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  • Claire Vincent

Sorry, what is an insight?

When I first entered the world of marketing, I remember struggling to get my head round what an insight actually was – it felt like something intangible, out of reach, the sort of thing that you were always hoping would magically appear so that you could proudly announce to the team:

“Hey! You’ll never guess what...I’ve found the insight”.

On our annual evening run past the lavender fields in Broadway last week, the conversation turned to the London Marathon as the ballot results had come out that day. As usual, we debated the pros and cons of the ballot system that allows anyone to enter and provides everyone with an equal chance of getting a place regardless of whether they are a ‘proper runner’ or not: Is it fair to take a place if you’re not a runner? Should you automatically get a place if you’ve entered the ballot more than 5 times? Should you have to prove that you’ve trained?

It's easy for runners to get frustrated with the system (I’ve done it myself) and the London Marathon Marketing team could have quite simply written a positioning statement along the lines of:

For runners

who want the challenge and experience of running 26.2 miles

the London marathon is a running race

that allows you to take in the sights and sounds of the UK’s capital city

But does that make you tingle with excitement? Does it set London apart from all the other marathons? Does it make you want to run over 26 miles when you don’t even own a pair of trainers and hate running? No....because it lacks insight.

For the last couple of years, I’ve volunteered as a tail walker at the London Marathon – supporting the people at the back of the pack who, for many good reasons, need that extra bit of help to get them over the line.

It’s easy to judge those who take a bit longer - for not training hard enough, wanting the experience without the sweat, not being a proper runner...

...but when you chat to them, when they’re broken, when every bone in their body is telling them to stop, when they are searching for the grit and determination to keep putting one foot in front of another, those feelings of judgement go and are replaced with respect.

For so many, their personal journey has been tough, emotional, unsupported...they have been through so much before even getting to the start line. Many have suffered bereavements, are dealing with medical conditions, have been told they'd never make it. But as one participant said to me in April as we turned the corner on The Mall towards the finish line “This is the turning point for me...the point where my life becomes more positive”.

This is why the London Marathon is like no other marathon on earth...why around half a million* people enter...why Hugh Brasher is passionate about making it as inclusive as possible...why it’s important that anyone can take part (not just ‘proper runners’)...why it’s essence is ‘We run together’ regardless of whether it takes you 2 hours or 11.

Because behind every person covering those 26.2 miles on marathon day, there is an insight...a story that’s both unique and connects them to every person there.

So next time you’re struggling to find an insight, don’t worry about the definition...instead seek out the stories, ask questions to get to the truth behind the behaviour, listen to what people are really

saying, take time to tease out what’s really going on and there you will find insight gold.

I'm always happy to have a chat about insights (or running), so do get in touch.

(*I think/ ish)

Photo credit: London Marathon

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