Now I see the importance of marketing

Marketing – the secret weapon

I used to work at a design services company – our offering was a combination of contract design services (you pay us and we do clever stuff for you) and intellectual property licensing (we develop some clever engineering and you pay us a licence fee to use it). A couple of weeks ago I went to a reunion dinner with some ex-colleagues from that company. It’s always interesting to see the different paths people take on their career journeys, and they were a good bunch of guys.

One of those at dinner had joined the company fresh from university. Bright, genial, entrepreneurial and still frighteningly young he has now started his own product company, developing a device in a challenging consumer market area. As might be expected, the product has some very clever engineering and delivers startlingly impressive performance. He appeared on Dragons’ Den and turned down their offer.

Now I see the importance of marketing

I was really pleased to hear him utter those words. I’ve never been a marketing professional but I’ve worked with some very talented marketing people and recognised the immense value of their work. I’ve also spent a lot of my career trying to create revenue in technical companies which didn’t see the value of marketing. Our young entrepreneur continued: “I thought that since we had developed a brilliant product people would just buy it.” So many technical companies believe in “build it and they’ll come”. They polish the technical offering and wait for the customers – and then polish some more. They hire salesmen, and then fire them when they don’t make sales. My approach was to try to fill the marketing gap to provide the foundation upon which I could sell. Sometimes companies got it, more often they didn’t.

I’m so happy that at least one clever technical guy has learnt that good marketing is essential for business success.

The final countdown

5 miles through the Suffolk countryside (click to enlarge)

I’m writing this on the Tuesday before the Marathon – 5 sleeps to go. I’m well into my taper now, and no issues so far. While I’m running a lot less than at the peak, I guess by the standards of most people (especially people of my age) I’ve still covered a fair distance in the last couple of weeks. I’m now talking in terms of my last long run being “just a half marathon”. Last week my daily runs stayed at 10.5 km, but I’ve been trying to run them gently. Yesterday, which would have been long run day, I went out in glorious sunshine intending to run 5 km, but couldn’t resist taking the scenic route and doing 8 km. I don’t feel too guilty about over-doing it, because I succeeded in keeping the pace down to a marathon shuffle, which feels ridiculously slow.

It’s not how fast I go, but the fact I can do it at all!

I’m beginning to understand my pace. If I just run without thinking about it I settle out at 6.5 minute kilometre pace until I get tired, which might be after 8 or 10 miles. If I focus my mind on a controlled push I can take the pace up to 6 minute kilometres for a distance of 10 km or so. With a disciplined focus on slow running the pace comes out at around 7.5 minute kilometres. I can maintain 5 minute kilometres for a mile – that’s an 8 minute mile, and my excuse for the mixed units. I’m sort of happy with that – I was never a great athlete, and the surprising thing now is not how fast I go, but the fact I can do it at all.

I intend just one more run before the event – another gentle run tomorrow. 5 km would be sensible, but if the weather’s nice it might turn out to be another 8 km. I will be focusing on marathon pace, trying to get used to running slower than comes naturally. My sole objective for the Marathon is to finish as elegantly as possible, and I know from running half the distance that the temptation to speed early on will be my enemy, however good it feels at the time.

I’m as ready as I’ll ever be – I’m just hoping above all else that I don’t injure anything or get ill in the next few days.

…and taper

Weather for London Marathon day

Just two weeks to go. I’m formally starting my taper from here, although last week (the first week of April) was also lighter than normal because we were in Wales in the motorhome. I managed three runs during that week. Two of them were on tracks in the Brecon Beacons where we were staying. It was very robust countryside and at times snowing too. I was reminded just how tough are the fell runners for whom this type of ground is normal. For me, accustomed to the gentle slopes of Suffolk, running uphill or down was challenging in the extreme. So the week was very different from the training of past months, and the variety was probably good in exercising some muscles that have had it easy when plodding along a tarmac road.

This week I was back to the old routine for just one more time – a long run of about 20 miles, three 6½ milers and a parkrun. I can’t say I’m sorry to have completed the last long run of the training programme – I’ve found them tough, and somewhat scary, with the prospect of having to complete a further 6 miles for the Marathon.

Next week my long run will be scaled back to a slow (marathon-pace) half-marathon distance on Monday, and I’ll probably taper the shorter runs down to 3 miles through the week, ending with a parkrun on Saturday. After that, I’ll have a week off (maybe the odd stretch) until Marathon day on 28th April. I just hope that my body can stay together for two more weeks and that it doesn’t rain on the day.