We all have heard of the saying ‘Life is a Marathon, not a sprint’, telling us that life is a long journey, keep running, or that we need to pace ourselves because if we try to go too fast, we will run out of energy. It’s about reserving energy for what is to come.
Even to look at it literally, Marathon has never been for me. I get that it is one of the world’s most challenging tasks to measure your mental and physical strength, but the idea of running and maintaining the same pace really is just not for me, and life is too short to be doing things you don’t enjoy or care about.
I’m more a sprinter, I like to be fast and explosive. I want my life to be more exciting than mellow. Thanks to the book Full Engagement that introduced me to the concept of ‘life as a series of sprints’. Now, that’s more like me and here are the five reasons why.
1. When we do the same things regularly, good or bad, it becomes a pattern that is hard to break
How many people do you see living life meaninglessly? “Same shit different day” is what they usually say.
Correct me if I’m wrong but as a marathoner, it’s so important that you maintain the same, or closer to the same, pace along the way? It’s about maintaining that consistency so you get there within the intended time.
They tend to stick with where they are, not faster or slower, because doing so may divert their plan.
In fact, life never goes according to plans. We usually come across unexpected obstacles, most of which are outside our control.
If we see a clear opportunity to sprint and move forward faster, why not take the shot? Or would you rather maintain your pace to reserve your energy stay within your comfort zone because pushing yourself to move faster may ruin your plan? Can you afford not to move faster when an opportunity presents itself? Can you afford not to take the leap?
When I see a big short hill, I’ll happily accept the challenge and sprint up to help me get to the top faster, and once you get to the top, it’s an easy way down and you can use that as an opportunity to recover. On the other hand, the more time we spend going uphill, the more energy is used. The slower we get, while using up more energy.
2. You experience more as a sprinter
When you run at the same pace, you’re likely to surround yourself with people at the same pace. On the other hand, when you sprint, you’ll come across others at different speeds, those who also sprint, who jog, run, stroll or even take a break with you, and surely they all have different things they can tell or teach you.
Morever, when you stop to recover, you can actually take the time to think and reflect without being preoccupied with the act of running. You can really appreciate the stillness and the cooling down of your body. You can even take a break and appreciate things along the way because you don’t have to keep running at the same pace to stick on your schedule because you know you will catch up with the others eventually anyway.
3. I like to experience my life as a rollercoaster rather than a train
I enjoy the challenges, obstacles and am grateful for the high and the low in life.
It excites me to reach the top and challenges me to hit rock bottom. And without the lows, I wouldn’t have learned to find my way up and evolve.
I prefer to live a life with an exciting story, full of twists and turns instead of a plain one.
When you look at the difference between a runner and a sprinter below, a runner looks more lean but a sprinter looks stronger physically, because the sprinter pushes themselves more physically and sometimes psychologically.
4. Sprinting is where the fun is at
What happens when you’re running and someone just runs past you? If you’re fit enough and competitive like me, you would want to increase your pace to catch them, and that’s exactly why. Not only sprinting is more fun, but it is also likely to influence or inspire others to push themselves and lift their standard higher to what the others have set. They’ve shown us what’s possible, or you could also be the one to show them.
When it comes to a race, the fun part is when people sprint to compete against each other, not when they’re all just running at the same pace. Competition creates challenges, and challenges help us grow and perform better.
All the sports involve an act of pushing your limit, using all your energy and then cooling down. Look at soccer, football, basketball or tennis, the athletes wouldn’t be running all the time or they’ll run out of energy before the game finishes. It’s just a matter of how much they were able to push themselves and use their energy smartly, switching between pushing and resting, that decides the outcome of the game.
We cheer when the footballers race against each other, not when they all jog at the same pace because it excites and inspires us to see how far one can push their limit.
5. Sprinting requires full engagement
Running may be a way to clear our mind, but once your body gets into the mode and adjust, you may start thinking about something else, wondering, daydreaming, or simply not thinking anything.
On the other hand, sprinting requires all your maximum mental and physical effort all at once. Your mind wouldn’t have time to wonder or blank out but to focus on the only task at hand, so you could push yourself further and be better at it.
The ability to fully engage in a single task has become so rare in the modern day, yet it’s the one that usually produces outstanding results.
Carl Newport’s concept of deep work refers to how one performs an activity in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes their cognitive capabilities to the limit. He suggests that “…deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
When you’re able to put all your thoughts and attention to one thing, you may be surprised at what you can come up with.
Life is not a Marathon
Nonetheless, I do agree with the saying that life is a marathon as a reminder to not focus too much on the current moment because we still have a long way to go.
However, the difference between life and Marathon is that we don’t know how long our life is going to be. It’s easier to plan and organise your energy when you surely know where the destination is, assuming that nothing happens along the way to ruin your plan.
Therefore, we don’t really know how long our journey is going to be, so it will come the time when we need to rest anyway because we can’t keep running forever.
All things in nature involve the peak and the rest state. Our heart rate goes up and down because the constant state of performing will eventually lead to deterioration. Top Athletes train hard and rest enough. Top performers know when to take a break.
Lastly, even the marathoners would agree that life is not a race. No one really cares when or how you get there because they’re too busy focusing on their journey. It’s up to you how you want to progress because, at the end of the day, you choose how you want to experience life along the way before you get to the end.