Running a Marathon and Running a Business

Before, while and after running the Bengaluru Marathon, I visualized being the cynosure of all eyes.  Nothing of the sort happened. A few people congratulated me after the run, but hardly anyone made a fuss about it. I was hugely disappointed that they hadn’t.

It is good to feel wonderful about achieving a feat, but I am not doing any of this for validation or appreciation from the world. It is about me alone, as a means of experiencing a fuller and happier me. The fuller I feel about myself, the lesser is my dependence on others’ certificates.

It is possible for people to achieve their goals without a massive efforts like running a marathon. Some wade through life some walk and a few run. They get there, slowly but surely, in their own ways. I respect them for the journey they take in their unique ways.

Yet, I think huge benefit can follow by taking on something big and challenging. I touched upon it in Smart vs Dumb Goals.

In a recent beautifully written article, James Altucher writes about Yoshiro Nakamatso, (he has 4000 patents to his credit) who would suffocate underwater in order to come up with ideas. He invented the floppy disk, when he was down to the last 1/2 second of his death, about to drown.

James Altucher says this was the Japanese’s way of creating high stakes moments, a condition he needed to create and come up with ideas. When “you can taste the fear, trust The Force, feel the egg inside your chest, ready to crack and give birth,”  that is the taste of high stake moments. High stake moments are scary, because they take us out of our comfort zones into dark, dangerous territories.

Preparing for and running this marathon were high stake moments for me.

The effort I put into training for a marathon is not just for knowing how much I can stretch to find new borders, physically. It is more about finding the resolve needed from my core to scale new heights in all aspects of my life, particularly my business. There is an all pervasive feeling that success in my business means everything at this point of time.

A feat achieved in one area of life percolates its nourishing effects into other areas of life as well. When I believe strongly and work hard enough, I find transformation and new horizons opening up in my personal, social, business and spiritual realms of life.

Now, I have internalised the meaning of – nothing is impossible. With a lot of work. The neural wires in my brain have rearranged themselves to make new connections and meanings about possibilities. They have the experience and new data that when I follow the same process of keeping my focus and working or training hard, what I thought impossible in my business will also come to fruition.

Though waking up very early in the morning was hard and training for hours was even harder, I kept at it. I ran the marathon because of the discipline and the intense training that went before it.

I achieve success in business – even more than I yearn for – because my sights are fixed and I am working hard, not yielding to distractions that pop up all the time, while I am at office. I do not procrastinate and work with a sense of mission and discipline.

About six months back, running a marathon was a daunting, if not an impossible challenge. Then, one day, I started on that path. Soon, conquests of more and more distances became a matter of routine and then an addiction. The dream of completing a marathon helped me in that quest. Starting was the most important step.

In business, I shun certain tasks because they seem very daunting. Once I get started, however, I am on the way to finishing the task. I  press the start button concerning the heavy stuff I encounter in business, just as I spring to life hearing the wake-up alarm on my mobile.

The practice for the marathon meant following certain rituals. Like sticking to the schedule suggested by the coach in Nike’s running App. And varying the pace on different days. Stretching before and after training sessions. Getting enough sleep. I adhered to the rituals because running the marathon was very important for me.

I pay attention to the rituals of running my business. Investing time on marketing, operations and finance in equal measure. I learn about digital marketing, social media and diligently apply the learnings in my business. The company blog, stays vibrant because I take time to contribute posts regularly. I know where I am heading and do not allow tempting distractions or disappointments to change my course. And I spend enough time with the staff.

I am grateful to the doctor who helped me take care of my ankle and knees and my friends who ran with me giving me company, confidence and courage. Yet, in the final analysis, it was I who ran, I who disregarded the pain and sweat and I who resisted the temptation to take it easy. I was my own guru.

The team at Service Square, particularly Mathan, is invaluable. I do not know what I would do without them. I treasure them and am grateful for their gift. Yet, it falls on me to show the way and to goad the team in that direction. Management and advertisement experts etc., are very valuable, but I have understood without a shadow of doubt that, if I do not know my mind, they are lost as well. I am my own guru in my business. I also realize, when I do not seize that role, I can be a bottleneck to the growth of my company.

Practicing and running a marathon involves the mind, heart and the body. At the 32 km mark in Bengaluru, there was a big sign that declared, “Congratulations! You have made your body slave to your mind.”  The mind, heart and body form an eco-system in running the distance.

In my business too, the mind and the heart play a big role. Without re-engineering the mind, the business can flounder from one disaster to another. As for the heart, business is about transference of well directed emotion.  Together, they form an eco-system. Paying attention to them creates the business of my desire. Service with a heart resonates with me.

Reviewing the split timing of my race, I find I had the best timing between 17 km to 27 km.  I managed that in 1.02 hr. I took nearly 2 hours to run the remaining 15 km. Normally, the early distances are faster and easier to conquer. Joining the dots, I realize that the best timing coincided with the time when on a long stretch, army men were cheering us on. For some reason, the last 15 km, hardly had anyone to cheer the runners.

While I appreciate the cheering crowd in a marathon, Marathon is a cruel race and unless I find the resolve to continue stretching beyond my level of endurance, away from the public gaze, all alone, I do not quite make the cut.

It is easy to cruise in business when the going is good. Of course, I make use of the fair winds to move faster. When the winds cease and things look dreary, I summon the best in me to stretch, keeping the faith. Stretching beyond the point of weariness is the measure of my will power and staying power, determining the level of my success. I keep running my business determined, in faith.


This picture has got it right. I shed some extra weight and have become slimmer and fitter. There is more to shed, though. Fore that, there are more marathons I see in the near horizon.

The practice of sticking to the rituals of business goes to make a lean and fit organisation. Decisions and implementation are faster. People in the organisation learn faster and there is a general itch to get going, to be on the move all the time. That time is coming for Service Square because of the way I persist.

At another level, business need not be a marathon, and huffing and puffing. Those who are wise make it a breeze, like a leisurely walk in the park. When the mind and heart do not align in business, there is a lot of effort and less result. Then a time comes when there is maximum result with minimum effort.

As I mentioned earlier, marathon is a means to finding excellence in other areas of my life, particularly in business. I remember this always so that I do not go overboard with more marathons and less business. There is a danger in allowing the tail to wag the dog.

I have my mind set on more high stake moments during the next few months. Shooting videos, interviewing people, making a lot of noise about myself and Service Square, making use of the opportunities I get to speak in public, taking more risks in the business, running more marathons…….

I write about all these high stake moments possibilities with bated breath. And, I am feeling scared, already. It seems the high stake moments are already upon me.

6 thoughts on “Running a Marathon and Running a Business”

    • Thank you Ramesh for challenging me again. Regarding the business outcomes in the next few months, I am training hard. I am getting there.

  1. “It’s important to know that at the end of the day it’s not the medals you remember. What you remember is the process — what you learn about yourself by challenging yourself, the experiences you share with other people, the honesty the training demands — those are things nobody can take away from you whether you finish twelfth or you’re an Olympic Champion.”
    -Silken Laumann, Canadian Olympian
    I guess, the same truth is true for any business too, and hence, all the best to Service Square, for today and always!

  2. There is a beautiful invisible thread, isn’t there, joining the path of running a marathon and running a business? The marathon surely inspires my business now and another day, running my business may inspire me to run better. Thank you, Arunima, for reminding me about those invisible threads in life.


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