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Running Without A Plan

Over the last six months, I have been training to run in a marathon. Now, I’m probably not actually going to run in a marathon this year  – I’m not going to be ready – but the training experience itself has taught me a lot. Especially as I’ve gotten into the longer distances – 10, 12, 13 miles – I’ve learned that if you don’t have a general plan as to how you’re going to approach your run, you can end up with some lousy problems. For example, if you start out of the gate trying to run really fast, you’ll be too burnt out to finish the full distance. If you go to slow, you can get burnt out because you have to remain on your feet for so long.

All of this can come in handy as you think about setting out on a “run” for your business, whether you’re an entrepreneur, the product developer, or the one marketing everything. Let’s look at some parallels.

What kind of run do you want to do?

As a runner (or a walker) you learn pretty quickly that there are different kinds of experiences you can create for yourself. You can train on endurance by going long distances or going up and down a lot of hills or you can work on your speed by maybe shortening your distance but running with all of your might.

As a business person, you can also decide what kind of experience you want to create. Do you want to get out of the gate fast or are you more worried about lasting for the long haul? Whatever approach you use, a plan needs to be in place so you can pace yourself and your team accordingly.

What is your goal?

Just like you can plan for what kind of run you want to do, you can also decide what kinds of goals you’re aiming for. Normally when I run I have a general time I want to beat (usually what I did the run before). Some people are aiming for that 4 minute Olympic-style mile. Other people just want to be able to complete a set distance.

As a business person, and especially if you’re at the head of a company, it’s extremely important to set goals, but it’s also a delicate dance. You don’t want to set goals that are so easily accomplished that no one ever feels challenged. By the same token, if you set impossible goals, it’s easy for everyone to start feeling down and discouraged.  Again, this is where having a plan can be a huge help.

How will you celebrate?

Few things in running are more rewarding than beating a goal. But celebrating a success can have negative repercussions. It can mean that your expectations next time are set too high (we all go through highs and lows). It can mean that you get cocky and end up pushing yourself too hard.

The same holds true in business. If you have a great month that exceeds expectations, that’s awesome news. But how will you use that momentum to your advantage? If you are the leader of your team, how will you use that to inspire them to work harder for the next month? How will you use that success to make sure your next product is even better?

Having a plan in place can answer all of those questions.

There is a lot of talk in the online world about how planning is “lame.” You should just try everything. Fear of failure is a failure in and of itself. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of that if you are navigating the social media waters.  Like running, however, business done most effectively involves a planning stage.

Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Marjorie Clayman is the director of client development at Clayman Advertising, Inc., her family’s full service marketing firm. Margie has recently published an e-book called The ABCs of Marketing Myths, which you can read about here.

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Margie Clayman

Margie Clayman is Vice President of Client Services at Clayman Marketing Communications, her family's full-service marketing firm in Akron, Ohio. Margie blogs for the agency at She also blogs at her own site (, for Razoo (, for Carol Roth ( and for Leaderswest ( When not blogging, Margie enjoys learning everything there is to know about the history of the world, exercising, and crafting.

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  1. You know what kind of runner I want to be? A skinny one:)

    I run for 2 reasons: my physical health, and my mental health. When I have time, I run with distance as a goal because that is much more satisfying to me. On weeknights because of my schedule, it has to be time based, which I don’t like but I deal with.

    You, or course dear Margie, are a big inspiration to me.

    • Aw, thanks Amy!

      My plan with running was to try to do a marathon. Now the plan is just to get my time down and increase the time I can run without walking. Being competitive with myself is good enough for me for now – other people can run their heads off elsewhere :)

      • For some people, running their heads off would be better than running their mouths, right? ;) Right now, my focus is to be able to do a 10k – on the treadmill – in an hour. I can do that consistently. If I tried to run the distances you’ve been running Margie, I would just stroke out and fall off the treadmill!

  2. Yeah, but I don’t run the whole way. You probably do a lot more *running* than I do…it’s all relative :)

  3. Margie, aloha. As I was reading along I kept thinking “this doesn’t sound like Brian” and “I didn’t know Brian was training for a marathon.” Part way through I looked up at the top and discovered why it didn’t sound like Brian. What a delightful surprise to see you over here at Brian’s place.

    Margie, to me there is much truth in the quote “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” If you don’t know your objective and the action steps to take, how on earth are you ever going to get there?

    People who are going to drive from NY to CA have, at the very minimum, a rough idea of the route they are going to take prior to starting on the trip. If they do not and simply start driving they are likely to find themselves in TX (and, Brian, you know what Tall Tales abound there) or in MT.

    That being said, I do think there are some people who start driving aimlessly in life. Because they have no idea where they want to go, they can’t figure what to do to get there. Thus, they end up confused and frustrated. They end up driving around in ever decreasing circles.

    My vote is for more planning and less frustration. PLUS, I love the mini celebrations I award myself along the way for goals achieved.

    Congratulations, Margie, on your running accomplishments. Best wishes for a terrific week ahead. Aloha. Janet

    • That’s always freaky when you’re reading something and you think, “Man…this person has really changed their blogging voice!” :)

      I love the quote you have up there. I think part of the problem is that so many people actually have managed to succeed *without* a plan that the myth has gotten some legs. Unfortunately, people optimistically assume that such cases are the rule instead of the exception and that’s where we get into trouble.

      Thanks for the kind words!

  4. Margie, I’d be happy to drive you?

  5. I was going to leave a comment similar to Janet’s. While I think trying new things is an important part of business, they still need plans. You cannot go into anything you don’t know and expect results if you haven’t set a goal to evaluate your efforts. You have to pace yourself per the running metaphor.

    Congrats on running.

    We are going to have a “dirty dash” locally where I am. It is running, but in mud. They already have something like 4,000 participants. My friend in Irvine is training for a beach run. It looks like everyone has running on their mind.

    • Oh, I don’t think I could run through mud. I have a hard enough time on dry land! Although in my early days of training I did walk through a fair amount of icy slush. It was not fun!

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Margie,

    Brian and I just had a great chat on Facebook last week and he never told me he was training for a marathon! So when I read this, I did a double-take: “How did I miss that???” Then I saw that it was you!!!! You know how much I marvel at what you’ve done with your running. I didn’t know that you decided not to do the marathon, but please, please promise me that you are going to celebrate how far you’ve come already. You’ve done the Margie Clayman 1/2 marathon and, wow, do I wish I could have been there with water stations, pom poms, and a finish line medal! So many people don’t do what you’ve done. I remember you posting about running in snow! Who cares about the walking, or the time, or distance… you’re DOING it!!!!

    I’m telling myself this same thing, Margie. I have a health issue right now that is going to force me to walk into the Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon Expo next weekend, pick up my race number, and hand it to over to someone else who is going to run with my husband (not that we were going to run it together anyway–he’s way, way faster). It’s going to be very hard. Until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t even talk about giving this race up without crying. It’s #11 for me, and even though I’m a total back of the pack’er, I didn’t realize how much I covet that spot until now that I know it’s not really smart for me to run for long periods of time (1/2 marathons take me, like, 3 hrs) until my doctor and I fix my metabolic problem.

    So, I’m going to honor the doctor’s advice to run no more than 3,4, or 5 miles, which means running for no more than an hour, and I’m going to let people “run their heads off elsewhere” as you said so aptly. Fortunately for both of us, marathons and half marathons aren’t going anywhere in the near future.

    Thank you for sharing, Margie. I value you. (I value you, too, Brian… and if you do a marathon… I’m here to support!).

    • Aww, Ellen. I wish I could give you a big smushy hug!! :(

      It currently takes me about 3.5 hours to do my 13 miles, so even with you not in tip-top shape you’re doing better than me :) It’s all relative, m’dear. Listening to doctors is good though, and let’s not forget that you wrote an official great big grown-up book!

      I can’t believe oreo balls were not mentioned at all in this thread with you & Brian around :)

      • Oreo balls do not show up in MyFitnessPal iPhone app – I think it must be a bug in the application!!

    • Great share, Ellen. And if I’m doing a marathon – I might be borrowing Bruce’s car! Both of you ladies have been inspirational with your running efforts, and you know I’m a listening ear as you go through your metabolic evaluations, Ellen.

      And Margie always finds the most interesting things on her run: butterflies, undergarments, slick slopes…

      • Hi again to both of you,
        Margie and Brian, thank you for your encouragement and kind (loving) words. This is definitely a challenging time.

        Margie, I think I told you that on Mother’s Day, I did do a 1/2 marathon. I didn’t post on FB about it afterwards purposely. I started out with my usual walk/run intervals, but we had an errant warm day here and I was having an uncomfortable side effect from a medication that I’m on (“egg/sulfur burps”–we all need a laugh, right?). So, I couldn’t run–at all. I felt sick and hot the whole time. I actually tried to escape the race about four times, literally taking off my number, trying to talk to a policeman to get back to my car, finding a cab… no go.

        I did finish even though I didn’t want to. An 80 y/o man and a young woman on crutches were way ahead of me. I think the staff was taking down the clock when I got there. I am sure it was about 4 hours or more. I cried the whole way home and couldn’t speak about it without tearing up for days. This was race #10 for me, the worst time, even worse than my first race when I was a lot of pounds bigger!

        I’m just trying to be comfortable with what is, rather than what “should” be (so, in essence, not shoulding all over myself). It sounds like you’ve come to terms with not doing the marathon, but have you considered doing a 1/2 officially since you’ve done one already?

        At least I can laugh about the egg burps :-). I bet Oreo balls would have stabilized my tummy!

        • Oreo balls are a great stabilizer – of course, that is because they increase your “center of gravity”! ;) I know that race was tough for you, Ellen – but the good thing is you made it through. Who cares about the 80 year old guy and woman on crutches. You were each running your own race and perhaps exorcising your own demons.

          You will be back running those 1/2 marathons soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the success and glowing reviews for your Say This, Not That to Your Professor book! I am reading it now, and I can see where it is an excellent resource for college students adjusting to life on their own and the communication skills necessary to advocate for themselves with professors.