August 31, 2022

How my marketing degree helped me to run a marathon

Trust the planFEAR to me is real. To reduce contact with failure, the way I see it you have two options.

  1. Let fear win and work within your comfort zone.
  2. Face your fear. Put systems and processes in place that enable you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

The line is fine and the inner voice I always come back to is, am I being honest, authentic, kind, and true? Therefore, if remaining in your comfort zone fulfils your self-actualisation (thank you Maslow) then you can be happy with your decision

For me, when pushed outside of said comfort zone, I often find that’s when I excel, I mean there are many grey hairs and sleepless nights but the rewards and seeing the result make it all worthwhile. They often create moments I can reflect on and smile with pride.

I like to test the [safely] path out of my comfort zone and most recently I did this by running the Midnight Sun Marathon, in Tromso, Norway, 350km inside the Arctic Circle.

I should point out that prior to this I have run one marathon, that time I got a PB 😉. My goal was to set a new PB and could I break 4, it’s like Breaking 2, just twice as slow as Eliud Kipchoge!

If I am to do this, I needed a plan. So, with my business head on I approached ‘breaking 4’ much the same as a formulating marketing strategy through to its implementation.

My process

I had my objective – to run a marathon on 18th June 2022. To run sub 4hrs 20 with the goal if all the stars are aligned to go sub 4 (at this point I knew it was a huge ask).

Next came my audit. What did I need to achieve this, what was already in place, what was I missing? What did I do before, how effective was I, what could I have done better? In summary, was I functioning as effectively as I could. New trainers purchased and some chafe free underwear!

Then I moved on to my SWOT analysis. At this point in time, what were my strengths and what were my weaknesses, could I turn any of those weaknesses into strengths? How about the opportunities, both along the way and afterwards? And what of the threats, the things I would not be able to control (FEAR!), what could I do to limit these. Let’s be honest, the last two years have thrown plenty of threats our way and in fact, I signed up to first run this in June 2020. So, there are some you just can’t control, another thing I must come to terms with.

Then I made some assumptions. These were based on my knowledge, previous experiences, and conversations with others. That said, I didn’t read up on but didn’t speak to anyone who had run the northernmost marathon as certified by the Association of Marathons and Distance Races. That was a missed opportunity.

This led to pulling together my strategy to help me meet my objective and the belief that I needed more than one objective. I can’t put all the eggs in one basket surely. The line must not be as fine as success or failure?

Next came managing my expectations, what was my expected result.  To finish first, first you must finish. Well, anyone who has ever competed in a running event, for the majority it’s a race against yourself (maybe a friend or the runner who happens to be next to you). But I think it’s fair to say that most of us don’t enter a marathon expecting to win. Well, I certainly don’t. This is very different to my business mindset.

Along the way I was faced with several hurdles, I was taken out of training with COVID for 12 days, this was at a time when I was due to run my first 20 miles training run. So, it was important to manage this. I couldn’t run, my health and that of others had to come first. So, I looked to alternative plans and mixing things up, what could I do during this time that was at home and would help maintain a level of fitness (and that didn’t involve buying a treadmill!). Then came an Asthma attack. A huge setback, almost as big for me as COVID and one that could put me out action altogether. If I didn’t take time out to recover, would I even make the start-line. It was here that I pursued advice from the experts, this was advice as much as reassurance.

In total it was a 16-week plan, but this followed the foundations and the base fitness of training throughout the winter, there was an element of risk v reward. As well as putting in the groundwork on the trails of the New Forest, there was the continuous planning, the travel arrangements, the timeline, what was my plan for the day as the run didn’t start until 8:30pm.  This is where the valuable expert advice, a sounding board that I refer to comes in. As the event drew closer, there was a great deal of focus around ‘trust’. Trust the process. Trust in your training.

Trust, I did

Post event it was time to enter the review and recovery phase. How successful were you? Well, I ran it. I finished it. Whilst I didn’t win, did I get break 4? No, but I did get 4hrs 16 mins making it a new PB! Crossing that finishing line was just a dropped pin on the map as 15 weeks from the finish line of the Midnight Sun Marathon, I would [hopefully] find myself on the start-line of the London Marathon on 2nd October 2022.

When I set off on my journey to Tromso, for me it was about was about running a marathon and yes that is 26.2 miles, but this is really a metaphor. Yes, there was a finish line, but it was very much about the journey not solely the destination. This was my journey, and it was about going the distance. Having the self-belief that I could do it. Being strict enough that I could dedicate enough resources (time, money, brain, and physical capacity) yet being flexible enough that I could adapt to the changing environment.

The distance you travel may not be a marathon, it may be 5km or it may be an ultra-marathon, it may not involve running at all. Whatever lies ahead for you, know your objective, put the buildings in blocks in place that are stringent enough to stand in place but light enough to lift and move.

So back to those two starting points.

Yes, it’s ok to stay in your comfort zone, but to me self-actualisation is so much more. By having a process that enables you to push yourself outside your comfort zone can enable doors to open that you didn’t even know existed and enable you more, both at work and home, than you thought was possible.

Whatever it is you are setting out to do whether that is make it through the working week, to launching a new product or company, to running a marathon. Have a plan, follow (and adapt) your plan, trust in your plan. This is your journey.

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