7 Leadership Lessons From The London Marathon

Five years ago, I ran my first marathon. It was the Grand Rapids Marathon in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After this marathon, I said I would never run another marathon again.

Fast forward to 2024…

I ran my second full marathon. This time, in London, England.

Man with dark hair in an orange tank top jersey running the streets of London in the London Marathon

Photo by Pamela Lalonde

Running the London Marathon wasn’t a dream come true. It wasn’t something I’d longed to do. Yet, when the invitation from Team World Vision came to run the London Marathon and change kids’ lives, I couldn’t say no.

Pamela and I spent nine full days in London. We got to see so much and experience so much. You may hear about those experiences in a later post. This post is going to be about the lessons from the London Marathon.

7 Leadership Lessons From The London Marathon

Running a marathon is a challenge. It takes a toll on the body and mind. Running the London Marathon? It can do more than that.

578,304 people applied to run the 2024 London Marathon which was a record-breaking number (this record has already been broken for 2025). More than 53,000 people ran the marathon.

It was quite the experience. 

But you’re not here for stories of the London Marathon. You’re here to understand what this experience can teach you about leadership. Let’s dive into those lessons.

1. Leadership can be intense:

Running a marathon has multiple parts. The first portion is saying yes and training for it, which are heavy tasks.

Then, there’s the actual marathon. 

The intensity of running the London Marathon was high. There are multiple waves of runners. Not only that, there are multiple starting points!

I saw all the people crammed into the starting gates, the people on the street, the cheering crowds, and the physical movement.

It was all intense.

Isn’t that the same with leadership? You have so many goals, missions, and responsibilities that leadership becomes insanely intense. 

Be ready for leadership to weigh heavy on you.

2. Training can fail you:

You should train properly to run a marathon. I followed the official TCS London Marathon plan almost to the letter. Sometimes I couldn’t get out for a specific training run, yet I completed the long runs regularly—even the 20-mile run!

When race day came, I felt like I had trained properly and done everything right. And then mile 13 hit.

The ability to move my feet to run seemed almost impossible. I began to realize this wouldn’t be a great finish, but it would be a finish. 

I switched to a run/walk routine. I would run for a few minutes and then walk a minute or two. This kept me going. I still had relentless forward motion. This forward motion got me across the finish line.

You may feel that you’re ready to lead. You’ve gone to college, you’ve taken training courses, attended conferences, and been trained by leaders you respect.

However, when you get into the thick of things, everything changes.

You could feel woefully unprepared. You might not understand all of the terminology. You might feel like giving up.

It’s okay if your training fails. What I want to encourage you to do is to keep moving forward. Have relentless forward motion. 

If you keep moving forward, you can cross the leadership finish line.

3. Leadership is better with others:

I didn’t run the London Marathon by myself. I went there with a team. 

My wife accompanied me. I also had the pleasure of running for and with Team World Vision. They brought 28 runners to London. 

There were people to do this race with. It made it better. It also reminded me of my why. I wasn’t running for myself. I was running for the kids who had to walk miles for dirty water.

Leadership is often lonely. We wall ourselves off from others. We become insular.

That’s no way to do leadership.

I want you to start looking for people you can partner with. Find others who can hold you up when you feel tired. Find others who can encourage you and point you in the right direction when you don’t know where to go next.

Surrounding yourself with support can get you across your finish line.

4. Keep a positive mindset:

When I hit the runner’s wall at mile 13, I had a choice. I could mutter and curse the race. I could have told myself this isn’t fair. I could be mad, upset, angry…

But I wasn’t. 

I knew I couldn’t be upset at the fact that I had the opportunity to run London. I couldn’t be upset that I helped change the lives of almost 300 kids. I couldn’t be upset that I was able to explore London.

My positive mindset made the last 13 miles of the race enjoyable. I kept myself positive by reminding myself of what I had done, what I was doing, and the change it was making.

You’re going to hit a leadership wall. You’re going to feel like you can’t go on. You’re going to have negative thoughts run through your mind.

Get those negative thoughts out of there. Acknowledge them, yes… But don’t wallow in them. 

Remind yourself of your blessings. Bring to mind what you’ve accomplished. Tell yourself your why.

The more you focus on the positive, the less the negative will affect you.

5. Leaders get tired:

I already shared that I hit the wall at mile 13. Hitting the way means that you’re feeling worn out, defeated, tired… You may think you can’t go any further.

It’s when a runner gets tired.

Leaders get tired, too. They have so much stress, anxiety, and fear that they wear themselves out.

If you feel tired, embrace the tiredness. Recognize where you’re at.

But don’t let being tired stop you. You can move forward, even if only inches at a time.

6. Support can get you through the challenging times:

Oh my goodness… the crowds of spectators at the London Marathon were crazy.

I don’t recall a single area where there wasn’t someone cheering runners onward.

These spectators, or spectathletes as Team World Vision calls them, support runners by cheering, offering food, and giving high fives.

Without these people, the 26.2 miles can feel awfully lonely. With the support, you feel like there’s someone there with you the whole way.

Find people to support you. These are cheerleaders (but not yes men). These people will tell you that you can do it when you feel you can’t.

Find supporters.

7. Finishing is finishing:

I believed this would be my best marathon ever. My time couldn’t be worse than it was five years ago. I was wrong.

I finished at 5 hours, 13 minutes, 42 seconds. 

Getting from the starting line to the finish line was a long haul. But I finished.

Crossing the finish line was an accomplishment I will never forget. It wasn’t fast, I didn’t feel great, and I had to remind myself to keep going. But I finished.

Remember, you may not complete the projects or missions you set out to accomplish in the timeframe you wanted to. However, if you keep moving forward, you can finish those projects. You can make a difference. You can cross the finish line.

Follow Me