Three Business Lessons I Learned While Training for the New York Marathon

marathon law business lesson

Yesterday, I finished my last 20-mile training run before the New York Marathon.  During the run, I began to think about how similar preparing for a marathon and long distance running is to business and law practice development. As a runner, I find there is a different challenge that pops up on every training run: there are frequent opportunities to assess your weaknesses, days when you feel on top of the world, and days when you want to throw in the towel. Through the challenges, the ultimate goal looms...crossing the finish line. That’s what each day is like when you’re trying to grow your own law practice or business – pushing mile after mile, no matter how difficult, until you win.

So with that, I thought I would share three lessons that training for a marathon taught me about business development. 

Just. Keep. Moving. 

When I hit mile 16 yesterday, I was exhausted. My legs felt like bricks. At that moment, instead of focusing on the fact I had four miles to go, I focused on keeping my feet moving. One step at a time, no matter how slow. One foot in front of the other. Just. Keep. Moving. I knew, at some point, I would finish.

Keeping your feet moving in building your own business is a little secret no one tells you. When times are slower, the urge is to stop, panic, and reevaluate. My experience has shown the exact opposite works best. Take that meeting that seems like a long shot. Say yes to the last minute speaking gig that is in two days. Try. Pitch. Call. Keep the wheels moving because every opportunity is a chance to practice, perfect, and try new things. Doing so allows you to fix the machine and build momentum – so when the big client comes in, you’re ready.

Focus on small, achievable goals -- NOT the entire journey or others around you.

While training, one of the best pieces of advice I received was not to focus on the finish line. You need to chunk the race up into small pieces that your brain can handle. Sometimes, this means concentrating on the next telephone pole. Stay the course, even if you feel like you're behind.

During the race or training, it can sometimes be challenging to avoid comparing your speed to other runners or feeling that you've fallen behind. The smartest runners, Managing Partners, and CEOs have an established plan that they strategize on many months in advance, and they have the discipline to stick to it. When working towards long-term goals, celebrating small wins along the way will prevent distractions and help you see your plan through to completion.

There is no better feeling then completing something that is hard to do.

Being complacent is easy. Challenging ourselves is hard - but being brave and reaching for big goals reaps life’s biggest rewards. Training for a marathon has been one of the greatest challenges of my life, but I know it will all be worth it when I cross that finish line.

Overwhelm is normal when you are building a business. Each day, look at your to-do list and identify one thing that seems the most daunting. Put that thing at the top of the list and do it first. Get your toughest task out of the way, so everything else seems manageable by comparison. By accomplishing the most challenging task first, you empower yourself and diminish that all-day, underlying feeling of dread that comes along with procrastination.

Building your a business (or running a marathon) is not for the faint of heart. It will get hard, but each challenge is an opportunity to become a stronger business owner and person.  If this sounds familiar, it will get better - I promise. Just. Keep. Moving...and know that you have a cheerleader with you every step of the way.

To your success,


Jessi Patton