Marathon Running and Community Engagement: Same Battle

Training for a marathon is hard work. If you’ve done it – hats off to you. If you haven’t, take my word for it.

I am training for my first marathon. During the more than 600 km of training runs, I’ve had lots of time to think. Here are the top 5 ways running a marathon is like building communities of interest:

  1. Find leaders. For marathon training, it might be a coach or running partner; for communities of interest, it may be a dynamic CEO, a dedicated volunteer or a passionate politician. Everyone needs a leader. Everyone needs to be inspired.
  1. Build a plan. Follow a strategy. You’re not going to jump off the couch and run 42.2k; it just won’t happen. Just like you can’t flick on the “community engagement button”. Success depends on the right plan that aligns with business objectives.
  1. Set goals and objectives. If you expect to run your first marathon in 3 hours, you’re probably going to be disappointed. If you don’t research your audience’s priorities, capacity or readiness to support, you’ll miss the opportunity for authentic engagement. Set realistic goals and manage expectations.
  1. It takes time. Never before has the expression, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” been more true. Building a group of passionate individuals who support your brand takes time and effort. It will not happen overnight.
  1. Through the good and the bad. Sure, training in the winter is hard; getting out of bed isn’t easy and running in the rain is no piece of cake. But in order to have a good race day, you have to put in those hard runs. Similarly, if you want brand ambassadors to stick with you through scandals, product recalls or corporate misfires, you have to have a solid narrative that people believe in and want to support. If it was easy, everyone would do it.


Laurel is a marketing senior consultant at NATIONAL’s Halifax office and sits on the Blue Nose Marathon’s Board of Directors. For the 13th year in a row, runners will take to Halifax’s streets running 2 km, 4 km, 5 km, 10 km, 21 km, and 42 km and accomplishing goals set months ago. The Blue Nose Marathon is a leader in community engagement and deploys ambassador programs, business partner programs, charity partnerships, legacy programs and has a dedicated following of runners.

Through the Blue Nose Charity Challenge, Laurel has raised $1,500 for Brigadoon Village (a friend of NATIONAL’s). It’s not too late to make a donation to one of Canada’s leading recreational facilities for children and youth with chronic illnesses.