On Running Marathons and Running a Tech Startup

PUBLISHED ON October 21, 2021
LAST UPDATED Oct 21, 2021

I run marathons — a lot of marathons in fact. Last weekend, I ran number 54. I also run a tech startup. Some would say that both are intimidating, and they would be right. Both can be scary, and challenging, but both are also incredibly rewarding. And each has taught me something about the other. Running my 54th marathon a few days ago, I thought a lot about how much running informs and affects both my personal and professional life, and about how the lessons learned from success in marathon running apply to success in building a tech company.  

Why do I run? I crossed the Boston Marathon’s finish line for the first time when I was 29. It was at that moment I set a goal to run 50 marathons by the time I turned 50. Don’t ask me why I picked 50, but I did, I reached that goal, and I kept going. Why subject myself to this torture? Honestly, I find it fun and relaxing; it helps me focus, and it forces me to prioritize life and work. I don’t meditate, but I consider running my “meditation” – I have better days when I run. I find it helps me control my flight or fight instincts, which helps me make better decisions, especially under stress. Ultimately, crossing the finish line at the end of each marathon gives me more than just crossing another 26.2 miles off my bucket list. It gives me the confidence to deal with pain, obstacles, and, well, just life in general. 

Why do I run a tech startup? Similar to running, it’s challenging, but also fun and energizing. I’m not sure I could call it my “meditation,” but there’s nothing quite like startup culture – it’s hard to match that level of collaboration, energy, and excitement. And when I finished the BayState Marathon last weekend, I walked away with a new perspective on how marathons are like running a tech company. The temperament needed to run a marathon is similar to that needed to launch a startup. Most tech companies take a long time to be successful; most of those called “overnight successes” are anything but. Similarly, success in marathon running is typically a long time coming. Most people train for years before running their first one. Even during the race, a marathon is about persistence; there are exceptions for sure, but you typically can’t go out and run one extremely fast mile and finish the race. You need to run 26.2 miles at a consistent pace, enduring many highs and lows along the way. Startups are the same. One sale, one new software release, or one new hire usually doesn’t change the company. It is the act of doing all these things consistently over a long period of time, plus taking the setbacks in stride, that lead to success.  

I’m proud of the progress we’re making in our startup marathon here at ThreatX. Our recent inclusion in the Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Web Application and API Protection feels a little like cresting Heartbreak Hill (for you Boston marathon fans). We’re celebrating this accomplishment, but the race isn’t over — and we are excited for what comes next.

About the Author

Gene Fay

Gene has extensive experience building high-impact teams at early-stage startups in storage, virtualization, and cybersecurity. He has specific expertise in go-to-market strategies, marketing, customer success, and channel development. Gene holds an MBA from Northeastern University, where he guest lectures on topics such as product management, marketing, and sales.