Managing Marathon Training as your next Project

Date: 19/04/2022| Category: Project Management|

In this article, we will speak about the importance of planning and goal-setting in project management in comparison to training for a marathon. We will highlight the necessary skills of a project manager and share 10 tips to get started with marathon training!

What is Project Management in Sports?

Project management is the use of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to create valuable output. Training for your next sports event can be managed as a project in which you focus on improving your fitness and mental health. For an endurance event like running a marathon, dedicated time and resources are needed in order to prepare yourself.

Why Planning is important for your next Race

It doesn’t matter if your project is a new website, a new service or in the case of a marathon, an event that you want to take part in. The project planning phase serves as a roadmap to look at whenever you feel you need support throughout the project. Project planning provides guidance by answering questions like:

  • What product(s) or service(s) will we deliver?
    Which marathon do I want to take part in?
  • How much will the project cost?
    How much time do I need to start training ahead of my race?
  • How can we meet the needs of our stakeholders?
    Can I do this by myself or do I want to take on the help of a coach?
  • How will progress be measured?
    How fast do I plan to run my marathon? Do I need any equipment to measure this?

Planning your next race is crucial! During this phase you will have to think of timing and schedules, along with resources as well as potential risks.

These early considerations can prevent future problems that might affect the overall success of your project, or even cause it to fail. Too little planning causes stress, anxiety, chaos and frustration; and too much planning can lead to a decreased motivation to stick to your goals.

Setting SMART Goals in Marathon Training

Setting SMART goals in marathon training is the first step towards success. But how do you set specific and achievable goals for this project? How can you measure training progress? How much time do you have at hand to spend on your (daily) training?

Let’s see what a SMART goal could be in the context of marathon training:

e.g. I want to run train for 42 km and run it within 3 hours and 30 minutes, training over the course of 6 months.

e.g. You can now run 21 km in 1 hour and 45 minutes. By measuring your running time, the distance you run and your Heart Rate (HR) during every session over a period of 6 months, you can see your progress.

e.g. Running 42 km within 3 hours and 30 minutes in 6 months time is an achievable goal as you are already able to run 21 km at a certain pace.

e.g. You are a healthy individual that is enjoying an active lifestyle, you have time to train 4-6 times a week and are willing to prioritize your training.

e.g. You have 6 months to reach your goal. This is a reasonable timeframe.

But more than creating these goals, just like in project management, you should have the drive and motivation to achieve your goals. The success of a project largely depends on the efforts made by those involved. Moreover, after establishing SMART project goals, project managers should aim to measure project progress to make sure they are on track towards targets.

What makes you a great Project Manager?

To be effective at what they do, project managers require skills in a broad range of areas. They need to be able to:

Re-evaluate: is everything with this project going according to plan? Or do I need to adjust my training schedule? Have I learned any lessons during my training sessions that I can apply to the next run?
Prevent overtime: initial projects (training session 1 of the week) being delayed most likely cause follow-up projects (training session 2 of the week) being delayed and impact the full scope of your project plan. And besides, if you work overtime, there is no flexibility to deal with issues: missing your daily training because you worked till 8PM can cause your healthy running habits to break.
Look at the big picture: have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? Endurance athletes should do around eighty per cent of their training at a very easy intensity, with the remaining twenty per cent consisting of moderate or hard training.
Know you don’t know everything: keep an open mind and learn from mistakes. Have the drive and initiative to learn from this training process, allowing you to review it afterwards and make improvements towards your next race!

Read more about the 5 essential soft skills for a project manager.

10 Tips to get Started on your Marathon Training

Before you start your marathon training, there is a couple of things you can try in order to stay motivated and focused:

  1. Sign-up for your marathon of choice (luckily most of the time you need to sign up between 6 to 12 months in advance, so this gives you enough time to prepare). Can you imagine running the streets of Rome, Berlin or Paris?
  2. Buy a new pair of good quality running shoes, maybe even two: one for intervals, and one for longer, easy runs.
  3. Find a coach to give you advice and help you with a dedicated training plan.
  4. Find a running squad to keep you motivated and challenged.
  5. Look for running routes near your house so there is no excuse not to go before or after a long workday.
  6. Read some articles about running, marathons and most importantly, get excited about your new adventure!
  7. Start to run and measure your performance; having a HR monitor and a sports watch might be a good idea, but if not, there are ways around this (ask your coach, squad, or read online how).
  8. Start with strength exercises and stretch properly to balance out the sudden stress you place onto your body by increasing your running volume. Really pay attention to this point!
  9. Give yourself a high-five for doing all the previous items already.
  10. Speak to your friends about your new goals – I always find that things get real when I say them out loud; and your friends will keep you accountable for reaching your goals!


  • APMG – What makes a great Project Manager
  • Medium – What Project Management and Sports has in common
  • PMI – What makes Project Manager successful
  • Liftingspoons – The Art of Endurance Training: how to set SMART Goals and stay Motivated

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