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Market Research & Marathons: You Get Out What You Put In

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo on Tue, May 24, 2011

Research and running have more in common than you might think.  Nobody plans quite like a researcher.  Similarly, nobody understands discipline more than a long-distance runner.  I’ve finished 20 marathons – last month’s Boston Marathon was the most recent.  Having finally reached a point where I feel comfortable describing myself as “completely recovered” (being a mom to six-month-old has a way of extending the recovery process), I’m able to reflect a bit and highlight a few similarities.

I’m known as a planner.  Part of it might be personality, but partdescribe the image of it is understanding that cutting corners on preparation and planning increases the odds that you’ll pay a penalty down the line.  It pays dividends for all type of studies, from brand trackers to customer experience research.  While there will always be unforeseen variables, like most researchers and runners, I like to minimize those as much as possible.  So what’s the best way to get at predictable results?  Make a plan – preferably one with a strong foundation and with the long view in mind – and have the discipline to stick with it. 

For me, marathon training rests on four pillars:

  • Adequate mileage (quantity)
  • Tempo and speed workouts (quality)
  • Ample rest
  • Stretching and core exercises

So what does this have to do with research?  Everything.

I wouldn’t expect to run a great marathon if I prepped by running a ton of miles at a mediocre pace and on short rest.  Likewise, I wouldn’t expect fantastic results from a study that only gets at “how” and “who” not “why” and “what.” 

And all of that requires a certain degree of discipline.  It’s not always easy to remain cognizant of the idea that what you do now may well have repercussions two weeks or two years out, particularly when things get hectic and clients need answers ASAP.  But if your clients understand that you’re committed to a plan and have the discipline to stay on course, you’ll have a much better shot at crossing the finish line with results that are both on target and meaningful in the long-term.

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo. Lynne is a Senior Project Manager at CMB, new mom and fully recovered 115th Boston Marathon participant.

Topics: research design