I’ve trained in heat and I’ve trained in rain, but that day in Whistler in August 2015 was by far the nastiest weather I’ve ever competed in. Temperatures dipped down to 14°F and it got so bad that bikers around me started wiping out. I knew my entire race plan had gone completely sideways. The finish times I had planned for were no longer realistic, but I still wanted to finish with the best time possible. I kept pedaling and focused on the finish line.
Combining a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike race, and a full marathon of 26.2 miles into a one day race makes the IRONMAN® triathlon quite possibly the most grueling athletic competition one can participate in. It leads many to wonder, what on Earth could motivate someone to do this to themselves? More importantly, what kind of person actively seeks out such an enormous challenge?
James Thomas will tell you it’s the thrill of pushing yourself to see what you can achieve, both physically and mentally. That’s the way he approaches many things in his life.
It’s about making a plan
Before embarking on a grueling IRONMAN competition, James Thomas is a man with a plan. “I spend a ton of time planning my training and, once that plan is in my calendar, I think about hitting targets and whether I want to hire a personal trainer,” said James. James has to be strict about his diet and fitness regimen. It takes him a full year of preparation to ready himself for race day.
It’s about having the tools you need to get the job done
Part of the planning process includes leveraging the latest technology. For triathlons, James researches the lightest running shoes, the fastest bikes, the sleekest uniforms, and the most wind-resistant helmets to help him perform at the highest possible levels.
James makes choices about his gear to ensure his comfort and success on race day. “I spend a lot of hours researching technology before making a decision,” said James. “I believe that having the right tools can make all the difference in getting the job done.”
It’s about building a top-notch team to support you
Only one person runs an IRONMAN, but it’s far from an individual effort. According to James, each IRONMAN has roughly 2,000 athletes and about 10,000 supporters. James relies on mentors, trainers, and the support of family and friends to get to the finish line. The race requires a huge time commitment, and a sacrifice of time usually spent with family and friends.
At his last race, James’s girlfriend came to support him and also looked out for his kids while he participated. “It meant a lot to have her there,” said James, “She supported me not only by cheering me on, but also by being there for my kids.”
Even though one person participates in the race, finishing an IRONMAN takes a team effort.
It’s about executing relentlessly
“In triathlons, you have a plan, but it’s just a plan until it’s put into action,” said James. “Ultimately, you have to go and execute. I believe in executing relentlessly–continually working on things each and every day to reach your goals.”
To date, James has completed five IRONMAN triathlons, but he doesn’t rely on the same training plan each time. He approaches each race with a new strategy and a fresh perspective, knowing that it’s essential to try innovative tactics to improve.
“What used to work eight years ago doesn’t work the same anymore,” said James. “My body isn’t the same as it was when I started doing triathlons and neither is marketing. It’s essential to always be moving forward, coming up with new tactics to ensure success.”
James runs marketing like an IRONMAN
When James isn’t training for triathlons, he’s working as the CMO of Allocadia, where he runs marketing like an IRONMAN.
To James, the best CMOs are the ones who can create a plan, but still adapt on the fly. He believes marketers should be humble enough to recognize when things aren’t going well so they can work to make them right.
It’s important to invest in marketing technologies that will support your plans and offer creative ways to push a team from good to great. James opts for best-in-class software for his team just as he opts for best-in-class sneakers and road bikes for his races. Leading a successful marketing organization is as much about doing marketing as it is running marketing.
As a CMO, James isn’t one to take all the credit, either. “It takes a team effort to get things done in marketing and I give my team a lot of freedom and autonomy,” he said. “I know they’re specialists in what they do, and I want them to know they can make decisions.” James believes CMOs should hire great people around them and let them do what they’re best at.
Above all, James says CMOs should focus on executing relentlessly. “Whether you’re talking about a commitment to a marketing plan or a grueling 112-mile bike ride, the sentiment is the same–keep your eyes on the finish line.”
James Thomas runs marketing like an IRONMAN.