Life is a Sprint, not a Marathon

I just watched a video on The 99 Percent called Tony Schwartz: The Myths of the Overworked Creative, which talked about how important rest was to people (and to creatives especially). Though rest is something I know I should be getting more of, and something I consciously covet, it’s not something I actually do very much.

Sleep is important
My cat Arsene: Master of Rest

I’m not sure if it’s a strange habit peculiar to me or if it’s shared with humanity in general, but when I’m tired, I tend to drag my feet more than seek sleep, maybe subconsciously equating being awake to making full use of my time. But rest, as Schwartz explains, is perhaps more important than anything else in being the best self you can be.

In the video, Schwartz also says that “life is a sprint, not a marathon.” It’s the first time I’ve heard of life being described this way, and it’s just so counter-intuitive that I couldn’t help but think, why? Reading that life’s a marathon and not a sprint is standard fare (i.e. that one should not keep pushing oneself lest burnout), but that life’s a sprint and not a marathon?

Schwartz explains that in a marathon, you pace yourself, and keep it steady (I suppose he was talking about most of us non-elite marathoners). You’re not so much looking for the finish line as you are in keeping an even pace and finishing the race. It is in keeping this steady pace, without the opportunity for rest and recovery in between, that we often “zone out” and get unfocused.

In life as a sprint, however, the sprinter keeps the finish line in mind the whole time, and is focused on the sole activity of getting to it as quickly as possible. You don’t forget what you’re there for, and there’s simply no time to zone out. At the end of the sprint you get to rest and recover, after which you sprint again. In a sense, you’re always on when you should be, while turning off as necessary.

It’s an interesting analogy, and one I think all us tired individuals should keep in mind.

2 thoughts on “Life is a Sprint, not a Marathon

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  1. Yes. You hit the nail on the head. Life is a great adventure or it is nothing. When I bring a picture of the very image of life in my mind’s eye I think of excitement, the adrenaline rush, passion, fringe benefits, fun, luuuuuuuurve, hot lusty sex and fine dining where the appetite is turned on. The last thing on earth I want to be is normal. Normality is so bloody boring. I bet the most normal person on earth who paces himself and neither expresses nor impresses is the most cardboard-like boring individual. Madness is definitely more interesting and may I add much more authentic. Live for the moment after seizing it and follow your heart no matter where it may lead you. A sprint is short and juicy. A marathon is long and dry. I would go after the first with a fire-like desire. And the second I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. For it reeks of death and skeletons (which is what most marathoners resemble).

  2. still a marathon, if you work hard for 20 years without enough sleep and a good diet and exercise, sure, that is sprinting, but after that you might ruin your health. also sprint is short term, you gotta plan ahead for a marathon. Think about the big picture and the small.

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