President’s Perspective: What Race Are We Running?

Dec 18, 2020

“This is a marathon, not a sprint!” We’ve all heard the phrase used. It applies at work, coaching youth sports, relationships – and, of course, running a marathon. I’ve heard it and said it myself in many contexts.

Preparing for a marathon (and running one) is a completely different proposition than running sprints. Being a good marathoner and being a good sprinter require different ways of going about training, nutrition, hydration and mindset. Good distance runners and good sprinters are very different athletes with very different compositions, skills and race day strategies. The comparison is easy to use when we talk about anything that takes a long time or requires patience. But as we near an end to this “marathon” of a year, I’ve found myself wondering if it’s an accurate metaphor.  

If we’re sticking to the race day comparisons, earlier this year we heard a starting gun go off without knowing what race we were about to run. We sprinted, whether we were sprinters or not. We didn’t really have a choice based on the circumstances and what we thought we knew about what was happening. At some point in the summer, we could begin to see what might be coming at us and ease into a marathon pace. At that point, regardless of your makeup, it was exhausting. Sprinters don’t run a marathon after their race and marathoners don’t sprint the first 5 miles of theirs. 

If I knew we’d be dealing with COVID-19 for this long, I’d have prepared and paced myself differently. I went hard to the point of exhaustion and I needed to walk for a while before resuming at a more moderate pace. I am still feeling the effects of this start, and there were a few sprints mixed into the process even since then. Sometimes it’s just like this. 

As I reflect on not just this year but many things in my life, they almost always start as a sprint. This is part of newness, and many times it’s completely necessary. Eventually, you can look around and realize which race you’re running. Sometimes it really is a sprint and other times it’s actually a marathon. The sooner we know what it is, the better we are to endure the race and thrive on our way to the finish line.  

Mike Espeset

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