I Ran A Marathon Without Training. Here's What I Learned And How It Made Me A Better Entrepreneur.


Praca, Oferty Pracy

I Ran a Marathon Without Training. Here’s What I Learned and How It Made Me a Better Entrepreneur.

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Exercise has always been an important part of my daily routine. In the process of starting my company, I used long distance running and cross training as a means of relieving stress, communicating, and bringing some level of control and predictability to a rather chaotic professional lifestyle.


I’ll start with the obvious: I’m an ordinary athlete. However, as I got older, my approach to physical activity actually taught me a lot about how to be a better company founder and entrepreneur.

Here are some of the thoughts and lessons I learned along the way:

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Put in miles

In the process of starting my last company, I picked up a book by David Goggins, can’t hurt me, in which Goggins describes his personal transformation from a gelatin pest exterminator drinking potato chips and a chocolate smoothie to a tough Navy SEAL and ultra-endurance athlete. I was fascinated by Goggins’ story, especially how he was able to train his mind to overcome pain in order to achieve his goals. His most famous (and insane) feat was running a 100-mile ultramarathon in under 19 hours without formal training, which eventually led to kidney failure and a broken leg.

However, I thought, what the hell? If this Goggins guy can run 100 miles without training, then why can’t Justin Vandehy, an average athlete with decent physical fitness, finish a marathon without formal training?

So here’s what I did and damn it was so stupid.

First, I tried to shorten the training. I did CrossFit four days a week and bought weights to strengthen my legs. According to my calculations, if I run five miles every day in a 20-pound vest for three months, that SHOULD equate to the wear and tear my body will experience for 26.2 miles.


Result? I finished my marathon at the same time as Oprah. Moreover, I had stress fractures in both legs and three toes.

What did it teach me? First of all, I’m not David Goggins. More importantly, as an entrepreneur, miles really do matter. Whether it’s fundraising, selling, or creating products, how you train matters. There are no silver bullets for learning these features or building an exceptional company. Find a coach, mentor or consultant to help you create a plan to achieve results in each of these critical aspects of your business. Enter miles.

On the subject: 5 reasons why every leader should run a marathon

Take the rest when you can

On my second attempt at the marathon, I stuck to the plan. I bought an online training program from Hal Higdon, upgraded my Apple Watch, and started actively tracking my mileage and heart rate while doing work, including long 20-mile runs on weekends.


My goal was to qualify for Boston, finishing the marathon in 3:05 according to my age group. I felt very good. During training runs, I maintained a seven-minute race pace and read on running forums that adrenaline usually pushes runners to an even faster pace during a race.

I wanted to put everything I had into training for this race, so three days before the race, I decided to do two unscheduled squat workouts during taper week.


On race day, the adrenaline was running high and I maintained a speed of 6:45 per mile for 18 miles. However, I got out too fast – and ultimately those two extra leg workouts exhausted my IT team to the point where I couldn’t put any pressure on my left leg. This pain led to further gastrointestinal problems that arose (literally) at mile 23. My pace dropped to nine minutes per mile for the remaining eight miles. I ran a marathon in less than four hours but didn’t reach my goal.

What did it teach me?

Take the rest when you can. Ignoring the taper week and doubling down when my body needed to recover was incredibly stupid. As entrepreneurs, we often fail to force a result by constantly pushing. When you need to rest, or when you are told to rest, take it. You are working towards achieving the best result for your business and there is no extra credit if you overexert yourself.

What’s more, you can’t control all the variables that come up when things start to go wrong. I was training to eat during the race, but the pain I was experiencing in my lower back caused a reaction in my body that I could never have foreseen. Sometimes the negative momentum is just as strong as the positive one. Accept it for what it is and be kind to yourself when things don’t go as expected.

On the subject: How marathon running inspires modern entrepreneurs

Hugs suck

After several marathons and half marathons, two of my friends convinced me to join them as their third teammate in a CrossFit competition (hey bro, did I mention I do CrossFit?). I entered the competition with confidence knowing that I had just come from hardcore marathon training and was feeling good in strength endurance. The competition consisted of four exercises, all of which performed different movements to test the athlete’s fitness level.

For the first climb, I completely smoked out the course, which contained a heavy cardio component and a long outdoor run. However, for the second lift, we were asked to do one rep with a max lift in the clean and jerk. It was purely a strength exercise and I am no doubt an endurance athlete with poor shoulder mobility.

Result? I finished last out of 35 people in a hard difficult climb. I was very embarrassed by my personal performance. However, two of my other friends on our team outperformed their individual results and took our average to the middle of the overall standings.

What did it teach me?

It’s okay to suck on something and just completely accept that failure. It forces us to be honest and humble about our abilities and gives us something to build on. It also reminded me how important a diverse team is to overall success. We all have things we excel at, so focus on doing those things well and build on the strengths of the other members of your team. For what it’s worth, I placed eighth in a heavy farm carrier, which I assume is some combination of hauling groceries, growing up on a dairy farm, or carrying little people (aka my kids).

As entrepreneurs, we challenge the impossible and challenge the limits set for us. Many people think that we are programmed to succeed (nature) or that we are born into circumstances that make perfection (nurture). I would say that this process is evolution, not a static moment in time or something that we inherited or were born with. It is also a process that we should try to enjoy.

Since I’m training for the Ironman this fall and have already found a lack of buoyancy and an inability to move my arms and legs at the same time, I’m trying to keep that in mind. So, if you are reading this and know a good swim coach, you know where to find me. I am a lanky guy in the pool with poor shoulder mobility, laughing and crying trying not to drown while fully accepting the suction.


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