Cincinnati is buzzing with excitement for the 13th Annual Flying Pig Marathon on Sunday, May 1 – one of the country’s most popular races. Running USA reported that with 8,660 participants, the 2009 Flying Pig half-marathon was the 57th largest race of any distance in the country. The full 26.2 mile marathon in 2009 had 4,071 finishers, making it the 26th largest marathon in the country. This year pre-registration for Sunday’s race jumped by 16.4 percent.
This April, Cincinnati’s runners have braved the elements of one of the wettest months in the city’s history, lacing up their shoes and hitting the pavement despite the incessant rain. These intrepid trainees have inspired us to notice that the business of running is a lot like running a business.
For example, Suellen Hughes identifies a parallel that may be particularly relevant on Sunday. Hughes, an Australian marathoner, lifestyle and business consultant, and founder of Transforme, argues that imperfect racing conditions remind leaders that their businesses ought to operate smoothly in less than ideal circumstances. Unforeseen budget constraints or personal conflicts are no excuse for underperforming.
According to John Klekele, consultant with Under30CEO, the five phases of a marathon – pre-start, start, trial stage, second wind, and finish – mirror the trajectory that many businesses follow. Enthusiasm and commitment at the outset often buckle under extreme challenges, much like a runner’s excitement, can falter in the midst of a grueling race. Yet this stage can often provide a leader with just the right inspiration. “Some companies or individuals have the greatest success after pulling themselves out of the lowest points in their career,” Klekele says.
Finally, successful training for a marathon and running a business both depend upon a balanced life. In 2009 The New York Times reported that Matt Higgins, executive vice president of business operations for the New York Jets, learned to balance his career with his health and wellbeing through training for a marathon. “Running forces you to slow down because the only way you can finish is to allow time to elapse,” said Higgins. “That was important because I had never lived my life that way. I could always accelerate everything through the sheer force of will.” The Jets organization has benefited as a result of Higgins’ renewed commitment to life outside of his career. The Jets cafeteria has changed vendors, cut foods high in fat, and the team’s nutritionist is available to all employees.
The determination, endurance, and balance needed for marathons transfers easily to a philosophy on business. What have your hobbies taught you about your career?