Marathon Running and Entrepreneurship

Marathon Running and Entrepreneurship

Some of you who follow me might have noticed that I am sort of fanatic marathon runner. Fanatic, not in the sense that I am a good or a fast runner but more that I am taking it seriously. It sounds even weirder when you know that I run my very first marathon at the age of 57. Since then I have made 14 full marathon races, which is more or less 2.3 races per year.

What happens in the mindset when a guy suddenly starts to run marathons at that age? We are talking about 42.195 kilometers or 26.2 miles. For sure a lot of things, but passion is absolutely one of the ingredients.


By doing sports during whole my life, the exercise part was not an obstacle and a lot of people asked me why not just continue my healthy way of living but go to the extreme side and commit myself to such a big challenge as what a marathon race represents. I needed to add a challenge to my life. To run 5km, 10km or even 21km (half marathon) anyone can do with a reasonable good physical condition. But a full marathon requires more, and you need to train properly to be able to fulfill a complete race. You need an appropriate training program or a plan.

A marathon plan cannot be executed in a sprinter race speed, but it takes time, in my case one year before I felt ready to enter the starting blocks for the first race. The confidence I had in myself was tremendous, lining up there for my first marathon race ever. I knew that I had trained according to my plan and I was so triggered to get finally the opportunity to challenge my dream of running a race that one year back was based on a firm decision I took.

There it is in a nutshell what you need to run a marathon race: A Passion, a Challenge, a Decision and a Plan.


Entrepreneurs are like Marathon Runners

The four words statement above seems to fit in pretty well on real entrepreneurs. Think about any successful entrepreneur you know and for sure there is a true passion behind their mission. Indeed, a serious decision has been taken before the whole business project was launched, with a detailed plan on how to reach the goal. And here we go! Challenge every single hurdle during the race towards the final goal.

With an overload of enthusiasm, a result of the true passion, it is more likely to be a rule than an exception that some hurdles turn into severe obstacles. For a marathon runner, this can be represented by the famous “Wall”. Somewhere around kilometer 30 (18.5 miles) when the body is completely empty of all energy, the immediate feeling is that here it all ends. The “wall” is often associated with a whole range of symptoms, such as dehydration, nausea, dizziness, headache, a lack of coordination and muscle spams, poor thinking, poor decision taking and so on….

marathon wall

For me and other fighters out there, even if we are suffering hitting the wall, it is also a trigger, a trigger to manage the challenge. After a few races you know exactly what happens when it is time to hit the wall and the good thing is that you can train for it and take measures to prevent and minimize all negative effects of it.

The professional runners, the best normally coming from countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, they also have to pass through this more challenging part of the race, when all glycogen is gone and you have to rely purely on your carbohydrate storage. However, they keep a tremendously even pace throughout the whole race. When the world record was sat in Berlin in September 2014 by Dennis Kipruto Kimetto from Kenya, at the fantastic finish time of 2:02:57, he had only a few seconds pace difference between the slowest and fastest kilometer. How did he deal with the wall? Training, experience and more training…..



The “Wall” for Entrepreneurs

Not a single biography can be found about famous entrepreneurs without talking about the failures towards their final goal. Talking about real “hitting the wall” events, the first one popping up is when Steve Jobs was fired from Apple 1985, the company where he was the co-founder. How did he act when he hit the “wall”? He continued his “race” as planned, started new companies and acquired other companies to continue his mission. At that time, he had enough money to retire and live a peaceful family life the rest of his life. However, his agenda was different. When back again to Apple he reinvented the image of the company to a new level and the rest of the success is a well-known story.

A true entrepreneur with a burning passion is unstoppable!

The same goes for marathon runners, especially when hitting the wall. What do entrepreneurs and marathon runners then have in common? Trying to find the key attributes, the first one coming up as the most obvious is that the approach towards the “wall” in both cases never includes complaints. Complaints relate to a negative approach, and both entrepreneurs and runner are searching for solutions.

Research even shows that exposure to as little as 30 minutes of negatively material actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus, an important part of your brain for problem solving. With a true passion and a serious plan how to reach the goal, the “wall” can more easily be overcome. The same goes for real entrepreneurs as for serious marathon runners.

The freedom and the privilege to practice this wonderful sport of marathon running requires a lot of coordination to materialize. One part of the coordination is the other activities in life. If freedom is an important variable for me, I found it logical to incorporate all other activities with the same “freedom tag”. In my case The Six Figure Mentors became a perfect part of that mix.


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To which quadrant do you belong?

Why are we not all entrepreneurs or marathon runners? The famous entrepreneur, investor and writer Robert Kiyosaki explains it all in a very easy and understandable way in his book Cashflow Quadrant. You can download the book for free from Amazon. He has an interesting model where people are divided into four different categories.

Quadrant of cash flow

The first square on the top to the left is quite obvious. As an employee, we are trading working hours for money. As a self-employed person, we are still trading work for money but now on an independent basis, where the compensation not necessarily will be time-based but for example project based

On the right-hand side, we will find business owners still doing a job but the compensation is different. We have more strings on our guitar, and when the business starts to grow, we hire employees to do part of the work. Based on the mission of the business it can sometimes take years before we get a return on the initial investment. The keyword is here to leverage all variables at our disposal to get the business profitable and sustainable. The risk involved is high, and therefore, a genuine and true passion must be an important ingredient before even thinking about to start an own business.

Finally, all people can be investors as it is an activity where the money is working for you. As an employee, you can set aside a certain amount of your monthly salary, invest it and see how the money grows over time. Business owners normally include in their plan to reinvest of part or in some cases 100% of the earnings, to re-inject “fuel” into the business and its growth.

Real entrepreneurs are always found in the “Business owner” and the “Investor” squares. The risk to hit the “wall” is highest in the “Business owner” square. To certain extent entrepreneurs also could be found in the “self employment” quadrant.

There are tons of similarities in the characters of entrepreneurs and marathon runners, which makes this analysis interesting. Natalie Nathanson at Magnetude Consulting made an important reflection over the topic in one of her blog posts.

To which quadrant we belong depends on our personality, willingness to take risks and last but not the least, the ability to live outside or on the edge of our comfort zone. It doesn’t mean that one personality is better than the other. We are just different.


You don’t need to be crazy!

Among us enthusiastic and passionate marathon runners, there is an expression going like this:

“You don’t need to be crazy but it helps.”

What people outside our group view as craziness are “mandatory” activities based on our total focus on the plan. For example, during summer time I need to start my long run training sessions very early in the morning (5AM or earlier), to avoid the heat after the sunrise. Another word for this craziness could be passion.

When Bill Gates and his little team were on the peak to get ready the first embryo to what later should be the first version of Microsoft Windows, and literally were working around the clock feeding themselves on pizzas and Pepsis, was it craziness or passion?


The nuance between craziness and passion is difficult to see unless you are an entrepreneur ……or a marathon runner.

Thanks to the business with the Six Figure Mentors the freedom can be kept, the passion gets another dimension and I can go on forever being “crazy”.


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