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How I Became A Long Distance Runner

Last month over forty thousand people ran the London Marathon.

For some, it was their first attempt at a long distance event. For others, it was a chance to beat their best time. For the elite runners, it was a chance to compete for the coveted first place.

I watched the race with a new perspective this year. The perspective of a runner.

Yes, me. The five foot two creative who prefers her bed and a good book to anything remotely resembling exercise. The woman who a year ago wouldn’t have dreamt of calling herself a runner, yet since January has fallen in love with the sport.

It’s been a fascinating journey.

I’ve found it to be a mental challenge more than physical and a completely new way of pushing myself.

There have been moments where I’ve felt like a total fraud and caught a glimpse of my burning sweaty face in the mirror post-run and wondered why I even started.

And then there have been the cliched runner’s highs when I realised ‘oh my god, I’m actually doing this!’.

But what has running got to do with entrepreneurship?

In the past four months, I’ve drawn so many comparisons between my journey into business and journey to becoming a runner. I can’t ignore the lessons I’m learning again, albeit in a new way.

I hope by sharing the lessons and stages I’ve been through as both entrepreneur and runner, I might be able to help someone keep going on their own journey…

 

 

Phase 1: The sceptical spectator

I’ll be honest, I used to scoff at people who loved running, just like I used to scoff at the freelancers who’d mill about the office I worked at in London. They seemed like otherworldly beings… far more disciplined and advanced than me. I could never be like them.

That derision was really just a mask for jealousy.

I wanted to be able to run like that. I wanted to be able to run a business like those people. I just didn’t think it was possible for me.

Until one day I just gave up that story. There was no great fanfare. I just began…

 

 

Phase 2: The startup

The excitement of it all! The thrill of buying a new kit! In running and business, I had all the gear but no idea. Luckily, in both instances, my ignorance helped me to just get going before I had the chance to doubt myself.

With running, I downloaded the couch to 5k app on my phone in January and just started following the plan three times a week at my local gym. I didn’t research or read much about it at all. I just began.

With my business, I sat down in my home office with my shiny new laptop (of course!) and emailed everyone I knew asking if they had any work for me. I didn’t research or read much about it at all. I just began.

 

 

Phase 3: Walk before you can run

The first 24 months of business were up and down but I steadily built my client base and slowly progressed in terms of knowledge, experience and reputation.

I felt the slow pace keenly. I watched entrepreneurs who were a few years ahead of me with desperate anxiety. I wanted so badly to be at that point, ‘killing it’ in my business. The frustration of having to take it slowly was sometimes unbearable but looking back was the best way to learn.

It’s been the same with running.

Especially when I hit the treadmill and my neighbour would outpace me for longer and make it look easy.

I’d be running for two minutes and walking for three whilst they did 30 minutes solid sprinting. My competitive side would take over and I’d go beyond the program’s recommendations.

The result?

I’d get injured which held me back even more. I literally had to walk before I could run, and whilst it was so frustrating, it was this phase where I made the most progress.

 

 

Phase 4: Hitting my stride

I remember the moment I hit my stride as a runner.
I remember the moment I hit my stride as an entrepreneur.

Both times it was just a simple realisation that I was in the arena with everyone else, doing this. I had stepped off the sidelines and gotten over those beginner bumps.

I was running, so I was a runner. I was in business, so I was a businesswoman.

It wasn’t suddenly easy but it was comfortable, and I no longer felt like an outsider playing at someone else’s game.

 

Phase 5: The marathon runner

Ok, so I’m only four months in and not quite ready for my marathon race just yet!

However, I am embarking on my next training plan to take me from 5k to 10k, in time for a sponsored race around Disneyland Paris on my birthday in September. I am looking at the next goal, and the next, constantly refining and upping the ante with my training.

And in business, to become a seasoned pro I’m having to do the same. Learn from others. Try different techniques. Look at ways to fine-tune how I work and the services I offer. Adjust the patterns and establish elements of my business to grow and meet my needs as they change too.

I’m still putting in the hours. Still hitting my stride. Still hitting a mental wall some days. But I’m running and I’m running a business.

 

 

Entrepreneurship (like mastering a new sport) is tough. Whether you’re watching from the sidelines wondering if this is for you. Or you’re seeing others at the next step and feeling unsure if you can make it there too, I hope the journey I’ve shared spurs you on.

And as cliched as it sounds, starting and running any kind of business is a marathon, not a sprint.

You have to commit.
You have to put in the hours.
You’ll have good days. And bad.
You’ll wonder why you even started.
You’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

And you’ll find yourself at a point where you can say ‘I’m an entrepreneur’.

That is something worth running for.

 

The words of Jen Smith, Informi’s resident email blogger. Sign up for our fortnightly newsletter for more inspiring and insightful stories like this one. 

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