On September 28, I set out to complete a 10-mile run in the Bronx. I had known about this race, and had signed up for it a couple of months in advance. Yet, somehow, I hadn't trained properly. I just couldn't seem to "get into the grove" when going out for my 5-6 mile training runs. I would start out strong, then get winded, then end up walking more of the training run, than actually running it. Alas, race day was here, and I was determined to complete it. I wasn't concerned with my race time, just crossing the finish line.
My morning started at 5:15A when my alarm clock went off. I rolled around in bed a few minutes, checking Facebook and Twitter, and my email. Then, I climbed over the edge of my mattress, planted my feet firmly on the floor, and stretched my arms to the ceiling. I have been experiencing very tight muscles running along the sides of my back, so I did some side bends to try and loosen every thing from my deep sleep.
My cat, Shakti, greeted me in the hallway, with a small squeaky meow, and I picked him up and snuggled him while walking to the bathroom. After brushing my teeth, I made coffee, like I do everyday. I began gathering the additional items I needed and put them in the race bag I had backed the night prior. Specifically, I added my phone so I had my music, my headphones, and my stopwatch. Even though I don't race for time, I do keep up with how long I need to walk, between the running spurts, so I can encourage myself to pick up the pace.
I sat down with my coffee and wrote in my journal, a daily practice that keeps me focused and grateful for all the good things happening in my life. I decided on two pieces of toast with peanut butter, and grabbed an apple for the 30-minute drive into the Bronx. I also took a banana, and would run with it in my right hand, until mile 4, where I would then refuel.
Standing in the race corral, with 14,000 other runners, the adrenaline started kicking in. I was eager to get started. I heard the national anthem over the loud speakers, and I knew we were getting ready to begin. The buzz of all my fellow runners and the excitement in the air was contagious. The race horn blew, and we were off!
Before I continue with this story, let's get back to the lesson: How Running a Long Distance Race is Like Building a Business.
1. Building a business requires a positive mindset, and so does distance running. Do you know how many times in my business, I have had to give myself a pep talk? There are days that are just terrible -- people that said they were going to sign contracts, don't, and the income falls short for the month. Running a long distance race also requires serious pep talks, especially when one hasn't trained properly.
2. Building a business requires completing daily mundane tasks, and so does distance running. The amount of email I need to answer in any one day is out of control, but it must get done, so that my business can move forward. I need to blog, I need to send out newsletters, I need to continue building online connections. Are there days I don't feel like it? You bet! But, just as with running, daily trainings and workouts, taking extra time to stretch problem muscles, and eating wholesome, nutritious foods (when I really would rather have mac and cheese and pie!) requires discipline and routine.
Miles 1, 2, and 3 were relatively easy, despite the hills. The sun was low on the horizon, the fall season making its presence known. Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were pumping good vibes into my ears, and my body was getting more loose as it warmed up to the task at hand. At mile 3.5, I slowed my pace to a walk, turned off my music, and cheered for the elite runners who were zipping past me on the other side of the course, ready to finish the 10-mile race in less than 50 minutes. It felt good to cheer them on, as it took my mind off of my immediate woes.
By mile 4, my mind started wandering. I began to wonder why in the world I had picked a hilly course. I ate my banana and gulped some water. At mile 5, the temperate was close to 80 degrees with the sun strong and warm on my body. I felt a blister forming on my left pinky toe, and another on my right.
3. Building a business requires that you gracefully navigate the unexpected. One day my computer decided to quit working, and I had website copy that was due out that afternoon. I could have screamed and yelled, but instead, I called my client and explained the issue. Another day in the past week, I was too exhausted to even attempt to write anything coherently, so I took the day off and slept. When running this race, I hadn't expected such a hilly course, nor did I ever think it would be 80 degrees at the end of September in New York City! But, I did the best I could with the conditions that I had been given.
4. Building a business is much more fun when you cheer others on along the way! It is so fulfilling to see what my colleagues are doing, to be involved in their goals, and to support them as they realize their dreams. When I saw those runners coming toward me, knowing that they were almost ready to finish their race (and I had only hit the 3.5 mile mark!), I cheered like a mad woman. Cheering them on gave me strength and inspiration to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other.
By miles 6 and 7, I was hot, sweaty, and so grateful when someone had popped open a fire hydrant along the course and was hosing us down as we passed the 7 mile marker. I didn't care at that point if I had to run in wet shoes for the final 3 miles, because the cool water hitting my skin felt luxurious!
I walked most of mile 8, relieving a cramp in my calf. If I stopped to stretch, the cramp got worse, and if I ran, the calf almost completely locked up. So, I decided to walk, so I could continue making progress, grooving to some upbeat music along the way.
At mile marker 9, I grabbed some Gatorade, took a final stretch break, and gave myself a pep talk, that most likely went something like this: "You've completed 9 miles Shannon, there's only 1 more to go. Let's do this!" And with that, I set off at a steady pace and focused on the finish line. I sang aloud, I gave high-fives to friends and family waiting on their loved ones to run by, and I reminded myself of all the things I loved about running.
5. Building a business requires that you remain grateful -- remembering the little things that are so important. I am so grateful to be able to work from home, and stay in pajamas all day, if that's what I want to do. I am so grateful that I don't have to set an alarm clock each morning, travel via mass transit to a job, and join in the rat race of the working public. And during this run, I was never so happy to see water spurting into the air!
6. Building a business requires you to slow your pace and walk when needed. You can't just speed through things at lightening pace, and expect to do good work. You need to be able to think, have time to be creative, and rest when you need it. Being successful in business means that you get support from others, just as I did when reaching out for high-fives along the last mile stretch. And with both running and business ownership, you must remember why you started out on the journey in the first place!
As I crossed the finish line, the tears welled up in my eyes. It seems to happen in almost every long race I run, and I've learned to embrace that emotion and let it flow, rather than hold it back and hide it. I stopped my watch, but didn't note the time. I received my Bronx 10 Mile Race medal with a smile, tears still on my cheeks, and grabbed a bagel and a bottle of water.
7. Building a business most definitely requires that you celebrate your achievements along the way. Take time to look at how far you have come and how much you have grown. How you decide to tackle tasks, mentally and physically each day, is your daily training.
Build your business with gusto and embrace all aspects of it, objectively. Get help when needed. Celebrate the small stuff. Be authentic and be you. I'll see you at the finish line!