When my kids were little, I used to be eager to get to the ‘next phase’. Next stop rolling, walking, talking, solids, potty, preschool, letters, school, sight words, reading… On and on it went. I didn’t yet realise that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.
When we sprint, there’s a finish line and a sense of urgency. Sprints, by nature, call for fast action and sustained focus on the end. We do this, this and this to skip ourselves along as quickly as possible. There is an efficiency in sprinting, a formula.
When we run longer distances, we ease into it. We focus on where we are at right now, in this moment, and not a single moment before or after. We don’t think about the end very much at all.
During a sprint, we give everything we’ve got for a very short amount of time. Every scrap of energy goes into propelling us towards our goal. We feel like we’ll burst right out of our skin for the entire duration, but we hold it together enough to finish.
A marathon, quite differently, requires a conservation of energy, even as we race along. A thoughtfulness in doing only what is necessary at this time, in order to keep going, but also keep enough in the tank for later.
A sprint doesn’t take us very far. We can usually see the finish line before we even begin. We barely notice what’s between the start and the finish, so high is our focus on getting to the end. We want to finish, so we can move onto the next race.
At a certain point in any marathon, we’ll have pushed through enough times to know that we can continue to push through for as long as it takes to get the job done, no matter how far away done appears to be. We can’t see the end, so we don’t actually know when we’ll finish, or where or even how long it will take. We just know that if we keep going, keep taking care of the moments, eventually we’ll get there.
The trick is to try to enjoy the scenery along the way as much as we possibly can.
How are your long distance running skills?
Image by Jakob Owens