How to run a Marathon and Business Awareness

George was a good average runner who felt ready to take the next step.
So he decided to set out a big hairy goal and aimed to run a Marathon.

While it certainly is possible to heed any type of advice, not seek coaching and immediately start running a full Marathon based on a 5 mls (8km) running habbit, you have a much bigger chance of not reaching the goal or picking up injury whilest trying. George being ambitious and smart – choose to take the cautious path.

Scanning the internet on how to run a Marathon, George mostly found Sporting goods websites,
but after narrowing down the search he found these valuable tips:

  • First: if you want to run long distance, you need train by running more often, not necessary longer.
  • Your number of miles run per month needs to go up, first by having your number of runs go up, only later by having the average miles per run go up.
  • Second: to feel comfortable with the long run effort, you need to have ran at least 2/3 rd of the distance. A full Marathon is 26,1 mls (42,1 km) – so running at least 18 mls (28 km) is strongly advised
  • Third: You need to build up, week over week, in order to feel comfortable on the day of the main event. Always add maximum 50% extra distance week over week. In order to build up to a full Marathon, you want to start by your current distance let’s say 5 km (3 mls), the next week 7km (5 mls) – then 10 km (7 mls), then 15 km (10 mls), then 20 km (15 mls), and at some point 30 km (20 mls).
  • Fourth: Plan for pauzing and rest. You also need some time to recover from each progress marker, so ideally you want to have run the last distance roughly 30 days before the event. In between training leaps, instead of stepping up each week towards the next step on the schedule, you may want to have some weeks while you maintain your pace. This means that the time-to-marathon will be longer, but you will risk far less injuries.
  • Fifth: set a realistic goal. Running a first Marathon in under 5 hrs may be better than trying to squeeze in a ‘under 3h45min schedule from day 1. What is it you would like to achieve? Is it about finishing the distance? Do you want to achieve a certain speed? Do you want to beat a colleague or friend? Are you supporting a cause & fundraising? Having a clear and realistic goal will hugely increase your chances of success. It also means you need to be able to self-assess, or seek help getting a good assesment from the go.

If George takes into accounts these basic rules, he should be comfortable reaching the goal. Yes – chances are that he will outperform himself and push boundaries a bit, as that is what the flow of the race tends to do to a runner – but he will still feel comfortable about the whole experience, and will know when and how to pace himself if need be.

So what if we were to apply this logic to long-term projects? What if we were to engage in a Business (Awareness) or other project based on the Marathon logic?

Could we apply the step-by-step logic, in order to achieve project success? How do we assess our current capabilities & what project goal would be achievable, yet challenging enough to consist a worthwhile effort?

  • First : Could we start the project by setting small steps? If so, we might be able to up the effort by working more increments, before we decide to dedicate full time long hauls. For instance, instead of setting up full day workshops from day one, why not have a 2 h Business workshop, once a week – then move to twice a week, then three times per week, and afterwards go from 2h efforts to 1/2 day efforts.
  • Second: If our goal is to achieve a full project deliverable charter, how could we tell when we are getting up to Marathon effort level? Which are the steps we could compare as being intermediate efforts? For instance: if the goal is to implement a full Performance management framework, including a full set of Metrics, KPI’s and reports/dashboards, but currently we just use some ad-hoc, cut&paste manual reporting in Excel, which intermediate steps could we define before aiming for the long haul effort?
  • Third: How could we build up the effort? Maybe start by a small team, making short improvements. Maybe after that we could add other persons to the group, allowing them in turn to start on their own pace, allowing them to come up to our speed before we carry on the effort?
  • Fourth: we may need to plan for many things at once, not just project timing and activity: the overall project time, the intermediate steps, time for new members to get up to speed, but also plan some steady-time. Maybe if we plan some time to consolidate the effort, we might be better poised to push on through towards the end goal?
  • Fifth: we need to set a realistic goal. Yes, in our dreams we would like to participate in big hairy goaly Business Projects, but what are we capable of achieving today?
    Maybe the consultants and software vendors have been succesful in painting a picture we much desire to achieve (and which flashy dashboards should mark these achievements), but can we really afford to jump from ad-hoc reporting in the Excel monthly effort into a full end-to-end state of the art Performance Management system?

And what happens when we have run our first long haul effort, what after having succeeded the first Marathon Project?

Just like the project teams, George will have to evaluate: was it worthwhile running the Marathon? If he were to do it again, where would he run?
Would you want to improve the outcome, run faster? Or do we find that the effort required is not something we should try today?

For some, working up to the 5K run simply is the best possible option.