The 20 Mile March.

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The 20 Mile March is a concept popularized by author Jim Collins in his book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. Collins remarked that enterprises that prevail in turbulence self-impose a rigorous performance mark to hit consistently—like hiking across the United States by marching at least 20 miles daily. The march imposes order amidst disorder, discipline amidst chaos, and consistency amidst uncertainty. The 20-mile march works only if you hit your march year after year; if you set a 20-mile march and then fail to achieve it, you may well get crushed by events.

The 20-Mile March is more than a philosophy. It’s about having concrete, clear, intelligent, and rigorously pursued performance mechanisms that keep you on track. The 20-Mile March creates two types of self-imposed discomfort: (1) the discomfort of unwavering commitment to high performance in difficult conditions, and (2) the discomfort of holding back in good conditions.

Having a clear 20 Mile March focuses the mind; because everyone on the team knows the markers and their importance, they can stay on track. Financial markets are out of your control. Customers are out of your control. Earthquakes are out of your control. Global competition is out of your control. Technological change is out of your control. Most everything is ultimately out of your control. But when you 20 Mile March, you have a tangible point of focus that keeps you and your team moving forward, despite confusion, uncertainty, and even chaos. 1

Southwest Airlines, for example, demanded of itself a profit every year, even when the entire industry lost money. From 1990 through 2003, the U.S. airline industry as a whole turned a profit in just six of 14 years. In the early 1990s it lost $13 billion and furloughed more than 100,000 employees; Southwest remained profitable and furloughed not a single person. Despite an almost chronic epidemic of airline troubles, including high-profile bankruptcies of some major carriers, Southwest generated a profit every year for 30 consecutive years.

Equally important, Southwest had the discipline to hold back in good times so as not to extend beyond its ability to preserve profitability and the Southwest culture. It didn’t expand outside Texas until nearly eight years after starting service, making a small jump to New Orleans. Southwest moved outward from Texas in deliberate steps — Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Los Angeles — and didn’t reach the Eastern Seaboard until almost a quarter of a century after its founding. In 1996, more than 100 cities clamored for Southwest service. And how many cities did Southwest open that year? Four. 2

The 20-Mile March: My Personal Experience

The 20-Mile March concept has served me well in various ways. Earlier in the year, I set a goal to run a marathon in each of the ten Canadian provinces. It was a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It was stretching, tough and expensive, but I decided to give it a shot. I started with my why for running multiple marathons in a single year. I was running to get fit and learn life lessons to serve me in the coming years. I ran six full marathons in 2022, which gave me the confidence to believe I could run ten in a year. By the end of 2023, I ran nine full marathons and two half-marathons, equal to ten full marathons.

  1. Toronto Full Marathon, Ontario – May 7, 2023 – 4 hours 13 minutes
  2. Stewart McKelvey Fredericton Marathon | New Brunswick |  3 hours 53 minutes | May 14, 2023
  3. Emera Blue Nose Marathon, Halifax | Nova Scotia | May 21, 2023 | 4:02;56
  4. Servus Credit Union Calgary Marathon | Alberta | 4 hours 31 minutes | May 28, 2023
  5. Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Marathon | Winnipeg |  June 18, 2023 |  3:59:16
  6. 2023 GMS Queen City Marathon, Regina | Saskatchewan | 3:20:49 | September 10, 2023
  7. Beneva Quebec City Marathon | Quebec | October 1st, 2023 | 3;20:59
  8. Royal Victoria Marathon | British Columbia | October 8th, 2023 | 3:31:15
  9. Prince Edward Island Marathon | Charlottetown | October 15, 2023 | 3:25:13

Half Marathons

My training regimen mirrored the 20-mile March concept as I made sure that I showed up every day for training and executing my plans relentlessly. I trained for at least two to 3 hours every day. In July, I trained for a record 108 hours. I could reduce my personal best for a marathon from 3 hours 44 minutes to 3 hours 20 minutes. I was running for an average of 13-14 KM every day at some point,As and the result ultimately showed in my performance.

As the saying goes, we play the way we train. I achieved my goal by showing up to train every day and putting in the mileage consistently. My other goal for running multiple marathons in 2023 was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The qualifying time for my age bracket was 3:05, but I did not get to qualify with the 20-mile March concept in mind; I intend to break the sub-3 hours for a marathon time in 2024. What I have learned from my marathon running challenge is that one has to put in the work and increase mileage consistently, and with time, you will achieve your aim.


Running a marathon is hard, and running the equivalent of ten marathons is extremely tough, but with focus, determination and perseverance, anything is achievable. In May, I ran four full marathons back to back, and pulling it through was extremely tough. But because I have trained consistently for over a while, I ultimately ran those marathons. With the self-confidence from running 15 full marathons in the past two years, I am presently using the 20-mile concept to achieve other goals, such as speaking impeccable French and coding in multiple programming languages such as Python and Javascript, among others. It will get rigid with time whenever you set out to achieve a goal, but you must consider the end and take it a step/mile at a time. You’ve got this.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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