Entrepreneurs, Marathons and Mothers

Birthday Dream

When I was 49 years old (not so long ago) I set a goal to run my first marathon on my 50th birthday.

I’m a planner by nature. I was reasonably fit to start with. I had six months to prepare.

I wanted to run the Edge 2 Edge marathon which goes from Tofino to Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I had been to Tofino many times; the race route was gorgeous, well paved and reasonably level.

I downloaded a respected 20-week training program, researched my diet, set my schedule, and stuck to them faithfully.

I planned for rain, experimented with protein bars and gels, and broke in my running shoes.

Birthday Reality

The day came and I was ready. I positioned myself at the back of the pack and the gun went off.

The day was cool with intermittent showers and I soon settled into my rhythm. The first 21 miles were pretty much as I expected.

And then came the turn-off to Ucluelet and the final five miles. This was a road that I had never been down before. I had assumed it would be similar to the road from Tofino and in some ways it was, all paved and scenic.

But it was also a series of hills. Hills that I didn’t know were there because I’d assumed and then hadn’t investigated and then hadn’t planned or prepared.

The final five miles were a grinding plod. Every step became a battle. Every ache became a pain. And the joy of the run faded into a grit-toothed shuffle that very nearly defeated me.

I crossed the finish line, accepted my completion medal, and didn’t run again for two years.

Entrepreneurs, Marathons and Mothers

I tell this story to first-time entrepreneurs who are delightfully full of enthusiasm, energy and confidence. The start of a new venture is exciting and compelling; it’s so tempting to just do it without fully thinking things through.

Creating a business, however, is very much like running a marathon. It’s a long-haul thing and the hills are out there. The good news is that most hills are known or can be anticipated. The bad news is that it takes some time to research, plan and prepare for them – which is not a message that impatient entrepreneurs want to hear.

But our mothers were right (as always!): a stitch in time really does save nine.

So take a few hours now to think through your venture and identify your hills. Then you can successfully navigate them without the grind, the stress, and the potential for failure that would sap the joy from what should be a wonderful experience.

By the way, I started running again recently. Humbler, wiser and enjoying every step.

Want some tips on business planning? Here’s a one minute introduction.


Originally published on August 19, 2014