The marathon of business leadership: How to find the way to keep running

When you feel tired and just want to stop for a while, remember that there’s always someone behind you.

A while ago, I ran the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon in Lancaster County, PA. Although I’ve been running for 30+ years and have finished many marathons and half marathons, I did not train as well going into this race. With that being said, I knew I was going to struggle both physically and mentally. On the drive home afterwards, I started to think about the parallels between running a long distance and being an entrepreneur.

Mile 1 - feeling good. My pace feels like I could do this for a long time. Still, I tell myself to relax a bit and just stay within the pack.

Month 1 - Just created the company and want to do everything at once. I have to force myself to slow down and create a methodology for my business and how to expand it.

Mile 3 (~22% done)- Now I’m in a groove. A small hill took some steam from me but I’m OK. Now I’m thinking that I still have 10 more miles to run. My knees hurt a bit but nothing I can’t handle.

Month 3 (~20%)- Creating an app takes a lot of time. I know what I want it to do but I spend a majority of my time fine tuning every detail. The lack of sleep is taking its toll but I know it will be worth it when I have the finished product.

Mile 5 (38%) - Now I’m tired, really tired. I realize that my lack of training is the biggest problem. Still, it’s somewhat calming to know that this will be mostly mental for me. I’ve been tired before..

Mile 7 (54%) - Over halfway done, but I just calculated in my head that I will not break the two hour mark. I’m a bit upset but realize that I have no one to blame but me. I could’ve trained a bit more and wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Month 9 (56%)- I realize that my app will not be an overnight success and feel a bit dejected. Still, no time to wallow in despair; it’s time to get feedback from users and see what can be improved.

Mile 8 (62%) - In my tired state, I now understand that I will break 2 hours if I keep my pace up! Feeling a bit rejuvenated, I pick up the pace and move on.

Mile 10 (77%) - Only a 5k to go, I pick up the pace. I can see the end in my mind and know I have the reserves to get me there. Still, the infamous “runner’s wall” is right in front of me and I do so very much want to stop and walk. Instead of stopping, I put my head down and pick up the pace for about a minute. Feeling the wall behind me, I vow not to let it catch up to me again.

Month 12 (75%) - One year mark and I am making changes for version 2.0. Although long nights and sleepy days are ahead of me, I feel excited about the new features and stay very upbeat.

Mile 12 (92%) - One mile to go! Now’s the time to pick up some serious speed and start passing runners one at a time. A few runners try and keep up with me and one even lasts a while, but up in the distance I can see where the runners turn off into the finishers’ village and I’m picking up even more speed.

Month 15 (93%)- I got a few big speaking engagements at large technical talks (Baltimore’s Tech Breakfast) and a meeting with a CFO I know gave me excellent insight into an untapped market. Sleeping 5 hours a night is becoming the norm but I can see success in front of me.

Mile 13.1 (100%)- By no means a Personal Record (PR), but I beat the two hour mark! Success at last!

Month 16 (100%) - ???

What’s around the corner for a new entrepreneur with some excellent ideas? I don’t know, but if you’re my competition, you better start training… If there’s one think I can take from long distance running, it’s that it’s OK to be tired and it’s even OK to get close to walking. The important piece is to keep moving and when you hit the wall, run right through it.

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