How To Train for a Marathon

Producing events and conferences for our clients is both fun and rewarding but not without its stresses. Besides the obvious deadlines, budgets, curveballs there are less popular challenges to overcome like vendors delivering the wrong item or that one spot light that’s just not on point. Well training for a marathon shares a lot of the same challenges as event and conference planning.

I ought to know. After running 25 marathons (and numerous shorter distance races) over the last 13 years, I’ve learned a few of the tips and tricks to get you prepared to rule the road…or at least finish with a smile on your face.

Many people who I speak with are inspired by my stories and want to start running themselves. The one excuse they utter (hopefully after they say how inspired they are) is that they don’t know how to run. Pay attention dear reader, this is Rule #1 in training for a marathon: put one foot in front of the other. That’s it. It’s not difficult. To finish the marathon you don’t have to win. In fact, 99.9999% of the people who enter the race won’t win. The trick is to keep moving your feet forward and finishing.

Obviously there’s more to it than that. Much like in your professional life you need to take the following conditions into account:

  1. Plan in Advance – Find that race on your calendar, circle the date, and pay the (non-refundable) application fee. Unless you make a very comfortable living you now have (financial) incentive to run the race. The same goes when I sign a contract with a client. I am now wed to that date and that event and I have to make sure it’s a success. There’s no backing out now.
  2. Train – Now that you have the date circled and the fee covered, map out a training plan. I like to work backwards from the race date to make sure that I’m getting enough practice miles in but allowing me time to recover in between. For many runners this period is between 4-6 months. Think about that project you’re now aiming to complete. Have you created an “Action Plan” that will get you to the event or due date?
  3. Know Your Pace – We all love challenges but if you get out there on race day and get caught up in the euphoria of the crowds cheering and all the music going, your first few miles will look like world records...that is before you “bonk” hard realizing you have no more juice in your legs. Go out at a nice steady pace (that you’ve trained for) knowing that you have enough in reserve to get you through the whole race. When you take on your projects, make sure to have enough budget (both money and time) in place to deal with surprises. Also understand your strengths and weaknesses so you don’t bite off something too big to handle.
  4. Have a Backup Plan – Remember saving that “juice” for later. Well now it’s later and you need some energy to deal with a cramp or maybe it’s a course change that you didn’t realize occurred. Do you know where the water stops are? What are you going to do if you miss one? The same goes for event planning. What if my printer goes down? What happens if somebody get ill on stage? My keynote speaker is delayed. What now? Having a plan A (and B and C) along with practice will get you out of a lot of tight spaces.
  5. Smile and Have Fun – Whether it’s running or work try to have fun. Rule #2: You’re not going to win so you might as well smile. Let’s face it. Somebody is always going to be faster, stronger, better looking (ok kidding) than you. It’s ok. I know going into every marathon I run that I’m not going to win so I might as well smile and have a good time. During the race and during my events, I’m serious and have a plan to follow but no matter the outcome, I always take a moment (or many) to sit back, smile, and reflect on what I’ve accomplished. As Ferris Buller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.”

So that’s it. You should be ready to toe that starting line any moment now. Even if you’re not quite there…just get outside, pick your goal, and go for it!

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