Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Startup Lessons Learned While Running A Marathon

I recently started training for the marathon (alright, half marathon, but for someone as unathletic as I, it is practically the same thing anyway) in honor of my late father who had been fighting cancer for 18 months. This has been a life-changing experience for me on so many levels. Among many things, it has helped me understand the fundamentals of entrepreneurship a lot better.

So, without further ado, here are my

Top 5 Startup Lessons Learned While Running A Marathon:

1. Don't bother if you don't have a Cause (yes, with a capital "C").
What gets me up hitting the pavement and running mile after mile in rainy, cold winter morning weather is not the promise of a large payoff or some other material gain. I am doing this marathon in honor of my father and in an effort to raise funds to help find a cure for cancer. Remembering our family's struggle and hearing the stories of others during my training has been a supernatural motivating force.

2. It is all in the... PACE!
It is amazing how our instincts are not tuned for endurance sports... Somehow evolution didn't take into account tens of miles of running or founding a startup! So many people seriously injure themselves during their practice runs (or even at the goal event) because they simply run too fast, especially in the first half of the run. You need to start slow and build up gradually. You are in it for the long haul, so you need to save up as much energy as you can throughout the process. The end is typically farther than the eye can see and there are hills in between.

3. Ignore others.
This is really a continuation of #2 above. I have had to force myself to fight a lot of competitive urges in order to maintain a healthy pace. As soon as you get wrapped up in what others do, you lose sight of your own pace. 

4. Work through the pains.
I have yet to do a decently long run (6 miles or more) that did not involve some kind of pain/cramp/pinch somewhere in my body. And what has worked best for me in those situations is to slow down slightly, focus on my form, and breathe into the pain (a yoga-esque technique).

5. Focus on your form, not the distance.
To battle the toughest parts of the course, such as a steep hill, or the last mile, etc., what works best for me is to focus on my form (shoulder position, back, tummy, hips, foot placement) and keep looking slightly ahead. On the other hand, trying to look at mile markers or top of the hill is usually a recipe for disaster and great way to lose motivation.

Somehow I wish I had gone through a marathon before my first startup!


  1. Excellent insight! "In it for the long haul," is the best commitment statement for pacing oneself when taking on any endeavor with passion and fervor. It was this mantra we applied when my brother became a Missing Person in 2000. We were able to give more to not just to our own cause but to others as well, purely because we acknowledged we were running a race without end.

    Waste not the journey for want of the destination...

  2. great points - good to have something to aim for. working on technique. probably true for all things in life. wishing you success on your run!

  3. I think you could write a whole post only around the 3rd point.

  4. Touraj, this is a very wise post - loved it! Especially, the 3rd point - sometime you just have to shut off what's happening around you and do your thing.

  5. Touraj,

    Thanks for this post.

    I too have gone through the decline and loss of my father. Through the process I made choices that didn't make much sense to those around me. But they were right given the circumstances we were living.

    Point #3 is a great one. We should print it off and tack it to our office walls!

    Thanks again.

  6. Thank you all for the commentary and encouragement.