Here's Why Marathoners Make Better Entrepreneurs

12/04/2015 05:19 pm ET Updated Dec 04, 2016

If you listen to people talk about success long enough, you'll likely hear the phrase, "Life's a marathon, not a sprint." Though it qualifies as a cliché, there's truth in statements like this.

It's especially true with regard to launching a business. It may not be a welcome statement to some, but the fact is that marathoners tend to make better entrepreneurs.

Business Isn't for Sprinters

Admittedly, sprinters are fantastic athletes. They're swift, agile, and incredibly talented at running short distances at blazing speed. And certain aspects of life require quick and short bursts of speed.

But launching a business isn't one of them. Startups require a marathoner's mindset. In order to work 80-hour weeks and carry an idea from start to finish, you have to adopt the mentality of a disciplined marathoner.

There will be times when you'll wonder what you're doing and moments when everything will hurt, but you have to push through both of them. Some days you'll wake up and think, "Let's go!"

On plenty of other mornings, however, just getting out of the bed will be a struggle. During those defining moments, marathoners will keep pushing through.

Six Reasons Marathoners are Better Entrepreneurs

Starting, running, and fostering a business require a careful plan, strategic approach, and substantial discipline. While sprinters have much to commend them, marathoners make better entrepreneurs because they:

1. Know How to Prepare

The months leading up to a marathon require a strict and well-defined regimen. You build your stamina steadily over time by increasing the distances you train.

Something interesting happens as you get closer to the race, though. With less than three weeks to go, you begin to taper and let your body recover for the race. In fact, in the week leading up to the race, experienced runners may cut their volume by as much as 50 to 70 percent. The reason is your body needs to rest up and gather its resources for race day.

For entrepreneurs, the lesson is that rest isn't a bad thing. Even when you're preparing for a major business event, such as an investor presentation or product launch, you need to take some time to gather your energy and relax.

You may have to work seven days on certain weeks, but try to carve out at least one day for preparation and rest. It does wonders for your body ... just ask a marathoner.

2. Understand the Importance of Pacing

Very few people run marathons with the intention of winning. In most cases, marathoners are going up against themselves.

The primary goal is simply to finish (since only 40 to 50 percent of the runners that start a marathon ever cross the finish line). If a runner has completed a marathon in the past, the secondary goal is to set a personal record. In other words, the majority of marathoners are competing with themselves, and setting their own pace.

Entrepreneurs need to look at a startup the same way. You can't look around you and set your pace according to what other firms are doing. There will always be businesses that grow at incredible rates ... but these are the outliers.

Just as the average person is never going to stay with the elite runners in a marathon, the average entrepreneur isn't apt to beat a large corporation on the first try. The moral of the story is to pace yourself.

Pacing doesn't necessarily mean you have to go slow, though. It means you should set a pace that enables you to cross the finish line in the most efficient manner. This is the best formula for executing a successful startup.

3. Stay Constantly Hydrated

One of the keys to finishing a marathon is staying properly fueled and hydrated. It's impossible to run 26.2 miles without eating or drinking anything along the way.

Successful runners know that the few seconds it takes them to slow down and eat or drink are well worth it in the long run, and the same is true in business. If you want to be successful six months from now, you need to refuel.

Don't wait until you have nothing left in the tank; it'll be too late. Take the time to recharge and you'll perform better down the road.

4. Spend Lots of Time Training

Although everyone shows up for race day and gets a nice shiny medal when they finish, race day represents only a small fraction of the time and effort you have to commit if you intend to cross the finish line. Everything that happens on race day is the result of months of training that went into making it work.

"For startups, there are several entrepreneurial equivalents of 'race days' that the public might see: press releases, fundings, industry awards, conferences, etc. But you don't become a great runner or founder just by showing up on race day," writes Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee.

"Anyone can just show up on race day, but it's the unseen and unsexy preparation that separates you from them."

5. Don't Worry About What's Happening Around Them

A lot happens at a marathon. Families and friends show up to support their runners. Often there are booths, bands, music, banners, screaming children, and the rumble of traffic.

If a runner lets these things distract him, he'll never cross the finish line. Smart racers choose not to concern themselves about what's happening around them. You need to hone this skill as an entrepreneur.

The marketplace is noisy, detractors will try to predict your imminent failure, and allies will let you down. The only thing to focus on is running your race and crossing the finish line. Don't worry about what's happening around you.

6. Listen to Their Bodies

The sixth reason marathoners make better entrepreneurs is that they listen to their bodies. They understand the difference between the usual pain and fatigue that result from running and the more alarming symptoms that indicate something is wrong.

A cramp may only indicate the need to hydrate more, but sharp chest pains could be the sign of a more serious health issue. As a business owner and entrepreneur, you must listen to your company and understand how things are going.

A minor incident or mistake may not be a big deal, but a massive shift in the marketplace could suggest it's time for you to pivot. It's up to you to determine the significance of different situations.

It will take months and years of experience to gain a complete understanding of your firm, but make a concerted effort to learn as much as you can in the beginning stages.

Pace Yourselves, Entrepreneurs

Musician John Tesh has said: "The world is full of people who have dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall, of running a marathon, and of owning their own business. The difference between the people who make it across the finish line and everyone else is one simple thing: an action plan." Marathoners make better entrepreneurs because they understand the importance of having a plan and doing whatever it takes to accomplish their goals.

If you're an entrepreneur who has recently launched a startup -- or is anticipating a rollout in the coming months -- it's imperative that you not only have a plan but know how to pace yourself. Only then will you likely attain success.