English,  Sport vs. Business

Sport vs Business (4) – Lessons learnt from running marathons

Running a Marathon is often quoted as a major challenge a regular person of our times could face. I have been through inner debates myself, whether to dare it or not. Passed through and felt elated. Like many others before me. Like many more to come, enlarging this wonderful “army” of finishers. Every single person completing those 42.2km takes his/her own take-aways. However, by discussing over and over again about this provocation with lots of people, being involved in organizing sport events myself, I hereby wrap up a few learnings, which I find useful in business and life in general. As completing a Marathon is much more than achieving a milestone in sports. It is a landmark in your life and may have positive impact in your career.

Perseverence

Some things don’t just happen. Not with major projects, such as marathons. You need to work hard and consistent. In order to run those miles or kilometers, whichever metric you use, you cannot just go out and start running. You won’t finish it (you might, though, but I strongly recommend not to try this as a first-timer, for the sake of your health). You have to plan ahead, you have to set this goal and work your guts out for it. Weeks, months in advance. Progress slowly. Pass over hard times and deal with thoughts to give up. Find motivation when many inside voices ask you why, and sometimes you find it difficult to give rational answers. I wouldn’t go as deep as Whiplash (a movie that could generate complex and contradictory emotions), but some analogies might transcede.

In conclusion, set the goal, even it might seem hardly accoplishable at first. Then, work hard towards it, day by day. You will get there. Do you want to become a specialist in something? Would you like to work for a particular company or brand? Would you like to pursue an entrepreneurial initiative? Set this as your goal, draft a plan to get there and, step by step, close the gap to that finish line!

Mind and body

Performance requires mind & body. In order to finish a marathon, you have to train. You have to get in physical shape to complete it, to receive that invaluable finisher medal! What a precious trophy that piece of metal is! Because it is engraved with sweat, with pain, with sacrifices. As well as joy, determination and health. Is this performance only about muscles? Definitely not. It is a mental game as well, the old theme of agony and ecstasy. It also means having an appropriate nutrition, to sleep well, to take care of all these factors with impact on your overall capabilities. This is a key lesson marathon teaches, as we often disregard certain aspects of our lives, during regular “office” hours. Yes, you can work well with few slept hours and plenty of coffees or energy drink, yes, you can skip meals, yes, you can sit for hours in meetings with no stretching or muscular activities. You think you can, because office environments do not provide sensitive enough outcome metrics (don’t prompt here your job KPIs). If you disregard the above aspects, in long distance running (as well as in other endurance sports as well), you will feel a huge difference. As you face real challenges, as a whole mind&body system, your performance will be significantly lower. That will be eye-opening on the importance of some matters in your day-to-day routine. There are increase chances that, as a marathon finisher, you will increase your responsibility with all the ingredients of a balanced life.

Humbleness

Many of us are raised in small groups, in school classes or, later, in small offices. We may be used to be on top, to be leaders in our teams, to be among the best in our departments. This is good, it helps our morale and self-accomplishment. However, in marathons, you are faced with a rather completely competitive environment. You will learn to…fail, provided the overall ranking mattered. You will learn to be in the middle, one among many, no crown on your head. You will see there are many more competitors much better than you. It will change your mindset, it will focus your competitiveness towards becoming a better you, rather than overcoming anyone else. Is this a downsize? On the contrary, I think it has a positive impact on everyone. You want to become a top runner among all the others, no matter who they are? Be among the best among 10,000 runners? Well, try it! (still, I’d say you should recalibrate these expectations). You might get to some results, but you will have a better understanding on what it takes to get there, at a broader scale. You might have been used to being #1, or in top10. Marathons might bring you positive emotions you have not yet experienced, regardless the fact that you have finished as #21632.

Limits are far

Eliud, the famous Kenyan runner recorded with golder capitals in the hystory of mankind, in 2019, as the first person to ever finish a marathon under 2 hours, has a motto: “No human is limited”. This is not a marketing slogan (though it has all the ingredients for a strong one!). I am not saying we necessarily have limitless capacities but the individual limits are certainly much farther that we presume. Completing a marathon redesigns your understanding on “I don’t think I can do that” or “well, that’s impossible!”. This mental reassurance gained the second you cross the marathon finish line, the trust in your forces (under a bit of discipline as described above), may boost your performance in office or even in other activities. Murakami writes in his book, “Novelist as a profession” (2015), that his writing capacity is strongly influenced by his…running. As a marathoner, he can tackle long novels, he has stamina to write, he is well organized. I can share his mindset with my projects (at a different scale, for sure…).

Why do hundreds of thousands of people, all ages and nationalities, run marathons? Would they gather in these event if those who have done it before came out dissapointed, faced with futility and waste of time? No, all these people come to marathons all around the globe because they accept a personal challenge. Because, some of them, have done it before and became addicted. Because, some of their friends have done it and shared the uncomparable emotions and benefits.

Good luck, in your training sessions and in your business performance!