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Thought Leadership

Some people love to run marathons. 

Other people would rather walk barefoot on hot coals than train for one. 

If you’re running a business and think you’re not cut from the same cloth as a marathon runner (or vice versa), you couldn’t be more wrong.

An entrepreneur and a marathon runner have the following traits in common: 

They both have goals

Whether it’s crossing the finish line within a certain time (or at least vertically), or growing a successful business, a marathon runner and an entrepreneur have a challenging end goal in mind. They are both motivated to achieve this goal, and keep their eyes on the prize. 

They have a strategic plan

Marathon runners have a complex training plan. It involves committing to running a certain distance every day, cross-training, pacing, intervals, and rest days. This strategy gets them in shape to finish the race.

Entrepreneurs have a written business plan that serves the same purpose. It outlines the goals for the business and the details on achieving them. There are milestones to reach (financially or otherwise) with strategies that will keep them on the timeline to meeting their overall goal. 

They surround themselves with supportive people

Everyone needs cheerleaders in their corner. For a marathon runner, it might be a trainer, running buddy, a family member that encourages them, or supporters on the race route. An entrepreneur might have the support of a mentor, an advisory board, a peer group, or a spouse or friend that helps them through the rough patches.

They have grit

Nothing worth having comes easy—or fast. Slow and steady progress is what you need so you won’t burn out. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a marathon runner, that requires grit, discipline, and the stamina to continue when you’re tired, things are tough, or you want to give up.

They take risks

Entrepreneurs take on risk in order to grow their business. Whether it’s investments, hiring new team members to support expected new business, or taking on debt to accommodate anticipated growth, those types of decisions are stressful and risky.

Marathon runners also take risks—they have to be willing to push themselves to new limits, and challenge themselves physically in order to be ready for the race.

In an extreme example, one marathon runner we know trains in sketchy parts of New York City in the middle of the night because he finds motivation in knowing he has to outrun dangerous situations. He also signs himself up for crazy races around the world that require him to dodge bears, snakes, and other wildlife—just to keep things interesting. He faces these risks head on, and has become a successful marathon runner. While not every runner will take risks to this extent, they won’t make progress without taking some risks.

They have to deal with climate changes

Running in extreme temperatures, driving rain or heavy snow is challenging, or at least uncomfortable. So is dealing with non-environmental climate changes such as economic pressures, employee turnover, or a stock market crash. Being able to adapt to the changing environment is a necessary trait for both a successful runner and an entrepreneur.

They plan around family/personal relationships

If you’re married, have a significant other, and/or have kids, you have to consider how the path to achieving your goal affects those relationships. You will be pulled in different directions and be forced to prioritize your time. A marathon runner whose long run is on the weekend might miss their child’s baseball game. An entrepreneur with an important client meeting might not be home for dinner with the family. There are always sacrifices and accommodations that must be made to accomplish any goal, so both entrepreneurs and marathon runners get good at having a plan and communicating well. 

We’re not trying to convince to you run a marathon (even though we’re sure you have what it takes), but seeing the similarities between running a marathon and running a business might make you less likely to choose those hot coals in the long run (no pun intended). Are we right?

Which traits do you share with a marathon runner? Share with us on Facebook and Instagram!