The Best Career Lessons Learned From Running A Marathon

Post written by

Matt Mills

Matt Mills is an avid runner and coach, helping people achieve fulfillment and success in a thriving career path

No matter if you run every day, once a week or race a 5K every month, anyone who would consider themselves a runner who’s anything from casual to competitive runs for many reasons — to stay in shape, destress, socialize with others and set and achieve personal goals, just to name a few.

Beyond the incredible social, health and psychological benefits that running provides, it can also teach you important lessons that can improve other areas of your life — even your career.

As a coach who uses running as a tool to help leaders discover more purpose, passion and power in their life and career, I’ve experienced how running can be truly transformative for people, both personally and professionally.

Including a regular run into your daily or weekly routine will make you feel more calm, clear and energized at work, but if you really want to discover how running can bring out your full career potential, in my experience, there’s no better way to do that than by taking on the challenge of running a marathon.

According to a study from RunRepeat and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), over 1 million people worldwide participated in a marathon in 2018. To many people, running 26.2 miles (at one time!) seems pretty daunting, but if you’re dedicated enough to put in the time and effort to train, then you will be able to accomplish something that only 0.5% of the population has completed.

If you’re at a point where you’re ready to give your career a boost, you want to become a stronger leader or you’re feeling stuck in your job and are ready to take on a new challenge, training for a marathon will give you the tools to do all of that. Crossing the finish line will be life changing in many ways, and along the way, you’ll learn many important lessons that can bring more fulfillment and success to your career.

After completing nine marathons, here are a few of the best career lessons I’ve learned from running each one.

Pace yourself, and know your limits.

To finish a marathon, you need to “run smart,” particularly if your main goal is to finish the race. This means lots of self-care and not pushing yourself further or faster than you need to. Not only that, but you need to properly dress, hydrate and pace yourself appropriately during the race. If you take on too much in training or during the race, you’ll burn out or get injured.

When you’re aiming to grow and reach a higher level in your career, you might take on more responsibility, work longer hours, make personal sacrifices or stay in a job that’s hurting you mentally and emotionally. You will tolerate more than you likely can, and should, handle. A marathon will teach you that you’ll need to prepare to last for more than just the first few miles. Pace yourself, and know your limitations so you don’t crash and burn before the finish.

Proper planning and preparation is key.

If you plan to run a marathon with no clear goals or prior preparation, the race will likely be very long and painful. Successful marathon training requires a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, the right mindset to keep you motivated to making that vision a reality and a progressive training plan to guide you week by week.

Career success requires the same elements. Create a clear and detailed vision for what you want to achieve in your career. What business do you want to start? What position are you aiming for? How much money do you want to make? What does your ideal job look like? Create a vision exciting enough to put you in the right mindset and motivate you to take the steps to make it a reality. From there, make a plan with smaller, manageable goals that will put you into action and create momentum. With proper planning and excitement about the destination in mind (like the finish line), you’ll feel confident about your ability to achieve success.

Success requires a strong team.

On race day, you’ll be the one running from the start to the finish line, but to get you there, you’ll need many others to help you succeed. Finishing a marathon requires support every step of the way, from moral support and encouragement from friends and family during training to volunteers on the course making sure you’re hydrated and motivated during the race. From the moment you commit to finishing the race, you will rely heavily on a team of supporters to help you achieve your marathon goal.

Your career requires no less support, either. If you’re in the midst of a career change, you’ll need cheerleaders and allies to motivate you and help you take the next step. If you’re in a leadership position, you’ll need to rely on your team to succeed so that you can perform at your highest level. Running a marathon and succeeding in your career requires that you put in the work, but not without the help of a strong team to push you through each mile.

Making the decision to run a marathon can seem pretty daunting, but so can the ambitious goals that we set for ourselves in our career. However, both are completely achievable with the right mindset, goals and support team around you. Finishing 26.2 miles doesn’t require any special abilities — just the willpower to put in the effort.

When you do cross that finish line, you’ll learn more about the power you have within yourself to achieve race-day success, but also bigger and better things in your career.

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Matt Mills is the Founder of Matt Mills Coaching, helping professionals achieve fulfillment and success in a thriving career path.