It’s as much about mental strength… as physical fitness…

 I’m so proud to say that in this, the London Olympic year, my wife Susanne completed her first London Marathon.

Whilst she was a way off the winning kenyans… it was an amazing accomplishment for her, as indeed it was for everyone that put themselves through such a demanding event.

Personally, I’ve never been a runner. Yet I’m a keen sportsman. I’ve always been fine with short bursts, but lacked the mental and physical strength required for endurance sports… or so I thought.

Susanne explained to me that training and getting fit for the marathon was not that different to training and succeeding in business…

She pointed out all the things I do to help business owners with their sales and marketing efforts. How without my support as their business coach and mentor people often see the road ahead of them as an impossible challenge.

What she then went on to explain made lots of sense to me.

It’s about learning certain techniques and having a strategy.”

OK, I can relate to that.

It’s about not over stretching yourself, but pacing yourself.”

Yep, I get this too.

Steve and Susanne Clarke at London Marathon 2012It’s about a support network, a good trainer to help you break things down into manageable chunks, having measurable milestones. Not looking at an almost insurmountable 26.2 miles, but looking ahead to reach the corner of the street, the next lamp post or street sign – small milestones… these all add up. However, to achieve the end goal… you need to get out of your comfort zone.

All of this is what I tell my business clients.

Spurred on by my wife’s enthusiasm and encouragement I recently took to the streets myself.

I’d also loaded an App onto my iPhone. The music played and I ran to the beat, (not too loud so I could easily hear what else was going on around me before I take a bashing from the health and safety police,) the app kept track of my performance.

I can’t tell you how excited I got when Paula Radcliffe, yep, Paul herself announced over my headphones that I’d just completed my first and fastest mile and the virtual crowd cheered me on.

There was my support and encouragement, the bounce came back into my stride…

I realized what Susanne had been telling me – this is just the same for so many people in business. Day in, day out metaphorically pounding the streets mile after mile with no measurable milestones, nobody to cheer you on, nobody to help with your strategy… nobody to pick you up when you stumble, no finish line or medal in sight… it will and does wear you out.

What does your business support network look like? How strong is your team? How good is your trainer and coach?

As a business coach and mentor to a variety of business owners – these are my many roles but I’d never seen it in this context.

Running a marathon just like running a business requires mental strength as much as it does physical fitness. Each part of the marathon and every business has its own mental challenges. Baby steps and encouragement will win through.

Here are some tips from Susanne on how to maintain your focus and win the mental battles throughout the marathon… Can you spot the similarities in business…

Start out slow. When you start your marathon, you’ll feel strong and confident, but you must keep telling yourself to hold back and conserve some energy.

Run your own marathon. Don’t be worried if you see a lot of people passing you. Remember the tortoise and the hare? They may be starting out way too fast, so you’ll catch them later — at your own pace.

Break up the marathon. Start breaking up the race into smaller segments. It will make the distance feel more manageable and you notice the small wins along the way.

Stay mentally tough. Your mental toughness will really start to be tested during these miles. Don’t give into periods of self-doubt and discomfort. Think about how hard you have worked and how rewarding it will be to complete your marathon.

Set small milestones. Continue to break up the course, mile by mile. Celebrate your achievements along the way, don’t lose sight of how well you’re doing and listen to the crowds cheering you on.

Susanne Clarke at London Marathon 2012I’m very proud to say that Susanne, successfully crossed the finish line and has managed to raise £3,043 so far for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Me… well I’ve a way to go yet. But I have completed my first ever 5 mile run. Bit by bit, with the right encouragement, strategy and support… I will complete my marathon.

If you’d like help with your “Business Marathon” you can download a copy of my book “How to Thrive Not Just Survive” absolutely free.