What a marathon teaches us about business targets

At yesterday’s Barcelona Marathon, my running partner, Marcus Spry and I worked a plan.

Mindful of our levels of fitness and injury, we decided that to aim at a finishing time of 5hrs 30 minutes was realistic.

I ran 04:35 in Florence in November but since then, a knee ligament injury has slowed me down and reduced the number of training miles per month.

Targeting an average pace of 7.80 minute kilometres, the plan was to run two races, the first half-marathon at 06:45 kilometres per minute and the second half at around 9:00 kilometres per minute, giving us an average pace that would get us across the line just inside our target.

In 31 marathons, that’s the first time my plan has been anything other than, “run as fast as you feel comfortable with and see what happens”.

I have a tendency to get pulled along by the crowd at the start and frequently hit the 10k marker far too quickly, same for the half marathon distance and then inexorably decline until the last kilometre, when the adrenaline takes over.

This time, Marcus held me to account by asking me frequently whether we were running at our “happy cadence” (as my physio describes it).

The punchline is that our unofficial time was 05:29:15 – not bad eh?

That even allowed for the fact that we both had a hard time around the 25-30k mark and again at 36-40k but managed to fight through to the end.

The metaphors in business are numerous:

  • having a plan at all is better than just sprinting from the start line to see what happens;
  • taking regular measurements is how to keep on track;
  • creating reserves of time and energy will pay you back when the going gets tough;
  • setting realistic expectations is good for the mind and body;
  • having a buddy helps hugely.

The bottom line is that we had  wonderful day in this beautiful city, taking in the sights and sounds of Catalonian culture, we finished pretty much on target (and if the official time is 05:31 – it doesn’t matter) and this morning I feel great.

Pace not race. It pays to plan.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.

2 thoughts on “What a marathon teaches us about business targets”

  1. great comparison of marathon running with running a practice- the hard grind for occasional moments of joy !!!

    having done my first in december-portsmouth coastal-some more i would add

    you will be found out when it matters if you do not put the hours in (training/constantly managing and improving the practice)

    don’t look too much at what others are doing-concentrate on your own race but keep an occasional eye on your competition

    success on race day comes from boring daily small but constant management tweaking (training) rather than occasional dramatic management changes

    have a plan but if you see it is not working be prepared to change it

    keep up your blog – love it-dont bonk on me!!

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