I ran my first and only marathon, the Quebec City Marathon, in August 2008. I had trained for marathons three times before but failed to get to the starting line due to injuries.

My plan was simple, train through the summer in Boston and head up to Canada to run the race of my life on a nice cool Canadian day. Unfortunately for me and several thousand other runners Quebec City had one of its warmest days in recorded history with temperatures reaching into the 90’s with heavy, oppressive humidity.


My goal time was by all accounts a reasonable, reachable goal. At the halfway point, 13.1 miles, I was cruising and comfortalbe. All runners have heard about “the wall” at mile 20, a term used to describe what it feels like when fatigue takes over your body while running – you run into a wall. I was prepared…or so I thought. What happened at the 19.5 mile mark can only be described as a soul crushing breakdown of every molecule in my body. Pain is an understatement. The heat and humidity attacked my body violently. I planned on “racing” the marathon, I was not in it to simply finish. Walking even one step was unacceptable. But running 19.5 miles in 90+ degree heat proved to be more than I could handle. I limped, crawled, and hobbled to the 20 mile marker which had food, hydration, and open hydrants for showers. I took advange of all three.


My goal time was gone and I had walked, I was devastated and considered dropping out of the race like dozens of other runners. Eventually I started walking well aware that I still had over 6 miles left to run, I decided crawling the next 6 miles was better than quitting. I walked, hobbled and ran on and off until the crowds picked up and with their help I was able to muster the energy to run the final few miles across the finish line. My goal time was a distant memory.


You must be wondering what this has to do with social media. As I reflect back on that hot day in Canada almost three years ago what I remember is finishing the marathon under extreme conditions; conditions that forced many runners to drop out. I adjusted my goals and plans in response to the conditions, conditions that were out of my control. I didn’t quit. My finishinng time still gnaws at me, but I finished a marathon. I feel a sense of accomplishment and persaverence. I think about how hard it was to get to the starting line semi-healthy, and all of the training over several months that went into that one day.


A few weeks ago I said goodbye to Xaverian Brothers High School – a school I worked with for almost five years as director of admissions. There is a lot to be proud of in that time but I may be most proud of our accomplishments in the realm of social media. Much like my marathon experience it took a lot of work to get to the starting line, there were a lot of adjustments and extreme conditions along the way, but at the time of my departure Xaverian has a tremendous social media plan and presence directed by a great young admissions professional who has a solid grasp on the new and emerging medias.


As with most things getting started was the hardest part.

Regardless of what your schools next step is with social media know this…starting will be the hardest part; you will have a failure; you will have to adjust, and you will have to learn something new, perhaps something that doesn’t exist yet. Don’t be scared by this, be excited, you work in a school that is educating students for a world that doesn’t exist yet. Isn’t that one of the reasons you work in a school?


Learn from your mistakes, social media marketing requires a lot of changing on the fly. Be prepared to adapt your plan to the results you’re getting (or not getting). Don’t think of poor results as failure because you need to be learning all the time, even when things don’t turn out as you’d like.

What a great lesson for your students.


Thanks for reading – I’m off for a run because I’m determined to get it right.

Tim McDonough

Tim McDonough

Senior Customer Success Manager at finalsite