What can we learn about the world of work from running the London Marathon?
Now that the dust has settled, the bleachers are folded away for another year and sore muscles have begun to heal, it seems a good time to look back on my experience running the London Marathon.
What are the lessons we can learn from competing in one of the most popular – and gruelling – annual sporting events in the world? How can we apply that to our day-to-day lives?
Firstly, preparation is everything.
Hard as it might be to believe looking at runners as they grimace round the 26.2-mile course, 98 per cent of the work it takes to complete a marathon comes in the months leading up to the big day.
Those rainy winter mornings, when body and spirit strongly advise staying in bed, it is vital to get out onto the pavements and put in those base miles. To be ready for the main event.
The same is true of the world of work. Whether it’s meeting a potential client for the first time, conducting a discussion with a journalist, composing a thought leadership piece or any of the other myriad tasks we undertake each day – preparation is everything.
When we understand the needs of our clients, dive deeper to develop expertise in a specific field or anticipate the questions of an interviewer, we are better equipped to show the best of ourselves.
Eliud Kipchoge can run the marathon in something close to two hours – a feat incomprehensible to most mortals. But this does not mean taking a little longer is any less of an accomplishment.
Secondly, it is important to celebrate our successes – whatever their size. This is a process, with many small steps along the way.
In the office, we can keep a similar mindset. It will take time to build up a network of contacts, to sharpen our writing or presentation skills, understand how to develop an effective pitch or compose a dazzling post.
These are talents we build up throughout a career, not something that happens overnight. It is important to focus on the goal and celebrate the small achievements during the journey.
Thirdly, ask for help.
Nobody is an expert in everything, while we are surrounded by friends, partners and colleagues who may have more experience or expertise than us. Most are happy to share.
During the build-up to the 2023 marathon, I worked with physios, chatted to other runners about their training plans and consulted a number of blogs on the best diet for long-distance races.
Each source of information provided guidance, new information to improve my overall performance. Without it, I am not sure I would have been able to complete course, to have been welcomed by the crowds cheering along the Mall.
Day-to-day tasks are no different. There is little value in heroically struggling alone if you are unsure how to do something. A strong office culture will be supportive, and there will be people willing to offer guidance or help when it is required.
Together, we can achieve more.
Finally, invest in yourself.
Training for a marathon can mean anything from hitting the gym a few times a week, to buying some new kit, or even fine-tuning a running playlist to squeeze out that extra ounce of motivation on the course.
In our professional lives, the process is the same.
Take the opportunity to learn new skills, join that seminar or read around a subject so you are ready for questions. Over a lifetime, these opportunities add real weight to our professional value – while also helping us develop as people.
These are just some of the lessons to take from doing the London Marathon – but, more than anything, I learned I never want to do another one!