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Your career is a marathon not a sprint

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On Sunday 24th April, the streets of London will be packed with approximately 36,000 people running the Virgin Money London Marathon 2016. This London sporting institution sees runners of all shapes, sizes and sporting abilities run the 26.2-mile (42.2km) course through the streets of London.

Since the inaugural marathon in 1981, reasons and motivations for running this gruelling annual event are varied. Some push themselves for personal achievement; some do it to raise money for a chosen charity; and many just like running dressed as a penguin, Womble or rhino!

Having watched the event on television and from the sidelines, I am always struck by the hard work and determination that goes in to getting each and every runner over the finish line on the Mall.

What does it take to complete any marathon, whether it is London, New York or Athens? It takes hours and hours of training, dedication, good planning to fit it in with normal life, perseverance, belief and vision.

All of these elements combined produce a marathon runner. But they also produce a well-rounded and successful entrepreneur, employee or freelancer. If you desire to be successful in your career, treating it like a marathon is a good place to start.

So, let’s start at the beginning – a good plan. There are very few people on this planet that can get up one morning and run a marathon just like that. Likewise, getting up and walking into a successful career, just like that, doesn’t always happen. Creating a flexible and achievable plan that keeps you on track will see you through your career and get you to whatever finish line you give yourself. Your plan is a very personal thing. It won’t suit everyone but as long as it suits you, it’ll work.

Dedication and perseverance are key attributes needed to make a success of anything you do in life. Training for hours in the cold, dark months of a UK winter tests the strongest of wills. Learning to stick at something when it comes to work answers the same questions. Understanding your end goal will give you a helping hand when you need to dig deep and see something through.

Hard work and training to become the best version of ‘you’ you can be will achieve results. Again, a marathon is completed after runners have trained their bodies to withstand moving continuously over 26.2 miles. That doesn’t happen overnight. Working hard and improving your skillset within a work environment takes planning and a good understanding of your strengths and abilities. Self-awareness is key to keep you on track to achieve your goals.

Then, there is belief and vision….most marathon runners experience periods of self-doubt, but what gets them past the finishing post is a belief and vision they can get there. Your career needs the same belief and vision. You have to believe something is achievable. You have to tell yourself you can do something. If you do the opposite and tell yourself you can’t achieve something then it’s pretty likely you won’t. The right mind set and visionary outlook will get results. Such thinking can sometimes feel a little risky. As Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, has said: “The only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”  Only you can decide what those risks should be. Stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to achieve something you weren’t sure was possible will make the end result all the more sweet.

Finally, since the London Marathon began, it has raised £716 million for charity. With this event these charities become the real winners. In fact, the race holds the Guinness World Record for one-day charity fundraising, a record it has broken each year for the last eight years. Adding a philanthropic element to your career will help you increase your social interaction amongst your co-workers; enhance your company culture creating a sense of belonging; boost your morale and create a more humanistic image.

So, good luck to all those running on Sunday. We hope you achieve your goal of completing the London Marathon. For all those going to line the streets or watch from the comfort of your sofas, cheer loudly when those competing run by. That added bit of encouragement will help get them one step closer. And for anyone considering running it next year, keep in mind how the organisers describe the event – a ‘historical jog around London’…how hard can that be?

We’re interested to know what you think. Are you running the marathon this year? Have you any training tips that could be applied to a working environment? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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