How Grant Writing is Like Training for a Half Marathon

(*Note: Yes, that is a picture of me, in the pink headband on the right, immediately after the race with a dear friend who ran with me to celebrate the five year anniversary of my Achilles rupture. Back to normal professional headshot style pictures after this, but the analogy didn’t feel as solid to share with you without the real post-race picture.)

There are so many life experiences that I think can be paralleled to grant writing – digging for clams in the ocean, learning a skill for a new hobby, or in my latest epiphany, training for another half marathon.

Many of you know from being long-time subscribers that the DH Leonard Consulting team is a very active team. Whether running, yoga, swimming or walking on a treadmill desk while writing narrative, many of us on the team find inspiration and outlets for stress in our activities. This year, I set the goal to run two half marathons in addition to my normal fitness routine and have signed up with friends and family for two races this spring and summer. The first of the races was this weekend in Nashville, the St. Jude Rock & Roll Half Marathon. (Which by the way, was my first time in Nashville, and I must remark on what a friendly, albeit hilly city, it was!)

As I reflect back today on my training the past three months that helped me successfully cross the finish line yesterday, I couldn’t help but see an analogy between my half marathon training and my #lifeasagrantwriter.

How is training for a half marathon like grant writing?

There are numerous competitors, but you need to focus on competing against and improving your own personal best.

Running in a race with 30,000 other runners feels like one large competition. But in an environment where there are large waves of start times and only one clock running, each runner is really running their own race and is typically monitoring their progress against their expectations using a GPS watch or app on their cell phone.


There will be setbacks.

There will be days where you are off your target pace, or there is a twinge in your knee. Days when you aren’t feeling motivated to bundle up to go run in below freezing temperatures *again.* In grant writing, there will be days where you deal with writer’s block or where you have to follow-up on a rejection letter received to try and get feedback on the proposal.

There is no fast and easy “win.”

Training for a half-marathon takes weeks of pre-planning and training to prepared for the race distance of 13.1 miles. Grant writing is a long-term strategy for raising resources for an organization.

The end of the race is amazing.

That final adrenaline rush as you see the finish line ahead, find some extra speed deep down and pick up your pace to propel across the finish line is hard to duplicate. In grant writing, the finish line and medal happen in two ways. The first is the successful completion of a proposal like a large collaborative proposal or a federal grant. The second is when a grant award is announced for a proposal you have written.

And what are the lessons learned?

While you don’t utilize a GPS watch or app like Map My Run to monitor your grant seeking, you can measure your organization’s grant readiness score on a biannual or annual basis in order to track your progress against your goals and expectations utilizing our GRASP Tool.

There are grant writing stressors, and then there are grant seeking challenges. Knowing how to handle the short-term stressors is critical to your overall happiness and satisfaction as a grant professional. Knowing that your challenges are often common to other grant professionals, and that there are solutions to be found within best practices of grant seeking can be reassuring and help you best address the challenges.


What other areas of life do you see parallel lessons in when compared to your work as a grant professional?

Drop us an email, leave a note in the comments on the website, or a note via social media to let us know where you see similarities.

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