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What can we learn about Mindset from the London Marathon?….

By Jane Cox

I love everything about the London Marathon, It’s a true festival and celebration of positivity. I love the athleticism, the inclusivity, the personal stories, all that striving and emotion, tears of joy, and the millions of £ raised for charitable good works - it’s all just so uplifting. And it makes you feel hopeful for humanity.

I also love the record breaking. Especially the silly stuff. Kudos to Belinda and David - Guinness world record breakers …

  • Belinda Neild: Fastest marathon dressed as a stationery item (female) – 3:38:22

  • David Henson: Fastest marathon wearing handcuffs (male) – 2:54:57

And yet this Sunday, as the London Marathon plays out in its full glory on the TV, you’ll find me soaking up all that emotion from the comfort of my sofa… Using the London Marathon app to cheer on my running buddies who were lucky enough to get a place in the annual ballot, and then heading out in the afternoon for a gentle £5k jog with Lulu, my cockerpoo.

And I’m happy with that. As proud as I am of my London Landmarks Half Marathon Medal, I have never had the inclination to do more. And I have to confess, that has made me curious about my mindset and how it compares to that of an elite marathon athlete! 😊

You see I’m fascinated by mindsets and I’m particularly curious to explore the correlation between the mindsets of elite marathon runners and those of effective leadership. We’ve identified 3 core mindsets through our work:

  • A Growth Mindset: this is all about leaders seeing challenges as opportunities to grow and reframing failure as a positive learning experience.

  • A Future Orientation: this is about feeling enthusiastic, positive and having a real curiousity about the future. It’s a mindset that allows managers to plan and prepare whilst also being flexible and agile enough to respond to whatever might come.

  • A Positive Outlook: which is all about the persistence to pursue goals despite obstacles and setbacks and seeing the positive in people, situations and events more often than the negative.

Let’s see if we can spot any of these mindsets in a cross-section of the quotations I found online from London’s all time best record holders. Our marathoning heroes are:

  • Eliud Kipchoge: 2 hours: 02 minutes: 37 seconds (Men’s, 2019)

  • Paula Radcliffe: 2 hours:15 minutes: 25 seconds (Women’s,2003)

  • Manuela Schär: 1 hour: 39 minutes: 52 seconds (Women’s Wheelchair, 2021

  • Marcel Hug: 1 hour: 26 minutes: 27 seconds (Men’s Wheelchair, 2021)

Seriously Marcel? You can wheel over 26.2 miles on cobbles in 86 minutes!!

So, what do you reckon? Can we spot some common themes about positive outlook, growth mindset, and overcoming obstacles from:


  • No human is limited”

  • “If you believe in something and put it in your mind and heart, it can be realised”

  • “Mentality is where the success is”

  • “Thinking positively and confidently changed my life”

Or Paula?

Or Manuela?

  • "I think as an athlete, it's really important how you deal with disappointment also, because it's gonna be a part of your life – no matter what"

  • "You can turn bad experiences or not reaching a goal into something really good, or it can go in a really bad way. I think I somehow turned it into something good and took it as a teacher or a motivation to grow. You learn from every mistake"

Or Marcel?

  • ·Who says he manages his mindset using positive self talk “I’m professional – I go to work” on rainy days to motivate himself

Well, I’d say there some pretty compelling consistency there. If you listen to our elite athletes, it’s evident they believe mindsets matter when it comes to achieving desired outcomes. And @work stories coaching we believe that too. Elite athlete or not, adopting a more enabling mindset will help you move closer to your chosen goals. Even if like me, your goals don’t include winning a marathon!

Ok. If mindsets, particularly Growth, Future Orientation, and Positive Outlook matter, the more pertinent question is What can we do to further develop them? And will it involve running? At Work Stories Coaching we suggest you...

  1. Start reflecting on what you have achieved and failed at, as well as what you have learned from these experiences, then use this insight to make better decisions about actions you take in the future

  2. Start using the word “yet” to reframe things you think you cannot do, ie. From “I can't do this” to “I cant do this yet!”

  3. Start adding some “What if this were to happen...” dreaming to the way you plan, as this increases your curiosity about the future, and helps you prepare for all scenarios.

  4. Finally if you are interested in learning how to run, I started doing the NHS’s couch to 5k running plan, and I can wholeheartedly recommended it. It works, and has sparked in me a personal passion for running (albeit slowly), and enabled me to make some great friends. I met one of our co-founders @jaynereah at our local running club.

If you or your teams would like help adopting more enabling mindsets,click HERE to learn more about how Work Stories Coaching can support you.

Author: Jane Cox

Jane is one our Work Stories founders and resident executive coach. To find out more about Jane click HERE

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