Every April, my hometown of Hopkinton, MA  – the start of the Boston Marathon – turns into an athlete’s village when tens of thousands of runners and spectators descend on our streets to make their way along the 26.2 mile course into Boston.

In years past, we would make it a point to be out of town during “the race”, including in 2007. That was the year when Mike Olivieri (now Executive VP at American Business Journals) made an appeal to guests at a Boston Business Journal-sponsored breakfast, asking if any Hopkintonians in the audience would be willing to give shelter to a marathon team the morning of the race. A Nor’easter storm was threatening to hit that morning, and Mike and his team from AccesSportAmerica were hoping to stay dry up until the start of the race. Mike and his team camped out at our “safe house”, which was close to the starting line, and a tradition was born that continues today.

Over the years, our family has hosted runners from around the world during the morning of the Boston Marathon: first time runners, elite runners (who knew?) and family from the Chicago Running Club. This year was especially memorable as the first race following the Boston Marathon bombings. Runners from Ireland, the UK and five different states arrived hours before the race, conducting their personal rituals, sharing strategies for completing the race and getting ready for personal triumph.

This year’s Marathon has ended, and the last athletes have crossed the finish line, which makes me think about some lessons behind our town’s slogan – “It All Starts Here” – and how they might apply to the business world, including:

  1. Preparation is key, and repetition leads to improvement. The town of Hopkinton has hosted this event for the past 90 years, and each year it seems to go off without a hitch.  With heightened security this year, the preparation was a bit different.  Nonetheless, the town returned to a sense of normalcy within hours after the last runner left the gate.  My guess is that 90 years of “getting ready” for this race were critical in anticipating and preparing for the unexpected.
  2. Common interests can be infectious. In her post “The Only Day People Know My Hometown”, Hopkintonian Shannon Motyka gives her perspective of how the Marathon has been a part of her life. Whether or not you’re a runner, it’s impossible to not get caught up in the spirit of the race and the sense of community that comes from a shared experience.  Are there ways that you can encourage your customers and prospects to share common interests or discuss business topics?  Are there common topics and specific business issues that you’re seeing in the market?
  3. Never say never.  This year, many who had hung up their running shoes came back to Hopkinton for the 118th running. Some runners began training last April following the bombings; others were determined to finish what they had started last year.  A common theme that I heard is how different this year is from years past. Remembering that things change – whether it’s business conditions, personal training goals or a company’s overall success – can help keep an open mind.
  4. It’s never too late to be what you might become. This year, we met Katherine Beiers – an 81-year-old runner from Santa Cruz who is #1 in her age group. Katherine began running at the age of 49, on her lunch hour. She explained to me that she doesn’t really like running, but she does looks forward to the rewards of a good run – being outside, increased energy and invigorated spirit. What an inspiration! Katherine’s approach is to look at the rewards of running – the outcome, and not the struggle of each mile.  Whether you’re building an inbound business, launching a product or improving your company’s revenue model, think about the rewards, and remember that it’s never too late to try new things.

Have you learned any lessons from this year’s Boston Marathon? Are there other observations that might apply to the business world?