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a blog by Chris Barrow

Running a half marathon or running a business – why they are much the same

I’m carrying a niggling groin strain at the moment, which means that I’m unable to predict when it will kick in or for how long it will last.

The diagnosis is, of course, RICE – but with a “marathon a month” commitment made to myself, I’m reluctant to cut down the training by too much, for fear of a series of ruinous race days of slow timings.

Sunday’s Manchester Half Marathon was unique in a 39-year running career, in that the first half of “the half” was considerably worse than the second.

Off I went, carried along with the pack of 10,000 runners, enjoying the event and, after the first 5 kilometres, looked at my watch to see I’d hit a 5:80 pace, compared to my usual training pace of about 06:15 – too fast!

A conscious effort to slow down without getting trampled resulted in an 06.80 second 5-kilometres – followed by – TWANG – the groin strain kicking in.

As you can see below, in the 9th kilometre I “bonked”, staggering along Chester Road with so many waves of runners passing me that it felt as if I were travelling backwards.

Incidentally, at this point, the race leader passed me on the other side of the road, with the official car ahead of him showing 55 minutes elapsed and just 8 minutes from his finish – a wonderful bit of psychology designed to make a bad feeling much worse.

So as my 10th kilometre started, it was one of those mind over matter moments and, I have to admit, there was a phrase from my erstwhile TV co-star (a certain Mr. Grylls) bouncing around in my head at this point:

the pain doesn’t last forever

You can see from the graph that what followed next was:

  1. a slow, gradual and hard slog

  2. a minor setback between 12 and 13 kilometres

  3. a concentrated effort to stay as close to an 06:15 pace as possible in the knowledge that I could survive at that rate

  4. the realisation that I had nailed it in the last kilometre, followed by a sprint finish – just because I could

So, I couldn’t resist the metaphor when it comes to running our businesses:

  1. having to get out there and perform, come rain or shine, hangover or not, illness or not – because we are driven by the need to just be out there

  2. starting off too fast sometimes

  3. being carried along by the pack, even when we know that we prefer doing our own thing

  4. picking up niggling bad habits along the way

  5. “bonking” every now and then – just falling to bits

  6. comparing ourselves unnecessarily to others

  7. getting our heads down and pushing through the pain

  8. pacing and not racing – settling into a flow

  9. grinding out the miles

  10. the occasional victory sprint

  11. followed by a few days of rest and then – back to the laborious training miles

Crossing that finish line on Sunday was a moment of personal victory for me, just 2 weeks before I take on the toughest trail marathon I’ve ever attempted.

It’s 05:30 in the morning now, I’m in Newcastle, there’s a micro-hurricane blowing outside, it’s dark and I’m off in a minute for a 10k training run – moving very slowly to see whether that injury kicks in again.

Today – you’ll either be watching myself and Sheila at the PP Workshop Tour – or you’ll be back at work – grinding out your miles and pushing through your pain.

If you do get to cross a line today – enjoy the moment – they are precious and few and far between.

You are all winners in my eyes.

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