lessons from Running a Marathon”

Great advice Laura! So true about it building your mental toughness.. Any endurance sport is amazing for that!

I was never a ‘sun’ runner; heat is not a good thing for long distance running (at least for me it isn’t). Of course, guess what we have plenty of in Florida…

Once I locked in and set my training schedule, I was rising before the sun came up to log most of my miles. I don’t know if there was a parallel business lesson to be learned, but regardless of how good I felt on a training day I never ran past my 15 minute incremental increase every other week on the long runs.

What it did teach me was with the proper training and focus and discipline you can achieve a lot. My goal was to break 4 hours and I finished in 3:42. I did the Disney Marathon and it was in February so fortunately on this day it was high 40’s when we started.

Great story and congratulations. I’ve run a 1/2 since then but I’m more of a mountain (trail…once again, Florida…no mountains) biking kind of guy these days.

Bill – I’m SO impressed you can run a sub-4-hour marathon! I think that’s incredible. I’m WAY slower than you!

I’m so with you re: the heat. Last year, I ran the half marathon in 50 degrees with the pouring rain and I had a PR. The heat just kills you.

All that said, your point about discipline with your training is right on. You can’t reach a goal if you don’t have a plan and stick to it – that applies to both running and business!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We thought you might like these