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.
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.