I wish someone had told me… running a business and running a marathon are not too different
“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them.
PR aficionado Gabbi Rego is a long-time friend and business associate of CN&CO’s and works with us on quite a few of our accounts. She is a massive travel fan (maybe even more so than Carel!) and wife to the amazing hipster-lawyer Dagan. Together they are raising their Boston terrier, Olive Boston Rego, aka #BaddestBitchInAllTheLand, in preparation for their own human baby… one day 🙂
Gabbi and Dagan joined us at Club Med Val Thorens in April, and Gabbi was one of the brave souls who participated in the Paris Marathon. Here she shares some of the lessons she learnt while pounding the Parisian streets…
It’s been three months since I completed my very first marathon. It’s been three months since one of the most incredible (and at the same time most challenging) experiences of my life.
The ups of the Paris Marathon were amazing. Truly euphoric. But the downs? Jeepers, were they low.
It reminded me of what it’s like running a business. Super-high highs, but also really low lows.
After four years of running my own business (and not having failed dismally at it, I like to think) I figured that if I could make four years of a business work, surely I could make a 42(and-a-bit) km marathon work – right?! So, to get me through the low points during the marathon I decided to distract myself and focus on all of the positive things I was experiencing and most importantly, learning, during the bumpy bits.
There are some of the noteworthy business and life lessons I took from my very first marathon experience that I wish someone had told me…
It doesn’t matter how terrified you are – accept the challenge, and just start
When Carel said I should join the crew who’d be running the marathon, I genuinely thought he was nuts. Like any (or at least most) normal human beings, all of the logical (physical and mental) reasons on why I shouldn’t say “yes, I’m in!” ran through my head.
- 42+ km is FCK far
- Yes, you’re pretty active, and for the most part quite fit. BUT, you’ve never run more than 10 km in one go (and that was more of a stroll for the Walk the Talk, so it hardly counts). Daily, you usually cover between 5 and 7 km on the treadmill, so a long distance (in the form of a marathon) might actually kill you
- Don’t forget, 42+ km is FCK far!
- You’ve had issues with your knee in the past, so volunteering to put it under pressure during a LONG DISTANCE run is a bit silly
- Again, 42+ km is FCK far
After chatting to Carel (and after a few glasses of wine, and hearing Christelle and Simon re-telling their incredible Paris Marathon experience) my hesitations were eased and I figured: “Fck it. What’s the worst that could happen, right? Count me in!”
Once I had put it out there and committed to being one of the crew who’d be running, and once my spot was booked and paid for, there was no backing out. I had accepted the challenge, and had no choice but to move forward and begin my journey to being marathon ready.
Terrified doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt in the months leading up to the marathon. There were so many unknowns and uncertainties. I had no idea what to expect or how I would survive. But I knew I had to do whatever I could to ensure I was as prepared* as I could be, both mentally and physically, to tackle the marathon as best I could and cross that finish line alive!
Just as in business, half the time you don’t know how you’re going to tackle a new client or project, especially in a field or industry you’ve never been exposed to before. But how else are you going to improve on your skills and expand on what you already know if you don’t accept a challenge in something you are completely not familiar with? Get out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself.
Just accept the challenge, and from there figure out how you’re going to make it work out. Don’t procrastinate or let fear of the unknown stop you. Just start.
*When I say “prepared” it’s important to note that the focus was on keeping my mind fit and strong, and ensuring my body would be strong enough to manage it. I did not do any half or full marathons in the months leading up to the Paris Marathon. I continued with my usual five to seven k’s a day, hoping I’d be okay. What the eyes don’t see, the heart (or in this case, the legs) don’t feel – right?! It was more a case of not wanting to aggravate my existing knee injury, because heck, if it was going to act up at any point, rather during the marathon and not beforehand, which might prevent me from participating at all.
Perspective (and keeping your shit together)
Before the marathon I spoke to a lot of people who told me that with things of this nature (being marathons, of course) yes, you need to be physically strong. But probably more importantly, you need to be mentally strong – especially if (when!) you hit “The Wall”.
Very early on in my marathon prep journey I realised I couldn’t look at the marathon as 42+ km – a seemingly impossible-to-reach distance when looking at it as a whole. Rather, I decided to break it down into smaller, more realistic-to-achieve mini-milestones. My initial approach was to tackle it in 10 km increments (10 km being a number/distance I had easily tackled before). This meant I had four smaller milestones of 10 km each to hit as opposed to one GIANT milestone of 42+ km).
In business, your perspective of things, be it in relation to a client project or internal matter, can make or break a situation. Sometimes you’ll be hit with a mammoth, seemingly impossible task. Sure, you’ll likely have a bit of a freak-out session initially (which is totally fine), but then you need to get your shit together and figure out how to break that mammoth task down into smaller, more manageable tasks – allowing you to eventually achieve the bigger goal.
Celebrate the small victories, one step at a time
In the last point I raised, I noted how I had broken my 42+ km mammoth task into 4 x 10 km increments. #MyFavouriteHubby, however, had other plans for me. Unbeknown to me (before we left for Paris) he had researched the entire route I’d be running, and recorded a voice note describing the part of Paris I would be running through at that moment, with a quote about marathon runners and the experience itself, with an accompanying song for me to listen to every time I hit a 5 km mark.
Before the marathon he instructed me that at every 5km point I had to listen to that respective voice note – and not to skip ahead. I can’t begin to tell you how breaking my 10 km x 4 into even smaller and even more manageable (5 km) milestones (with Dagan’s voice note motivations) helped.
Each 5 km water point became a small victory for me along the route.
Reaching the first four 5 km points was a breeze. From 24 km in is where I started to struggle. Those 5 km milestones seemed to grow further and further apart and more out of reach with every passing kilometre.
At 27 km the desire to quit starting to set in. I realised I needed to start celebrating even smaller victories. From there, every 1 km became my celebratory point. One kilometre became another kilometre, which became another kilometre – until I had (painfully, and eventually) reached the finish line. FCK YEAH!!!
In business, there are ups and downs. All. The. Time.
The Paris Marathon taught me not to wait for major victories before celebrating how far I’ve come or what I’ve achieved. So… celebrate small accomplishments, especially during the down times, which will serve as a pick-me-up to get you through. And remember, take it one step (or one km) at a time…
When I hit the 21 km mark (officially the half way mark – which I reached in about 2.5 hours) I felt invincible. “Damn, girl! For someone who didn’t train at all, that’s not bad! Your 5.5 hour finishing time goal is in the bag!”
That saying: don’t count your chickens before the hatch? Yip, very appropriate here, both in business and in a marathon.
The second I hit 24 km, it all went downhill for me – and not in the literal sense. It was at that point that my quads tightened and my hip flexors just freaked the fck out (very likely from not having trained or prepared them at all for what was to come). The pain was unbearable.
My big lesson here (in marathon running and in business): don’t be overconfident or arrogant. You will very likely, and very smartly, be brought back down to earth.
Set goals, and know when to call it quits
The further I got along the marathon route (from 24 km in, where my legs were taking a beating) I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I was tempted to fake an injury to get out of having to go any further.
“You know, if you pretend to sprain your ankle or say your existing knee injury has sprung up, no one will even know! Then you can get out of this pain, and rather go and sip wine and eat croissants at a sidewalk café…”.
Sure, no one would know I had faked it – but I would know. Yes, if I had faked an injury and had quit, short term it would have provided me with some kind of physical relief. But the long term torture – living the rest of my life knowing that I had faked an injury and not completed the Paris Marathon? – that would eat me alive and I’d regret it until the day I died.
So, I quickly made a promise to myself: the ONLY time you are allowed to quit this marathon is if your knee genuinely acts up BIG time. Or if you die. Otherwise, keep going until you reach the end, even if it takes you hours, and you don’t finish in time for a medal. Just. Finish.
And that’s what I did.
Seven hours later, I completed my very first marathon!
The first feeling upon completing it was definitely not in my legs! No, they were about as broken as could be (and would take four days of recovery before they felt normal again). But that sense of accomplishment – after having set that goal to finish, no matter how long it took me, and NOT to quit – holy moly! I felt like a million bucks.
In business and in a marathon, it’s important to set goals and not to let anything stop you. Yes, you’ll have down days where life and business seem to be against you, and those goals seem incredibly unattainable, but keep at it. Keep your eyes on the prize. Keep pushing.
As important as it is to set those goals, it’s just as important to know when to quit. Seth Godin’s book The Dip: The Extraordinary Benefits of Knowing When to Quit and When to Stick, is an awesome short read on the topic.
Before embarking on your marathon or business journey, know at what point you’d be willing to quit; and if you don’t reach that point, keep pushing toward your goal – no matter what.
The journey, not the destination
If you’re still reading at this point, you’ll know that I had a bit of a rough marathon, physically (hardly the “romantic” idea of the Paris Marathon that I went into it with). One of the biggest lessons I was reminded of was: it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. And how true that was.
When I realised I wasn’t going to make the medal cut-off time; that the pain in my legs wasn’t exactly getting any easier with every step I took; I figured I may as well take it easy – and (on to my next point)…
Stop to enjoy the scenery
The pain in my legs actually started to distract me from enjoying the beautiful Paris I am besotted with, and that really started to piss me off. So I decided I was going to take my time and immerse myself in the moment and the marathon, with or without the goddamn pain.
In business and in life, the lows and tough times can easily distract you from what you want to achieve (your destination). But it’s also important at some points along your journey to stop and enjoy the scenery, as well as the journey itself.
These days I find life passing by faster than I’d like it to. Before I know it, another year has passed. Sure, time flies when you’re having fun, but heck, can it just slow down a teeny bit for us to relish the little moments?
No. Time isn’t going to slow down. Not for me, not for you – for no one. That’s why we need to actively make an effort, every damn day, to enjoy the journey – in business and in life 🙂