Monday, April 4, 2011

A Startup is a Marathon...Not a Sprint

Or maybe it's a half marathon...

Well, everybody, I did it.  I completed my first half marathon on Saturday.  13.1 miles of pavement is behind me and a world of opportunity is in front of me.  Because now that I know that I can run that far, it seems like almost anything is possible.

I was never a good runner.  As a varsity swimmer in college, I was meant to spend my time in the water...not on land (a "fish out of water" is an appropriate term for me).  So paying the $50, buying new Nike tennis shoes, and signing up for the half marathon was not the easiest thing to do.  But as soon as I signed myself up, I was determined to succeed.  So, I started training on January 1st, running mile after mile on treadmills and trails, until April 2nd, when Rock the Parkway 2011 Half Marathon finally arrived.

But what's this half marathon story got to do with entrepreneurship?  A lot, actually. 

As a mediocre runner (who was never able to run more than 4 miles in her life), a 13.1 mile run seemed near impossible.  Therefore, one of the hardest parts of the half marathon was actually getting myself to sign up.  That first initial step was one of the hardest- much like the beginning stages of a startup.  For most entrepreneurs, the first part of building a company is the most difficult: coming up with the idea, believing in it, and dedicating your life to a new business that has a 50% chance of succeeding.  My half marathon was the exact same ordeal: I signed up for a run that I had to dedicate myself to and I had to believe that I could finish, even though I was not 100% sure that I could.

When I was at the starting line, I have to admit, I was nervous.  With thousands of runners surrounding me, sporting professional running clothes, water bottle belts, and loaded iPods, I not only looked like a rookie, but I felt like one too.  Launching a startup is scary and intimidating, too.  There may be people out there that have more experience than you, more funding than you, and maybe more confidence than you.  But you know what?  Everybody has to start somewhere.  And as soon as you get to that "somewhere", the only way to move is up.

When I approached the 12 mile mark during the half marathon, I had never felt so accomplished.  I only had a little over a mile left and the realization sunk in: I was going to make it.  And as I ran that last mile (mostly downhill, thank goodness), I came to find that the sweetest part of the half marathon was going to be crossing that finish line.  And as soon as I passed the photographer's flashes, the gigantic pace clock, and the large banner that read FINISH, I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders (and the pain disappear from my knees!).  I had finished.  And man, was it sweet.  I like to equate the end of a half marathon to the first big break for a startup company.  Whether that be the first loyal client, the startup's first successful event, or the point where the startup starts generating revenue; the taste of success is very sweet, whether it's launching a business or finishing those 13.1 miles.

A startup is a marathon, not a sprint.  It's a long run that requires training and mental preparation.  But once you cross that finish line, all of the hard work pays off.  Are you ready to sign up, face your fears, and taste success?


A BIG thanks to Business Transition Specialists, our newest sponsor of Think Big Kansas City!  Thanks for becoming a part of the growing entrepreneurial community in Kansas City.  To become a sponsor, click here!

Written by Allison Way.


  1. Allison -

    Great post. You did not mention your awesome training partner one time. Disappointed.

  2. @Martin: You're probably right! I should have mentioned the importance of a partner when training for a half marathon as well as when launching a business. A partner is critical; they keep you moving, motivated, and dedicated from idea to launch (or from the first mile to the 13th).

    Thanks to my training partner (and partner in crime), Martin, for pushing me through the training and throughout the race!!

    Also, I'm sure he just wanted a mentioning in the Think Big blog...he just loooves the spot light! :)

  3. never really cross the finish line in a startup. You go from milestones to milestones. But still, great metaphor!

  4. @Alain: good point, and very true!

    Thanks for reading!