What Is There in Common Between Entrepreneurship, the Marathon and a Can of Coca-Cola?
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Nine years ago I ran the first and only marathon I have ever done in my life. And, like entrepreneurship, I didn't really know what I would be up against.
He had heard of everything. Stories of heroism and determination. Of sacrifice and of pain. From falls and injuries. Of triumph. Stories of life, but also of death and despair. Those who had already run it assured that it was a wonderful and unforgettable experience; Those who would never run it questioned me and made me doubt the wisdom of the act, the strength of my heart and the risk it implied.
Yes, as with entrepreneurship .
Every day, before dawn, I would leave the house to meet my quota of kilometers, hoping that the discipline would be enough to be able to run 42,195 meters in a single throw. My goal? Do it in less than four hours.
240 minutes. That was the magic number in my head to determine whether or not I was successful. The figure was based on previous 5K, 10K or half marathon races and I was happy with it, although I really had no idea what life would be like after the 21 kilometer.
Just like in entrepreneurship.
The night before the marathon I didn't sleep well. My fear was not hearing the alarm clock. Also, I couldn't stop thinking about "the wall." I panicked crashing into it: reaching that point in the race where the wear is such that your legs stop reacting, breathing becomes difficult, and your muscles begin to cramp.
That could happen, approximately, at kilometer 33. The last nine kilometers would be the most difficult.
Not the beginning. Not half. The final phase, when you have already traveled a long way.
Just like in entrepreneurship.
That early morning in September I woke up with determination, but also with fear. The big day had arrived and the only thing left for me was to run.
The uncertainty of the first steps
As happens many times when one starts, I began to move between the uncertainty of the first kilometers with a multitude of runners. I passed some and others were passing me. At first I felt pressured, trying to follow a rhythm that was not my own, but little by little I was finding my cadence and getting into my career without paying attention to others.
I began to enjoy it.
The city looked splendid and it seemed to me that the people who were watching me from the sidewalks were always encouraging me to keep going. As if running were a venture , some looked at me with admiration. As if there was something unique in my act. Something superhuman and inspiring reserved only for a few.
And yet after kilometer 21 — the halfway point — my legs started to feel tired. The smiles in the audience seemed less obvious to me and each kilometer became longer and more difficult than the previous one.
Yes. Just like in entrepreneurship.
I saw the crisis coming after kilometer 30. An annoyance was present with each step just above my left knee. It hurt and I couldn't ignore it. By the 33rd I knew that I had injured my leg and that I was about to crash into the dreaded “wall”. And just as can happen when undertaking, the perfect plan he had laid out for the race was suddenly upset.
The suffering seemed absurd to me. And for the first time since the dream of running a marathon had arisen in me, I began to doubt if I could finish it. Without thinking too much, from one moment to the next, I stopped running and just walked ...
The corridor and the Coca-Cola
I was thirsty, craving something sweet, and there was no supply station nearby. My body was asking me to somehow give back the energy that I had taken from it. The tour had taken me to an area of the city that I did not know and that looked deserted. There was no one here to encourage me to continue.
In addition, the clock indicated that it had been more than four hours since it started; I wouldn't even get anywhere near my goal of 240 minutes.
And then I saw it.
His outfit was that of a real marathoner. His red shirt matched his shorts and his body was slim, but marked. Nor was he running. In fact, he was walking slower than me. In his hand he carried a can of Coca-Cola.
It looked delicious.
Seeing me, he started the conversation.
"How are you doing?"
-Wrong. I can not anymore.
He smiled as if he had been through this many times. Then he reached out with the soda can.
I nodded and the swig I took of a perfect stranger's ice cold drink restored my faith in myself for an instant.
-If you can!
Two words were enough to make me feel like I could run again and after thanking him for the soda drink I tried again.
I jogged, walked, and jogged again. So for nine more kilometers. I crossed the finish line with a time of 5 hours and 3 minutes, but more satisfied than if I had done my job.
The real marathon
Today it is just over a year that, after losing my job , I made the decision to undertake and try my luck as a freelance and independent consultant. I have no way of knowing if I have reached kilometer 33 of my route, but what is a fact is that there are days when I feel that I am right there, with a hurt knee, in front of the "wall" and with the doubt of to be able to reach the goal around my head.
But just like that day, and despite the fatigue, I have not stopped moving, moving forward one step at a time, always looking straight ahead, confident that when I think I cannot continue, someone will appear to offer me a drink of your soda, a word of encouragement or a simple tip.
Now that I think about it, it has always been that way. In the most difficult moments, in the moments of doubt, someone always appears who with a few words restores your faith in yourself.
Because that happens in marathons, in startups. And yes, also in life.