Discover the secrets to small business success by watching a marathon

Yesterday it was my birthday.  It was also the day of the 2016 London Marathon.  And I should have been running it.  But instead, I was sat on my sofa with tears of disappointment rolling down my cheeks as the race started due to my being injured.

I sat and watched the marathon and during the race it dawned on me the number of similarities between running a marathon and running a business.

Let me share them with you here:


Firstly, the preparation.  If you just rock up on the start line of a marathon with no prior preparation, you are going to be in for a big shock and it is highly unlikely that you will make it to the finish.  Remember the old adage, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.  And it is the same in business.  Before jumping into a new business venture with both feet, you really do need to do some prior preparation to test if your small business idea is viable, find out where there are weak spots and then do something about those weak spots to make them stronger.


Next comes the planning.  With running a marathon, you are going to need to plan what resources you are going to need such as kit, hydration, training plan etc. and are likely to want to plan what time you want to finish in.  In business, you need to plan the resources you are going to need so that your small business will run efficiently and you also need to plan what you want to achieve over what time period so that you can put steps in place to achieve this.  Without planning, whether running a marathon or a business, you are going to fall by the wayside, particularly if you don’t have the correct resources.  And without a timeline and goal, you will just drift along with no idea if you are on track or not to achieve your best.

Be prepared for the unexpected

It is inevitable at some point that something is going to trip you up and scupper all your long-held plans, quite literally!  In my case, when out on a long training run for the marathon I did exactly that.  I tripped and broke my ankle!  My marathon plans were dashed as there was simply not enough time for the bone to repair and for me to get my training back on track.  Yes, I sat and sulked, got angry and felt sorry for myself.  And then I decided that I would just have to adjust my plans and aim for next year.  In business, we can easily get thrown off track and this can be the critical point of whether you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get yourself back on track, or whether you simply throw in the towel and give up.  It invariably takes far longer to have a successful small business than we initially hoped, and has far more heartache and tears along the way than we ever could have ever imagined.  But when you finally succeed, there is no other feeling like it.  Just as it feels to cross that marathon line and take your medal.


If you try and train for and then run a marathon alone it is incredibly lonely and the likelihood is that you will lose motivation along the way and give up.  You will make so many mistakes and waste so much time and money that you could have easily avoided with the right advice.  The same goes for running a small business.  You need to find someone that you can discuss your ideas and goals with and who is there to support you when the times are tough.  Those who do best in marathons and business are those who get professional coaches who have been there, done it and have the experience to guide you on the right path and stop you making all too common mistakes.  We all that helping hand if we are truly going to be the best that we can be.

Be aware of unseen opportunities

We may start out on our path with a very clear idea in our mind of what we want to achieve, but we must be careful not to become blind to opportunities that may appear under our noses.  It was heart-breaking this year to see Eliud Kipchoge come across the finish line in first place, achieving his goal, but then looking back at the clock to realise that he had missed the world record by a mere 8 seconds.  The disbelief and despair on his face were palpable.  He had been so focused on his goal of finishing first, that he simply not realised that he could comfortably have taken the world record title by speeding up a few hundred yards earlier at the finish.  In business, yes, you want to keep focused on the end goal but always be open for any other opportunities that may come along to help you succeed even further.

Celebrate achievements

As the marathon runners get given their medal as they cross the finish line, you need to reward yourself for your achievements in business.  Running a successful business is not easy.  If it was, everyone would be doing it.  It is tough.  As with marathon training, there and many highs and many more lows.  With each step forward that you achieve, stop and realise how far you have come and reward yourself for sticking with it and making it work

Know when enough is enough

Whilst I am one for saying never give up, if you really have given it your all and your health or relationships are now suffering because of it, you may just need to realise that your dream is going to have to take a different route.  This does not mean that you have failed, but simply means that you are going to have to find something different to fulfil your passion for success.  Whether it is constant injuries whilst running, and you realise your body simply isn’t suited to constant pounding of the streets, or your small business is simply not working, bills are not getting paid and you are in danger of losing your home, sometimes you have to face the hard truth and find a different way of doing things.  This may be switching from the long distance marathon to competing in a triathlon with a shorter run or taking your business down a different route that will generate more income for you.


So there you have my similarities between running a marathon and running a small business.  I would love to hear of any others that you may have so please leave a comment below.