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How This MBA Graduate Helped Break The Marathon Record

MBA grad Samir Abid is the man behind Pace Insights, the sports science company that has helped athletes win Olympic gold medals and, in 2019, helped Eliud Kipchoge break the two-hour marathon record


Mon May 18 2020

When Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge became the first person in history to run a marathon under two hours in Vienna, at 4:34 minutes per mile, it took more than just staggering natural ability.

Behind the scenes, a team of people at the top of sports science measured everything from equipment and nutrition to weather conditions and aerodynamics.

This is where Samir Abid came in. He and his team at Pace Insights used laser technology to map the running line that Kipchoge would successfully follow.

Off the back of 10 years consulting in the automotive industry, Samir decided to pursue an MBA. It was this, he says, that helped him found the business that has led to gold medal-winning and record-breaking success.

Why an MBA?

Samir started out his career as a graduate engineer at General Motors, following a bachelor’s in automotive engineering.

He went on to complete consulting contracts for Aston Martin, before further contracting work for Land Rover led to a permanent senior consulting position.

By this point it was 2008, and the financial crash had put GM, Ford, and Chrysler all on the brink of insolvency. It was a wake-up call to the automotive industry, and a lightbulb moment for Samir.

“I had an itch to scratch in terms of going out and doing my own thing—moving away from the cosy corporate life I was in,” Samir explains. “I was an OK engineer, but as senior consultant I found myself running a team and was starting to feel out of my depth.”

The economic downturn, combined with a long-running entrepreneurial desire, resulted in a decision to leave his day job to go back to school.


At Warwick Business School, leadership is a core component of the MBA program | ©Warwick Business School / Facebook 

An MBA from Warwick Business School

In September 2008, Samir enrolled on the Full-time MBA program at Warwick Business School.

“Despite being mainly drawn to entrepreneurship, I went into the MBA with an open mind,” Samir recalls. “I took modules in areas like marketing and corporate finance and soon began to realize that the MBA primarily teaches you how to think about solving problems.”

As it turns out, the core components of the program were not dissimilar from Samir’s engineering background. “Breaking problems down is essentially what engineers do. The MBA makes you aware of your own thinking and biases, combining that with the data to make complex problems more manageable," he says.

Flexible problem solving is why, for Samir, an MBA can prepare students for consulting roles. It was a pathway he investigated, but parallel life events found him changing course.

“On the day I handed in my dissertation, my wife and I attended our first antenatal class!” Samir says.

With a newborn on the horizon, Samir instead took on some consulting work on the back of his dissertation research involving the role of leadership in developing successful Formula 1 drivers.

At Warwick, leadership skills form a core component of the program. For Samir, a memorable class was in organizational behavior. “The way in which it was taught was through case studies. You had to work to figure out exactly how best to manage a team in the right way,” Samir recalls. “It really resonated with me—how best to define a good leader and the dynamics of leadership.”

With the contact he’d made from his dissertation, Samir’s eyes were opening up to a wider sporting world where data analytics was becoming increasingly crucial. “That work on the back of my research then led to a connection with UK Sport, the governing body for Olympic sport, where we started to note a notable change in sports science,” Samir says.

Sport was beginning to be influenced by data analytics. In fact, the global sports analytics market size is expected to grow to $4.6 billion by 2025. Samir saw this as a window of opportunity he knew could be capitalized on.

”I wouldn’t have run my own business without the MBA.”

In 2011, Samir founded Pace Insights, a company which has provided over 40 different sports organizations with data insights to provide intelligent solutions—helping win 41 Olympic gold medals in everything from sailing to gymnastics.

“It’s about making the process of developing athletes more streamlined. Our contribution to that is through data analysis,” Samir says.

For the engineering-savvy Samir, processing the numbers and simplifying data comes relatively easily, but to operate and create a product required the right communication with both athletes and teams.

“I wouldn’t have run my own business without the MBA,” Samir says. “It’s not just about the knowledge—I left the MBA with the contacts and network that kick-started my company.”

Alongside the benefits of a sprawling alumni network, an MBA provides learning in how to communicate and talk business.

“Thanks to the MBA program, I’ve got the confidence to talk the language of business to anyone within the industry, no matter their position or role,” Samir explains.

His entrepreneurial streak isn't finished yet either. Working hard towards a consumer focused product, Samir has more recently launched Your Data Driven, a learning platform for motorsport participants. It's a move back towards his automotive roots, this time developing an educational digital product influenced by his sports science consulting work.


Without Warwick Business School, Samir may not have had the network that connected him to UK Sport | ©Warwick Business School / Facebook 

The two-hour marathon record

Fast-forward to 2019, and Samir found out that Eliud Kipchoge was about to embark on running a full marathon in under two hours.

Owing to his connection with UK Sport, Samir was enlisted by Sir Dave Brailsford—mastermind of multiple Olympic gold medals—to help analyze the course and draw out the optimal running route.

“It was an exciting project to be involved with. Particularly from a data point of view, we were competing not against other athletes and teams, but against nature,” Samir says. “From an engineering point of a view I felt it was a brilliant advert of what can be achieved.”

For Samir, it was the pinnacle of his career in sports science so far. It showed Samir that, with the right talent and the ideal team of people behind the scenes, anything is possible. 

The roots of his success, Samir says, can be traced back to his MBA.

You may also be interested in: Why Did The CEO Of Battersea Dogs Home Do An Executive MBA?


Student Reviews

Warwick Business School




On Campus

BSc Management with Marketing

I loved Warwick business school. The staff is supportive, my academic tutor was key in my development throughout the 3 years and you have to meet with her/him every term. Most professors are helpful and would happily offer support if needed. You also have office hours and can contact professors by email and through the forum. In general, WBS instills in you the willingness to learn and the resilience needed for you for whatever career you choose. Very international community which broadens your horizon and makes you more open minded and self aware. You will most certainly make friends and memories for life. I recommend that you get outside of your comfort zone and try new activities with your friends! WBS also has a great reputation and offers careers opportunities, and careers support throughout the degree. There is the opportunity to do a year abroad to further develop on a personal level. I wasn’t able to do this due to Covid but I would have loved to do it during normal circumstances! Would definitely recommend this. Although Warwick is not a city university, the campus vibe has a lot of advantages, especially at an undergraduate level. You are always around familiar faces, and in a student environment. Moreover, Birmingham is only 20 mins away from Leamington spa and London is only one hour away! Perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway!




On Campus

Life at Warwick Business School

Pursuing my master's degree at WBS has been a game-changer in my life. With high-quality education, interaction with students from across the world, amazing campus life and much more. I was able to learn about business, finance, project management and strategy all in one course: MSc in Management at WBS. Besides the top-notch education from the best professors, I also enjoyed being a part of fun societies and participating in fun activities such as scavenger hunts and so much more. The school also organises many company visits and interactions which help students get a head start at finding a job. As my course came to an end, I also have a good full-time job placement in my hands. Overall, my experience at WBS was a great one.






The Warwick Business School was like a dream come to life for me. The University ranking speaks for itself, from top-tier facilities to some of the best professors I had to honour to study with I fell in love with my course. Interactions with people from all over the world gave me a newfound confidence in myself. Career prospects after graduating are endless due to the contacts of the universities and the success rate for previous students, it does open a lot of doors for students in various career fields. The campus life is quite good as well with a lot of student groups and clubs, and extra circular activities to engage students at all times. Loved my experience.




On Campus

A good business school

It is a very cutting-edge, career-oriented business school, all courses are very practical, and the college does a very good job of career service. From the hardware and facilities to the staff, the student experience is at the core of the school and student satisfaction is taken very seriously. I understand that many universities in the UK are relatively traditional and can occasionally be rigid in terms of rules and regulations, and although WBS has a relatively short history, this makes it more innovative and dynamic, which is essential for a business school. The downside is that because it is on the outskirts of Coventry, it is a long bus ride to the city centre, not to mention the difference in experience from a big city like London.




On Campus


The people, campus, staff. It’s a very enjoyable environment and it’s particularly good for learning and playing sports. The people there are extremely friendly and welcoming and it’s very easy to make friends




What I Like About Warwick

I’ve personally liked my experience at Warwick so far because of the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet and how many opportunities we students are provided with to learn and grow. Within Warwick, I’m part of the Business School, a learning haven comprised of well-structured modules and extremely helpful people All in all, a great place to be :)




Campus Life

One thing that stood out for me was the campus life, you felt like part of a community. The social aspects of the student union and on-campus accommodation meant you can easily get together and enjoy with friends. Additionally, I felt the course provided a variety of subjects allowing me to enhance my knowledge, from Marketing to Law and Finance. Overall I would most definitely recommend this university to friends and family.




Excellence self catered

The campus is very welcoming and Modern. There are many opportunities at Warwick but it is up to the student how do they want to make the most out of it and the staff at the school will definitely helo as much as possible. The location and the ranking have been amazing.




Warwick business school

Warwick business school is one of the best universities around the globe with a solid base of economic and business studies. Moreover, students get a chance to study in a diverse and warm environment with professional stuff which tries to provide the best opportunities for career development. One of the memorable features of the university are great events which sometimes take a place in one of the landmarks of the London city, the Shard building.

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