What running a marathon can teach us about running a business

canstockphoto5032902I recently completed a half marathon.  As I was between mile 9 and 10, it occurred to me that running a marathon is much like running a business.  Here’s why:

You need to be prepared.

You should not show up at the start of a marathon without preparing for it. If you have never run before or trained for it, you are setting yourself up to fail or worse — to get hurt.

Similarly, you should not start a business without preparing. Take the time to research your idea and develop your plan and strategy before you get to the starting line. This will help ensure a strong finish.

You never know if you’re prepared.

No matter how much you prepare to run a marathon or a business, you never know how well prepared you are until you start. Before my marathon, I was wishing I had time for one more training run. I wasn’t sure I was ready. But race day came and I had to go for it or go home. I chose to go for it and hope I was well prepared enough to complete the race.

The same is true with launching a business. At some point you have to go for it. If you wait until every single detail is taken care of, you will never start. There will always be more to do.

“Paralysis by analysis” and fear of failing is a common reason that runners and entrepreneurs never get to the start or the finish line.

It will be hard.

No matter how much you train or plan, running a business — like running a marathon — will be hard. There will be moments that make you question why you are doing this. You will want to stop. You will want to quit. You will want to be doing something else — anything else.

There will be steep hills to climb that will force you to dig deep and find strength you never knew you had. But if you’re prepared for the tough times and take things one step at a time, you will get through it and eventually will be coasting downhill.

Expect the unexpected.

When you’re running a marathon, things will happen that you can never plan for. During a long run your body may surprise you in unexpected ways (some may be rather embarrassing).

Along with physical issues, you may encounter bad weather, rough terrain and clothing problems such as chafing or a bad shoe.

The same is true with a business. No matter how well you plan and prepare, surprises will be part of your course. You have to decide how best to deal with the unexpected and keep moving forward.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

I have a trainer who helped me prepare for the marathon and friends and family who understood why I needed to spend time away from them to train. There were people along the route handing me water and complete strangers cheering me on.

They were there to encourage me as I ran and celebrate with me at the finish. You need the same people to run a business: family and friends who will support you from the beginning all the way to the finish line.

The rewards outweigh the risk and the pain.

There will be great “highs” and amazing moments along your route. Those highs outweigh the lows and the hard parts. The feeling of crossing that finish line and achieving a goal that you worked hard for is so incredible — it makes all the tough times worth it!

Remember, running a business is a marathon and not a sprint. Great rewards come to those who put the time in to prepare and build a business based on a quality product or service, provide exceptional customer service and manage the business responsibly over time.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will achieve your goals!

Deb Neuman

About Deb Neuman

Deb thinks Maine is a great place to do business and loves telling the stories of Mainers proving that it can be done! An entrepreneur at heart, she enjoys helping others with the same drive to create and innovate!