What’s harder – running a business or a marathon?

Adam Franklin marathon MCG

Finishing the Melbourne marathon inside the MCG

I just finished my fourth marathon on Sunday and I’ve nearly completed eight years in business.

Are the similar? You bet. But they are both as hard and rewarding as each other.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned that are the same in business as marathons.

1. People will think you’re mad.

Hearing loved ones question your sanity for contemplating a marathon or a business is all part of the program for an aspiring entrepreneur or marathoner.

Well intentioned friends remind you that “90% of business fail in the first year” and “42 kilometres is loooong way.” No kidding, but it sounds like a fun challenge right…?

2.  Both are incredibly daunting at the start

But smart mentors and coaches said you don’t need to have all the answers when when you start. Their advice was to commit first, then work out how you’re going to achieve it. I always reminded myself that heaps of other people have been successful in business and in running marathons, so why can’t I?

I started Bluewire because I knew where I wanted to go, but didn’t know how to get there.  Same was true when I said yes to my first marathon.  Then I started  the journey of learning how to do it!

3. You’ve gotta do the work when no-one is watching.

I notice 1000s of people running along the boardwalk at Bondi now that summer is here, but at 5.30am in the dead of winter, I could count them on one hand.  Of course, my point isn’t that you need to get up at 5.30am, just make sure you’re doing the work, especially when no-one watching.

Your training shows.  If you cheat in the dark of morning, you’ll get found out under the bright lights.” ~ Joe Frazier

Adam Franklin Sean Bowes Melbourne Marathon

Me with Sean (Ethiopia kit) before his 2:26 PB in Melbourne

4. You rise to the company you keep

My mate and running coach Sean Bowes helped me take 28 minutes of my marathon PB  (personal best) simply by letting me train with him once a week.

But you know what, as a result Sean’s own time slipped by 20 mins.  I got better, he got worse.

Now he trains with an elite squad in Sydney and did a 4 week high altitude training camp in Kenya and Ethiopia.  Sean’s taken 20 mins off last year’s time to come 11th in the Melbourne marathon in his PB of 2:26:58.

He still coaches me but we don’t train together.

It’s not about brushing your mates, it’s about setting time to team up with people further up the food chain and also being generous enough to help those who aren’t as accomplished as you yet.

In business, I seek am grateful to highly successful mentors but I will always be generous with people who want to ask me questions.

5. If you go out too fast, you’ll crash and burn!

Marathons are fun because they are as much a mental game as a physical one. It’s a game of patience, almost like chess, where you must wait to make your move – like endurance ‘cat and mouse’.

Most marathoners have learnt the way about going out too hard.  ‘Hitting the wall’ is very real and it’s one of the worst pains I’ve experienced – worse than a dislocated shoulder for me. Mates who’ve been elite boxers and professional rugby players have unravelled when they’ve hit the wall.  It can floor you.

Same in business. Undisciplined growth and overzealous plans can unravel a company.  Bluewire very nearly went down that path after 3 years of 200%+ growth, but fortunately we stabilised over the next 4 years by implementing good systems and hiring great people.

Just casting my eye down a few ‘fast lists’ and the Hot30 Under30 list that we were on in 2009, I can’t help but notice several companies are now non-existant.

Management expert and author of Great by Choice, Jim Collins refers to the discipline of not over extending, the company’s 20 mile march.

Coach Sean Bowes says:

If you want to do a 3:30 marathon, go out doing 5 min per km and come home doing 5 min per km.  Simple.  Avoid temptation when it’s easy, and grind it out when things get tough.

So these are 5 of the things I’ve learnt

What else have you learned from running a business or a marathon? And yes, I often think I am mad too!

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