How Leading is Like A Marathon

5 Ways They're Similar

Running a marathon isn’t easy, but almost anyone can do it with the will power. It is not a sprint, which requires quick bursts of energy. Nor is it a walk in the park. A marathon is a specific goal, one that requires drive, determination, and most importantly, training. Leadership, much like running a marathon, takes time. Commit to the long distance before being overly optimistic or depressed.

Josh Running Full Marathon at Indianapolis half marathon

Running The Race

I’ve been a runner since the fall of 2013. Let me be clear, I hated running! Once I took up the effort and made it a habit, it became a very enjoyable hobby. One that taught me more about myself than anything.

I remember my first half marathon (13.1 miles). It was exactly 10 days after I decided to run for the first time. Now, this is not a meant to brag, trust me, DO NOT DO THAT. I made it through it but felt like death. My point is that I thought it was easy for the first half. I went out way to fast and was celebrating my perceived finish time before finishing the race. I was overly optimistic.

Now counter that to my first marathon (26.2 miles for you non-runners). I had been running regularly, but not training nearly as much as I should have. I had not ran more than 13.1 miles at any point in my life previous to the start of the race and went into it feeling failure was imminent.

At several points along the course I thought about quitting. I even squatted down at one point around mile 17 and was calling it quits. My wife and I were texting and she said you’ve got this, and I realized how close I was. I fought thought and finished, it a slow 5:08:22, but I finished.

5 Points to Leadership

So how is the marathon and leadership like leadership? Well, leadership is a dynamic concept that is always changing. I promise, running a marathon is much like that, except to the few elite marathoners who maintain almost perfect pace.

  • Without training you cannot finish a marathon. Without training and development, you cannot become a leader.
  • You must adjust your goals along the way. Having an ideal finish time at the start is important, but you must take the variables along the way and recalculate.
  • It cannot happen overnight. It will take time to train and run the race. Expecting marathon results in 5k time is impossible.
  • Although most people are capable of running a marathon, few will dedicate the time, energy, and effort to doing it. Leadership is no different. This is why we have more managers than leaders. It is hard work, but very rewarding.
  • Crossing the finish line is as sweet as watching someone you’ve train to be a leader pass the torch and train up another leader.


Question: Have you seen any corollaries between running and leadership? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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