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For some, today was (literally) a marathon, not a sprint

Watching 50,000+ runners at the start of today’s New York City Marathon, it struck me how many times I (and probably many others) use the expression, “life is a marathon, not a sprint.” In most cases we use it in a temporal sense. We are cautioning someone (usually younger than we) to focus on longer-term goals rather than just short-term ones.

As is the case with most clichés, there is truth to that philosophy. There are often tradeoffs between achieving longer-term goals and achieving short-term goals. (This an issue in board governance for example.) It is often also stated as “keeping your eye on the prize.” But there is another way to look at the marathon vs. sprint metaphor. I am not a runner and never have been. But I have noted certain characteristics of my friends and colleagues who are – especially those who have run the longer races. There is a grit and determination to succeed, e.g., to finish the race. They wake up early and train regardless of the weather or how they might feel on a given day. Their effort can be defined as an aggregation of many steps and strides.

Thus, in reassessing the use of the saying, I have come to realize that the metaphor of running a marathon can also be used to characterize the effort and determination, rather than just the distance run or the time involved. Succeeding at work, making partner in a professional services firm, or successfully completing a long, complex consulting project all require not only time and patience, but also a prolonged and continuous effort at the highest levels of quality and performance.

So, congratulations to all the participants and the over 50,000 finishers (estimated) – those in the “elite” group and all others, some of whom are still running and/or competing many hours after the winners have crossed the finish line. Yours was a worthy effort and indicative of the drive and determination not only necessary to finish the 26.2 mile course but also to succeed in whatever endeavors or careers you engage in.

Yes, life (and a career) IS a marathon (literally for some today). On to the next challenges - mine is making a success (with your help) of my new firm.

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