Leadership and the Marathon Runner: 7 Words to Lead By


As a life-long cyclist, I marvel at marathon runners.

Anyone that can propel themselves for 26-plus miles without the aid of pedals, wheels and a chain is simply amazing in my book.

The only thing more challenging than training to compete as a distance runner might just be starting a new business. Both activities require fierce dedication, focus, discipline and sheer raw tenacity.  Imagine doing both at the same time!

That’s exactly what Eric Wallor, President and Founder of MarathonBookSeller.com is doing. While Eric is busy training to qualify for the Olympic Trials in distance running, he is also actively developing his on-line business in a tough economy against tough competition.

I caught up with Eric recently and during our inspiring discussion (I was the one inspired!),  I was struck by the parallels between the life and lot of the distance runner and that of the leader.

I asked Eric to jot down his thoughts on what it takes to successfully prepare for and compete as a distance runner, and his words below offer priceless and timeless guidance for leaders in training everywhere. After all, as a leader, you’re always in training and the race is most definitely a marathon, not a sprint.

7-Words that Describe What it Takes to Prepare for a Marathon

by Eric Wallor

Being a marathon runner is not always easy, but it is rewarding.  The mental side of training and preparing for a marathon is grueling and sometimes tiring, but the many benefits that it does give you mentally and physically are amazing.  Here are 7 words that I feel best describe what you need to mentally prepare for a marathon.

1. Goals – There is no good reason to train for a marathon and not have personal goals in mind.  Goals give you something tangible to aspire for and create a blueprint to stay focused and disciplined.  Create a goal for yourself that will challenge you but with hard work, will also be attainable.

2. Discipline – There are many things you will have to contend with when preparing for a marathon.  The little things make a big difference.  Make sure you are getting enough sleep, stretching after every run, eating right, staying hydrated, doing your sit ups and don’t create excuses to get out of your routine.

3. Focus – Having the right focus will allow you to get through your day-to-day training that will help you to achieve your race day goal.  To run 90, 100, 120 or more miles a week takes focus.  You will be running twice a day, you will be tired from time to time and you will be running alone quite a bit.  Remind yourself of your ultimate goal when your motivation is not at its finest.

4. Attitude – Are you excited to train everyday?  Do you dread getting up for that morning run?  Why are you running in the first place?  To be a marathon runner and put in the work that is required to be successful you have to love it, bottom line.

5. Coach/Training Partner – Having someone to push you, give you direction and to give moral support is critical.  People respond very well to accountability.  In many cases when you train for a marathon there is going to be a lot of time where you are running by yourself.  If you don’t have someone you are running with everyday or coaching you everyday then have to go out and seek that.  Why?  It keep you mentally fresh, it keeps you hungry, it keeps you excited and educates you about what your doing.

6. Tenacity – To train for a marathon you have to be tough.  To be successful you have to have some bal$s!  It goes way beyond just being about beating your competition.  Having the tenacity to be the best YOU that you can be is the key to the whole thing.

7. Adaptability – Things are not always going to go as planned.  You are going to have the occasional injury from time to time.  There are going to be days where you just don’t have it and don’t run the right paces.  Circumstances like weather and the kind of food you eat can adversely affect you.  Expect outside distractions and influences to be there everyday.  You have to just deal with it, stay strong and accomplish your goals.

Good luck with your marathon training.

The Bottom-Line from Art:

While Eric offers us all “good luck” with our training, I can assure you that his approach to success doesn’t depend upon luck. Each one of his “7-Words” applies to leaders everywhere, and offers us the parameters of a life-long training regimen for success in this challenging and noble profession of leading.

Your assignment here is to apply and build on Eric’s suggestions to improve your effectiveness as a leader. And we are all well-served to heed his excellent advice: “To be a marathon runner and put in the work that is required to be successful you have to love it, bottom line.” The same goes for leading.

About Eric Wallor:

Eric Wallor is President and Founder of MarathonBookSeller.com.  Eric is a competitive marathon runner who is on the journey of qualifying for the United States Olympic Trials in the marathon for 2012 Olympic Games.  Eric is in a unique position of not only competing at a high level athletically, but also running a business at the same time. MarathonBookSeller.com is a book buying service that focuses on buying and selling books, textbooks and DVD’s.  is continuing to grow its relationships with businesses, universities and people across the United States.

Follow Eric’s journey:

By | 2016-10-22T17:11:47+00:00 September 7th, 2010|Career, Leadership|15 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Bret Simmons September 7, 2010 at 7:58 am - Reply

    I’ve done 8 marathons, Art, so I love this one! Training is truly the hardest part. Eric has really captured what it takes. I will just add that most of my training is done alone, but you always want to have a group or a partners to do the really long, difficult runs. It can get lonely on the road for 2 hours. I think this can apply to leadership as well. Know what you can do yourself, and know when you need the help of others to get you through. Thanks! Bret

    • Art Petty September 7, 2010 at 8:04 am - Reply

      Bret, just another reason for me to admire you! The “loneliness” factor is definitely an issue in leading and your guidance for knowing when to seek the help of others is great. Thanks and keep running! (I’ll be the guy on the bicycle.). Best, -Art

  2. mark allen roberts September 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    great post Art,
    Will be sharing it

    • Art Petty September 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Mark! -Art

  3. Robert Comer September 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    I was proud to see your article about my nephew Eric. Those are all good points that apply not just to runners , but to anyone who wants to be sucessfull in life.

    I hope his mother sees this post.

    • Art Petty September 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      Bob, you should be proud of Eric. He is a great young professional and person! -Art

  4. Phillip Turner September 8, 2010 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    I like this article Art because it hits so close to home. I can def. relate to what you have captured in this article. These few things def. relate to being a leadership as well. I am currently working full time, attending school to get my mba, in the process of opening a business, and I am also training for a marathon as well. You def. have to utlize the same seven tactics to succeed at all of the above. You have to know challenge yourself at things you want to be successful at even though the road to get there may not be a smooth one. Thanks! Phil

    • Art Petty September 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm - Reply

      Phillip, you’ve got a lot on your plate! Keep us posted on your progress and on whether you add anything to Eric’s 7 tactics. Thanks for reading and commenting! -Art

  5. Patrick September 9, 2010 at 11:11 am - Reply

    I ran many times of long distance when I was pretty young but very few in recent years.
    I hope I can run at least one time marathon recently and feel this seven words spirit deeply.
    Otherwise, it is very hard to feel best for what I need to prepare for a marathon in my remaining life.

    • Art Petty September 9, 2010 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Patrick, may there be many more marathons in your life! -Art

  6. Michael Ray Hopkin September 9, 2010 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    Excellent post! I completely agree that running a marathon has much in common with running a successful business. Eric’s 7-Words describe it perfectly.

    To succeed at marathons and in business you have to work hard and do things most people consider crazy. But in the end it’s worth all the effort. I’ve run four marathons and understand what it takes to prepare; and preparation is the key to success. My most recent marathon was a testament (at least for me) of what Eric is teaching in this post. I had an incredible experience. I wrote about it in this post: Do hard things

    Thanks for sharing your experience Eric. And Art, thanks for continuing to give us great content.


    • Art Petty September 10, 2010 at 6:45 am - Reply

      Michael, congratulations on your marathon success! Thanks as well for sharing your great post! -Art

  7. Carina Funk September 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this great piece of advice Art!

    After numerous jobs, internships, and even short encounters with people I have come to discover that most great leaders are also great at something else. A passion that is outside their work–something that allows them to better themselves and set not only work related goals but personal goals as well. “Leaders in training” was a great choice of words that you used in order to express that leaders must continue to train themselves in order to better their environment, business, etc. These days, it seems as if most people just give up after attaining their goals or reaching the top. They do not continue to improve or train themselves in order to fulfill their ultimate goals of personal accomplishment.

    Thanks, Carina

    • Art Petty September 12, 2010 at 7:58 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Carina. Kudos for having such a strong theme of continuous improvement in your life. You are right…this is essential for all of us as leaders, professionals and as individuals. -Art

  8. […] to Art Petty in his blog titled Leadership and the Marathon Runner: 7 Words to Lead By he says that “The only thing more challenging than training to compete as a distance runner might […]

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