In 1971 I ran the New York City Marathon. There were about 200 runners and we ran five laps around Central Park. The first New York City Marathon was a year earlier with 127 runners. Marathon running was a pretty unpopular sport taken on by only a few eccentric individuals. None of the runners were women. The first woman had to sneak into running in Boston a year later. In 2014, I ran the New York City Marathon for the second time. This time, it went over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge through five boroughs and finished with a part of a lap in Central Park. There were 40,000 runners; almost half of them were women.
The organizers have to limit the number of participants, the demand is so great. It is harder to get into the New York City Marathon than it is to get into Harvard. In the past fifty years the number of marathoners has grown from a few thousand to an estimated 600,000!
A huge percentage of these are professionals, even C level executives. These executives connect with each other, network and develop business in the same way executives have done deals on the golf course for centuries. The only difference is that while the number of marathoners has multiplied by three hundred, the number of golfers and the number of golf course in the United States have declined. I belong to a group on LinkedIn for Executives in Athletics. The group even holds periodic get-togethers to meet, greet and develop business relationships. There is a real bond between members of the group. Runners like to work with other runners.
JPMorgan Chase caught on to this when they sponsored the Chase Corporate Challenge. Thousands of people who are employed by participating companies meet in cities around the world to run, hang out, eat and network. In Frankfurt, over 70,000 runners participate.
For many, the running is less important than the networking opportunities they find with their own clients and suppliers. One reason many people are getting engaged in sports, exercise, running and marathons is to get fit and become healthier. But there other reasons as well. Inc. Magazine published some research a couple of years ago where they tracked the performance of S&P 1500 companies which had CEOs who were marathon runners compared to similar companies run by CEOs who were not. The results were impressive. Companies with CEOs who ran marathons had five percent more value than those with CEOs who did not. For those CEOs 55 years and older, the results were even more impressive - the improvement in performance was nearly ten percent.
Endurance running isn't just good just for health; it’s also good for business and business value. Fit executives have more stamina, can work longer hours and it may be that better blood flow to the brain actually helps them to think more clearly. Whatever the reason, the facts are there. Want to have greater success? It’s time to get started. Spring is here, the weather is inviting. It’s time to get out there and begin your own training program. Runners World says there are over 1,100 marathons held in the United States each year. There are many great ones near you, and fitting a marathon into a vacation plan can be even more fun. Run for success and join the nearly 600,000 runners already participating.