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a blog by Chris Barrow

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:

  1. having a plan at all is better than just sprinting from the start line to see what happens;

  2. taking regular measurements is how to keep on track;

  3. creating reserves of time and energy will pay you back when the going gets tough;

  4. setting realistic expectations is good for the mind and body;

  5. 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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