What Running a Marathon Taught Me About Building a Business

We’ve all heard the saying, “Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint.” It’s everywhere, especially in the online space. I get it, we love our analogies, myself included. This one, in particular, is meant to emphasize patience, endurance, and the long-term commitment required to succeed—makes total sense! 

But let’s be real. How many folks out there throwing around this analogy have actually laced up and run a real marathon? Probably not a ton. And honestly, that bugs me a bit. Why? Because one, I’m a stickler for speaking from first-hand experience, and two, I ran a legit marathon earlier this year while simultaneously hustling to build my business. So, it’s safe to say that I’ve got some thoughts on the whole thing.

After juggling both, I have indeed seen some solid similarities between the two and it’s given that whole marathon-sprint metaphor a new meaning for me. So without further ado, let’s dive in! 

20 Lessons I’ve Learned From Running a Marathon and Building a Business 

1. It will consume every waking minute of your life

This might sound a tad dramatic, but trust me, it’s spot on! Training for a marathon feels like juggling another full-time job. To be successful, you have to be willing to do the work, and that work requires massive amounts of time, energy, patience, discipline, etc. 

You have to consider your eating habits, sleep schedule, route planning—the list goes on. At some point, I can almost guarantee, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night in a full-on stress sweat questioning your life choices, as you try to lull yourself back to sleep with words of affirmation.

Now, let’s chat business. Fellow entrepreneurs, I see you nodding. We dove into this world dreaming of freedom, only to find ourselves working around the clock. Admit it or not, the business starts gobbling up every second of your time.

Seriously, the ‘to-do’ list never ends, and even on ‘vacation,’ you’re mentally in the business. But just because it can be all-consuming doesn’t mean you’re powerless. Setting up some solid systems can be a game changer—speaking of which, here’s what I mean…

2. Systems are the key to success

And when I say systems, I’m not just talking about technical programs here, like using a CRM for business, or following a training plan while prepping for a marathon, although they definitely help! I’m talking about life systems too.

Figuring out how you work best, like what time of day you have the most energy for certain tasks, or setting yourself up for success by creating a manageable morning routine. These are all things that will significantly contribute to how you’ll be able to accomplish your goals. 

For example, when training for my marathon, I discovered that I had the most energy first thing in the morning, so that’s when I ran. 

In business, I learned that before I do anything else, I need to spend a few minutes brain-dumping all of my thoughts on a page before I can focus on my to-do list. 

Find a system that works for you, and stick to it. 

3. There’s no shame in using a roadmap

Building a business is no easy feat, and having a roadmap to guide you along the way will help you cut out some of the guesswork. Don’t be afraid to join a group, or invest in a program if it is going to help you get closer to your goals. 

Now, obviously, you can do things on your own, they may just take you a bit longer, and that’s totally okay! But if you do decide to invest, make sure you’re vetting the program so it’s worth your while – we’re about making smart investments here!

4. Know your why and fully commit 

Many times, we blame our busy schedules for not taking important steps toward our goals. But let’s be real—it’s not about having enough time, it’s about how committed we are. Don’t believe me? Check out my blog post where I dive into the whole time vs. commitment debate (link post).

Training for a marathon or building a business takes heaps of time. That’s why it’s crucial to know your big-picture goal—your WHY. Once you’re clear on that, give it your all.

Reminding yourself of why you started and consciously making that daily choice to recommit is key. Honestly, without that commitment, I wouldn’t have crossed that marathon finish line or built my business from the ground up.

5. Find your people 

Throughout your journey, you’ll often feel alone. Whether you connect with a local running club or bond with online business pals, finding your people is essential. There’s nothing like being around those who truly “get it.”

During my marathon training, I joined a women’s running Facebook group filled with incredible people. Sharing my wins and challenges, and knowing I’d always have someone’s support, gave me the community I deeply desired.

The same goes for entrepreneurship. It can be lonely AF, and not everyone will understand what you’re going through, but your people will. 

I regularly touch base with my business besties and also participate in a monthly book club where we dive into our reads and discuss business and life topics. Honestly, it’s been a total game-changer!

6. Rest is a non-negotiable

Sadly, we don’t always see the value in rest, but let me tell you it is 1000% needed. If you don’t give yourself the time and space to rest, you’re on the fast track to burnout and injury. 

This is why every marathon training program has “rest days” scheduled into each week. This is intentional. You are putting your body through an intense set of workouts and you need that rest so your muscles can repair themselves and you can come to the next workout ready to take on the next challenge. 

But if you don’t give your body the rest it needs, you will most likely incur an injury. This happened to me and it was not fun. During my training, I got a little too excited, and thought that pushing myself and ignoring rest would be a shortcut to being able to reach my goals faster—oh how wrong I was! I got a knee injury that set me back 2 full weeks because I had to wait for my body to heel. Ouch. 

The same can be applied to business. I get it–you have a million and one things on your plate and each one of them is vying for your attention, BUT if you do not schedule in rest, you’re going to burnout, most likely get sick, and then that is going to set you back and you’re going to beat yourself up for it—trust me. Been there, done that. 

Moral of the story: Treat your business like a muscle. Schedule actual rest on your calendar (timeblocking is great for this!). I promise the work will still be there the next day–the difference is, you’ll actually have the energy to do it if you REST. 

7. At some point along the way, you’ll “hit a wall” and want to give up

Every marathoner dreads “hitting the wall”—that point where fatigue sets in, doubt creeps in, and every step feels like a massive effort. Oof did I hit that wall during my marathon. 

I was 2 miles from the finish line when my brain started drafting an emotional breakup letter with running as I contemplated making friends with the nearest coffee shop and giving up altogether. 

Each step felt like wading through molasses in lead shoes, the finish line tantalizingly close yet playing hard to get, as I felt my legs officially transform into wobbly Jell-O molds. My brain whispered, “Just give up Lorin. No one will blame you. You did your best. Most people don’t even get this far. Throw in the towel. It’s not worth it.”

It was at this point that I had to remind myself of my why as I did mental gymnastics to stay present and recommit to my big-picture vision of crossing that finish line. 

Business is no different. You’ll hit a wall where you’ll have to make the tough decision to either give up or keep going. 

Whether that wall is facing a setback, encountering a difficult client, experiencing failure, or battling burnout. It’s daunting, but I hope you can take comfort in knowing that it’s all part of the process. Remember your why and decide if that’s reason enough to keep going. 

8. If you don’t put in the work, you will not see the results. 

I feel like this goes without saying, but if you don’t put in the work, you simply won’t see the results. Training for a marathon requires a colossal amount of work.

So does building a business. Yes, you can get help along the way whether that’s via a training program, coach, or course. But the reality is, YOU have to do the work. No one is going to do it for you. Period.

9. We’re all at different stages in our journey

Okay, this was a really tough pill for me to swallow on both the marathon and business front. Comparison truly is the thief of joy, and I know it’s easier said than done, but you have to find a way to block it out. 

There is always going to be someone who is further along in their journey, who is “better” than you—that’s just a fact of life! The key is to take a moment to pause and realize that you’re catching them at a different timeline in their journey, and you shouldn’t compare your day one to their year 5. 

When I got to the starting line on marathon day, I was surrounded by seasoned runners, many of whom were professionals who had been running marathons for YEARS. It would have been completely unrealistic of me to judge my pace off of theirs because they have waaay more experience than me. They have racked up more miles, and might even have hired a professional trainer or personal chef to help them reach their goals. 

The same goes for business—shocker I know. As a designer, I’m constantly getting myself into the comparison trap and wishing that I was further along. I want to be THAT girl. More “successful”, more clients, better systems, etc. But all this does is make you second-guess yourself and your own journey. 

It’s natural, but don’t let it consume you. Instead of looking at someone with envy, look to them for inspiration and know that you too will get there one day if you keep going. 

10. Friends, family, and even strangers off the street will question your sanity…

True story. During one of my training sessions, I was doing this thing called a speed run. It’s where you mix up your running speeds in intervals to boost endurance to prep for race day.

While I was in the middle of this routine at the park, a lady came up and asked what I was up to. I told her about my marathon training, and she gave me this wide-eyed, “good luck with that” look. Honestly, some folks just won’t get it, and that’s totally fine!

The same goes for starting an online business. Most people can’t wrap their heads around ditching the 9-5 grind. And you know what? That’s okay too. If they think you’re a weirdo, let ’em! You know your reasons and goals, and that’s all that truly matters.

Remember, it only has to make sense to you 😉

11. You’ll question your own sanity

Not going to lie, there will also be times when you’ll question your own sanity. You’ll wonder what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into and why the heck you should keep going. But that is just another opportunity to remind yourself of your why

12. Not everyone will want to see you succeed, and that’s okay

Sad but true. Speaking from experience, I’ve had family members straight up tell me that what I’m doing is stupid and that I should just give up.

Moral of the story: this was not a reflection of me, but a reflection of them and their jealousy of the fact that I had the audacity to do something that they weren’t willing to do themselves. 

My advice? Don’t be afraid to shut out that noise. Whether that looks like blocking them on social media so you don’t feel self-conscious or choosing to set some hard boundaries, you do what you need in order to keep your peace. 

13. You will meet amazing people and build lasting relationships

There is something magical about meeting people while going through a similar stage in life. Running my marathon and building my business has connected me with so many amazing humans who I never thought I’d otherwise have the opportunity to meet. 

From a single mom living on the other side of the world to meeting a fellow designer in my local community, developing relationships with actual humans is something I’m so grateful for. 

14. You will fear failure on a very deep level

The fear of failure is very real and runs very deep when it comes to doing something extremely challenging. There’s nothing quite like building a business or running a marathon to test your fear. 

When I signed up for my marathon, I 100% knew that there was a very real possibility that I wouldn’t be able to finish—that terrified me.

When I started my business, there was a very real possibility that it would fail and I’d have to go back and get a traditional job—that terrified me.

But along with all the fear also comes a whole door full of other possibilities…What if it all works out? 

I think if you can feel the fear and have the audacity to do it anyway, you’ll come out the other side surprised and impressed by what you’ve accomplished. And if you encounter failure along the way, which sorry to break it to ya, is inevitable. Try not to beat yourself up too much. Look at it as a learning opportunity.  

15. You will learn a lot about yourself

Nothing quite like building a business or running a marathon to make you develop a deep relationship with yourself. There is a reason why people talk so much about personal growth in entrepreneurship. It’s because you’re forced to face yourself. You can be your worst enemy or your biggest cheerleader. 

You’ll realize that the relationship you build with yourself is the most important. How you talk to yourself impacts every other relationship you build and I don’t think that’s talked about enough. 

16. You will be inspired and inspire

Not only will you be inspired by all the other cool people doing cool things that you’ll meet along your journey, but you will also be inspired by yourself, and you may even be an inspiration to someone else. 

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they decided to start running because they saw that I could do it. Or people who have sent me DMs complimenting my work. There is power in inspiration. It’s a confirmation that you are doing exactly what you’re meant to do and can provide motivation to keep going. 

17. It will spark a chain reaction of other wild ideas

Spoiler alert! Doing something really challenging and awesome will lead to more challenging and awesome ideas. I don’t make the rules. 

18. It will be the hardest AND most rewarding thing you’ve ever done

My fellow entrepreneurs will feel this. Building a business comes with a plethora of challenges, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The freedom and fulfillment it provides are so rewarding and something I bet you wouldn’t trade for the world. 

Aside from starting my own business, running a marathon takes the cake for the 2nd hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But I am so thankful for my experience and I’m proud of the person it’s shaped me into today. 

19. You’ll wonder what else you’re capable of 

When you do something that feels impossible, it’s only natural to start wondering what else you’re capable of doing. My advice? Run with that (pun intended).

Now that you’ve gained that confidence, continue to set those big goals and go after them wholeheartedly. 

20. There is no finish line, only milestones

Okay, yes, technically there is an actual finish line at the end of a marathon race, but there will always be another one. You’ll develop other goals you’ll want to achieve and see yourself at another starting line wondering if you’ll be able to do it. For me, that looks like running another marathon in the future but working on getting a better time. 

In business that could look like hitting a larger monthly income goal. Whatever milestone you hit, just remember to pause and celebrate that accomplishment before moving on. Because after all, this is a journey, and you should enjoy it along the way. 

Want more tips for achieving your goals in 2024? 

So, there you have it! I can confirm that the analogy is true. Building a business is a lot like running a marathon. Funny how life throws these parallels our way. Whether you’re pounding the pavement or deep in your entrepreneurship journey, I hope that you’ve found value in the lessons I’ve learned throughout my experience. 

And if you’re training for a marathon or are currently in the thick of it in your business, I hope you find your people, get some rest, and don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way. 

Annnd if you’re curious to know how you can achieve your goals, you’ll love this blog post where I discuss time versus commitment and provide 7 Tips To Help You Stay Committed To Your Goals This Year.

You also might enjoy my post about The 12-week Year, where you can learn all about how I use the system to help me achieve my long-term goals.

It even comes with a FREE notion template and Canva vision board graphics so you can also reach your goals 😉

two vision board graphics that come with the 12 week year notion template
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