It is important to stick to a plan when trying to accomplish a major goal or project, a fact I was able to put to the test when my wife and I decided to run in the 2019 Madison Marathon. That’s 26.2 miles of “pure fun.” While we had run half marathons and various other distances in the past, we’d never run a marathon before. We needed a plan to train for it.

Creating a plan

As a relatively new runner, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. My wife, on the other hand, has always been a runner and knew a thing or two about training and competing in long distance races. She picked a 16-week training plan that would train us until the day of the marathon. After looking at the plan and seeing the number of low mileage runs the plan started out with, I admit that I was not 100% on board. Before starting the training program, we had been running consistently, and I felt I was in better shape to take on higher mileage runs. I foolishly decided to run more miles and days than what the plan called for, as well as ignoring recovery days.

Guess what? I should have followed the plan! After about three months of going rogue from the plan, I developed a sharp pain in my right foot whenever I ran on it. After getting “medical advice” from the internet, I was pretty convinced I had developed a slight stress fracture. This was likely due to an increase of too many miles in a short period of time (AKA straying from a running plan because I thought I knew better). The suggested cure for my stress fracture was 6 to 8 weeks of no running. This wasn’t going to work as my marathon was just four weeks away, and the high mileage was crucial at this time in the training plan. After training all summer and fall for the marathon, I felt silly for not listening to my wife and sticking to the plan. I still really wanted to participate in the marathon, so I had to create a backup plan to see if there was any way I could still run it.

Plan B

To keep myself in shape, I figured I could take three weeks off running and cross train instead. I made sure to do exercises that utilized the same muscle groups and had little to no impact on my injured foot. The week before the race, I planned to do a short test run to see if I still felt any pain. At the time, my thoughts were if I felt any pain during the test run, I would not compete in the race. However, if I decided to run the marathon, I knew I would also have to increase my per mile times and shorten my stride to reduce the chance of reinjuring my foot during the race.


After taking time out from running and cross training instead, my foot had a sufficient amount of recovery time. I felt I was in shape to run the whole marathon. The day of the race, I made sure I followed my backup plan (longer running time and shorter strides). To my surprise, I finished the race! My time wasn’t great and everything hurt at the end, but I finished! 

Lessons Learned

In hindsight, the outcome of the race and the last month leading up to the marathon could have gone much smoother. Had I followed the original training plan, I might not have experienced any foot pain and my time may have been better.

As you can imagine, this lesson translates well to the workplace. Assuming that when you begin planning large projects, you thoughtfully create steps and milestones along the way, it’s important to stay the course. In my role at First Business, when we are in the planning stages of any new project or event, if we suddenly decide to race to the finish without considering the needs of clients and our internal stakeholders, we would end up with an inferior end result.

When you veer from a plan at work, you open yourself up to unforeseen consequences; which cause delays, create extra work to fix new problems, and cost you time and money. Of course, sometimes things don’t always go as planned and it is smart to be adaptable so you can adjust and reassess and get back on track... Just don’t willingly stray from a plan because you think you know better. Some things are not worth experimenting over — trust me, you could hurt more than just your foot.