12 Most Glaring Similarities between Running a Business and a Marathon
Late last year, I threw around the idea that I wanted to do a major walk for a breast cancer charity to my daughter-in-law, who is also my assistant. At first, she ignored me—she was up to her eyeballs in tax prep, her least favorite, but busiest, time of year—but called me on the way home from work a few days later. She had heard an ad on the radio for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a 2-day walking event in nearby Santa Barbara where participants walked a marathon on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. I enthusiastically agreed to do it. Now, with the marathon less than 3 months away, I still have a lot of training to do but have already learned that running a business and walking a marathon have so much in common.
1. You have to dedicate time to it every day
Every day, seven days a week, I have marathon training. On Tuesday and Thursday, I walk 3 or 4 miles. On Saturday and Sunday, I do an endurance walk; this week is up to 10 miles. On Wednesday and Friday, I have cross training. If you don’t tend to your business every day, like your muscles, it will atrophy.
2. But sometimes, that time you dedicate is rest time
On Mondays, all I have to do is a 15 minute recovery walk. It helps rest my muscles and prevent injury. Likewise,iIf I spend too much time at work, I will eventually burn out. That burnout will hurt my business with a drop in productivity and quality of work.
3. No matter what anyone tells you, there is no shortcut
Every day, I get emails proclaiming that someone has the one product I need to run my business on autopilot with not effort and all I’ll have to do is sign checks. Let me tell you, those products don’t exist. As much as I would love to walk a marathon without having to actually work for it, it’ll never happen. Even if it’s work you love, work still requires, well, work.
4. You need the right tools and gear to do it well
I have spent a few hundred dollars on sweat pants, chafing gels, wicking socks, and good shoes. Sure, I could walk a marathon in loafers, but I might never walk again due to the blisters on my feet. Just like without a program like Quickbooks, my finances would never be in order and, without a myriad of programs, I would never know what homes were foreclosed and which were the best deals.
5. Everyone can do it…
I am a 56-year-old grandmother and proud of it. I have had surgery to correct foot problems. I have arthritis in my hip. And guess what? I am doing this walking marathon. I was a teacher for years. I have my Master’s degree in Special Education. And guess what? I am running my own real estate investment business.
6. …but some people are better at it than others
I won’t finish my marathon first; someone faster, lighter and, realistically, younger, will finish it first. I can make a tidy little sum for myself from my business but I don’t need to be a multimillionaire like some of my fellow investors will.
7. You can do it alone, but you will likely lose your mind
Sometimes, my daughter-in-law is unable to make our walks so I end up walking 3 or 4 miles by myself. Those walks feel twice as long as the 8 mile walks I go on with someone; the encouragement and company just make a daunting task easier. The same applies during the work day. Sometimes, all I need is a little nudge to stay on task. Other times, I need help getting down to the gnitty-gritty. Sure, I could work without help… but why?
8. Start small, think big
When I started marathon training, we did 15 minute walks 5 times a week; anything more and I would have likely gotten hurt. Fast forward to next week, when we will walk 23 miles; we will increase our mileage until September. With my business, I could have started by asking everyone I knew for startup capital and selling my residence to pay them back. Instead, I took the money I had and took a few, smaller loans to buy my first couple of houses. I went up in scope from there.
9. Have a clear plan and write it down
In my office, I have a two-month calendar with the mileage for all of my walks written down. I also have copies of the 6-month training plan around the house. I think I even have on in my purse. This way, I can’t forget what I set out to do and when I set out to do it. In that same office, I also have a daily schedule for our work activities. I have a major to-do list which evolves and changes as my needs do. We have reminders of what work needs to get done on our phones. This way, we always keep sight of what we need to take care of.
10. Accept that you will need to make some sacrifices to reach your goals
Every Saturday and Sunday, our walks are getting longer and longer, so most of our free time is dedicated to walking. When I was a teacher, I took more vacations and filled out fewer government forms (and I hate paperwork). As my waistline is getting slimmer from my marathon training, I still feel like I have more freedom—if less time—now that I run my own business.
11. You will want to give up
I had a family emergency right around the time of my first 8 mile walk. I realized that I hadn’t even walked a third of the total miles I was going to walk before the end of the event and I was already tired of walking. I even had a dream that I was forced to walk everywhere and I died from it. Similarly, I can guarantee you that there were days I wanted to go back to teaching—but I stuck it out because I had a contract with myself. So far, it’s been worth it.
12. Sometimes, it will hurt
The first time I walked 6 miles, I forgot to stretch afterwards. I had a property to go to and hopped in the car for about an hour and a half. When I finally got to the property, I could barely walk. I was in a lot of pain and my muscles were so tight that I couldn’t go up to the second story for close to an hour. I made similar mistakes with investments and have lost money on some deals. It hurts—I like my money very much, thank you—but I chock it up as a learning experience and try to do better next time.
But at the end of it all—be it a comfortable retirement in 10 years or that feeling of success at the end of my marathon—it’ll all be worth it. Stick to it. As the kids say on Twitter, #riseandgrind
Featured image courtesy of adropp licensed via creative commons.