I’m training to run my seventh full marathon and umpteenth half marathon; however, what makes this training cycle different is that both the upcoming half and full marathons will both be run the same weekend in January.
While that kind of physical rigor is commonplace for ultra-endurance athletes and Ironman competitors---I've never run the nearly 40 miles of those combined races within a continuous 48 hour window.
However, I've had plenty of road time to think about the challenges, fears and uncertainties I'm facing with this goal I've set. I’ve learned seven lessons while logging hundreds of miles running that can also apply to other areas of life, especially for entrepreneurs seeking to try something they've never done before.
In no particular order they are:
1. Know why you’re doing what you’re doing.
If you commit to anything significant in life, it’s a certainty that it will require time, resources and isolation from loved ones. Make sure your reasons and motives for doing what you do are clear and honorable. I'm a runner because both my parents died of heart disease in their early-60s, so running is an investment in my health and family's future. Additionally, the combo-race is being held in Disney World and I'm taking the whole family -- so they barely miss me on the long weekend runs.
2. Skip the skeptics.
Distance running is more of a mental accomplishment than a physical one. Your mind will push your body farther than it wants to go. While preparing for my first marathon the most important thing I keep reminding myself was that in the 24 months prior to Roger Bannister running a mile in under four minutes, there were dozens of peer-reviewed articles in medical journals that claimed it was a physical impossibility for a human to run that fast. Within a 12 month period after Bannister's accomplishment in 1954, a handful of other runners achieved the same feat.
3. Fret the small stuff.
During long training runs the things that typically interrupt a run are small things like a pebble in a sneaker, a loose shoe lace or failure to gage a change in the terrain which can lightly twist an ankle or knee. None are fatal, but little things are usually not planned for and can slow you down since its easier to plan and avoid big mishaps. I think that applies to most aspects of life.
4. Find a plan or mentor to help guide you.
This seems obvious but many entrepreneurs consider it "cheating" to ask for help or guidance from a mentor. They wrongly believe that they need to accomplish their goals on their own. When I first decided to train for a marathon, I had no idea where to start. So I Googled “marathon training” and stumbled upon a web site by running guru Hal Higdon that had a variety of different running plans for beginner, intermediate and advanced runners. Whether training for a race, changing careers, pursuing a degree or starting a business, find someone who’s done it and learn from their successes and failures.
5. Help others along the way.
It's easy to get so focused on running your own business or running your own race that you ignore others. However, on more than one occasion during actual marathon events, I’ve seen runners helping other competitors who were weak or limping get to a nearby aid station or stay by their side until a medic team arrived. These selfless individuals end up sacrificing their hours of training toward a personal record or “best time” for a stranger they’re competing against. That's admirable and it was profound to see it in action. That type of externally-focused philosophy is a strong foundation on which to build a business or a life.
6. Assign meaning to the pain and failure.
Everyone fails at something and all athletes endure physical pain at some point in training. Some form of failure and pain is the reality of the human condition and every entrepreneurial venture. However, if we assign meaning to the pain (e.g. the medal that awaits the winner of a marathon, successfully applying the learnings of a failed product launch, or the joy of a baby that’s delivered through the pain of childbirth...etc.) then the pain of life can be better endured or overcome.
7. Anyone can start a race, but not everyone can finish it.
I think this applies to virtually every aspect of life. Before you start a thing, make sure you know what it takes to finish it, and then do it.
While I haven't accomplished my 39.3 mile vision quest yet, I'm confident that I am able to do it. Every entrepreneur who considers these tips can be confident in the pursuit of their own vision.