Business Lessons Learned from My First 5k

Lessons from my 5k

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I ran my first official 5K recently and let me tell you – it was an amazing experience! Not only was it a milestone for me, someone who’s never considered herself an athlete of any sort, it’s promoted me to be an even better version of myself possible.

One thing I’ve grown to love about running, other than the physical benefits, is that it has lots of mental benefits as well. It’s a great stress-reliever and I feel my mind is sharper than ever. I have clarity on things and an overall sunnier perspective on life.

Interestingly enough, I started thinking of points for this post while on the race trail. I realized that this crazy thing that I was doing was very similar to business – almost parallel, in fact. So here are a few points I came up with:

  • The power of community

It was well into about 3/4 of the race when i needed to slow my pace down to a brisk walk to catch my breath and ease my muscles. I knew that I was close to the finish line but I couldn’t see it. Before I knew it, my brother-in-law, who I had miraculously left and hadn’t seen since the starting line, called out from behind me, “I see you Kortney, let’s pick up the pace! You’re close to the finish line, don’t slow down now!”

That was all I needed.

Having someone push me and encourage me to literally pick up the pace and finish as strong as possible was the missing ingredient I needed to push through and finish strong.

Business has never been about going it alone, but rather networking and building genuine relationships with not only those in our industry but with the audience that we’re trying to reach. Without this community effect, it’s extremely hard (and lonely) to be successful.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others

The beauty of races is how they bring people from all walks of life and all skill levels out to run together. There really is this strong sense of community and it’s so electrifying to be a part of it. Because of how many people show up for these races, it’s way too easy to look at how well they’re doing and want to compare how you’re doing against what you see. The problem with this is we often don’t know their story – like how long they’ve been training, how long they’ve been running, and their own personal strengths as athletes.

Same as with entrepreneurship. Everyone has their own story and their own strengths. If we always compared ourselves to what we saw other people doing or how they succeeded, we would become paralyzed by our lack of ability to “catch up” and we’d never get anything done.

  • Keep your eyes on the prize

Goal-setting has long been a key ingredient in accomplishing anything. Everything from cooking, to sewing, to starting (and maintaining) a business, to raising children successfully relies on keeping the end goal in mind every step of the way. Why is this? Because we are a people who generally thrive on seeing the results of our efforts. It’s what motivates us. It keeps us pushing through even when it’s difficult.
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  • It’s OK to not know everything up front

Before the race, I hadn’t even so much looked up the details of the location – which meant I had no idea about the race course, including where the start line was! Because of my Type-A personality, I finally did my due-diligence by looking up where the start line was (also so that I could get a decent parking spot) and made plans accordingly.

But that’s it.

I didn’t look up the course or try to run it before the race. This is mainly because of lack of time – but while running the course I realized that I had done myself a favor. Had I tried to micro-manage this experience, I would have had the joy of just running a new course with a large group of new running friends!

I thought about how I used to let what I didn’t know about business stop me. I would think about all the things I needed to do, how I didn’t know how to get from Point A to Point B and would allow that lack of knowledge to paralyze me before even starting. It took me a while to realize that not taking a chill pill and relinquishing that control was going to be to my detriment if I didn’t learn to let go. I had to realize that I wasn’t going to ever know everything up front and that that was OK.

  • Reward yourself on your accomplishments!

You know the line, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” (The Shining, anyone?) It’s true! When we accomplish good work it is vital that we reward ourselves in some form or fashion.

While work in and of itself is its own reward, Don’t get caught up in that self-righteous thinking. It’s ok to take some time to pat yourself on the back and give yourself the night off to binge-watch House Of Cards or Daredevil on Netflix. Go on, you deserve it.

  • Enjoy the process

All too often I think we get into this habit of getting sucked into the vacuum of working our fingers to the bone or only having tunnel vision when it comes to our businesses and projects. Don’t get me wrong – tunnel vision can be a good thing, something that keeps us focused and on track with the task at hand. But it only works when used in the right context.

What I mean by this is it can easily be overdone and can backfire if we’re not careful. See, focus to a creative entrepreneur is an important and often elusive thing. It can take some of us all of our willpower to muster up enough focus for just a few hours a day to complete something. For even more of us, when that focus is obtained, it can seem like magic has struck us and it’s hard to let that inspiration go.

So we work hard all day and into the night hours. Then we go even longer the next day and perhaps (read: probably) forget to eat/shower. The project gets done in a record amount of time, but we haven’t seen our families and our fur babies, we’ve lost an inappropriate amount of sleeping hours, and there are large bags under our eyes.

This ain’t a good look.

I understand fully getting caught up in something that truly makes your heart soar with passion. But I also understand the necessity of self-care which involves stopping every now and then to smell the roses and not let life go by without even noticing.

  • Take breaks as needed

A misconception I keep seeing with entrepreneurs is how working one’s fingers to the bone is the only way to succeed. I’m not denying it – hard work is a necessity for getting stuff done and making things happen.

But I need you to repeat after me: I am but one person and I am human. Say it again. And again. And again if needed.

Go ahead, give yourself permission to be the perfectly imperfect and flawed human that you were created to be. Be kind to yourself, understand that there is a learning curve at play, and try to enjoy the process of learning and becoming a better business person.

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  • Keep a steady pace

I know how it is to be experiencing new terrain or be completely excited about a new idea that’s going to revolutionize your entire business. But I also know the PAIN of burnout and taking my adrenaline rush to a whole new dangerous level.

On the course, I felt such an amazing rush of energy right as they counted us down to start. I wanted to challenge myself on making it to the very front of the group because I was finally at this race that I had trained for for the last few months and being there in the electric atmosphere was so motivating.

Fortunately, I knew better than to overdo it. Sure, I had hopes of beating my own personal record but I realized that pushing myself too hard would not give me the desired results. I would have put myself in danger of injuring myself in a way that wouldn’t allow me to keep exercising or train for my next race.

In business, we have to keep ourselves accountable by honoring our limits and being mindful of what we can personally handle at one time.

  • Remember to breathe

Breathing is a huge part of successful running – of fitness in general, really.

Things are not always going to go smoothly, that’s a fact. There will be times where you might think to yourself, “Why in the world did I ever agree to put myself through this kind of torture?”

  • Train and take time to prepare for the big day

When I registered for this race, I had to tell what my pace was so that I could be grouped in the appropriate group. This honor system essentially allows runners to group themselves by their personal pace so that the faster runners are closest to the starting line and the slower runners and walkers are towards the back. By the time of the race, I had improved my pace because of training but still adhered to the pace group I placed myself in months ago.
  • Understand (and accept) the ebbs and flows.

While my enthusiasm on race day was extremely high, that day alone was not the full story – nor was it an accurate depiction of my training experience. All throughout my training process, I had exhilarating highs and depressing lows.

There were times where running (or doing any physical activity, for that matter) was the absolute last thing I wanted to be involved in. But that’s when my discipline kicked in and forced me to show up. This discipline allowed me to show up consistently 3-4 times per week to train.

I would be lying through my teeth if I told you that every run was a good run. Sure, I always felt pretty good after completing that day’s session and felt that whole sense of accomplishment thing. But there were days where I thought I was crazy for subjecting myself to this cruel type of torture and that I would never be able to finish (or start!) my race. Sometimes I didn’t feel my best or just wasn’t mentally prepared for training. Sometimes my legs would rebel against me and would send a sharp, stabbing pain every time they landed on the pavement.

But I kept pressing forward through all of those obstacles and developed a habit that kept me focused.


This was one of the best decisions of my life – I’m so glad I did it! The bonus part about completing this 5K was that it related so well into what I’m constantly learning about business.

What did you think about these parallels I found in business and running? Are you ready to join me in my next race??

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