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The Marathon Myth

Rethinking the Pace of Success

A few months ago, Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya shattered marathon records at the 2023 Chicago Marathon, clocking a staggering 2:00:35, becoming the first person to record a time faster than 2:01:00. His average pace was around 2:51 min/km, a pace that's nothing short of a sprint for most of us.

The saying "it’s a marathon, not a sprint" is often used to suggest a slow and steady pace towards achieving long-term goals. But the reality of competitive marathoning shows a different picture. The pace at which elite marathoners like Kiptum run is a sprint for the average person, challenging the traditional narrative.

Winning big marathons isn't about jogging along; it's about racing hard from start to finish. Similarly, excelling in the business world at the highest levels requires an intense pace, often resembling a sprint more than a leisurely jog.

This isn’t just about running. It's about excelling at the highest levels in any field. The casual approach that works in less competitive arenas won't cut it when aiming for the top. The pace of success at the zenith is intense. It is true for entrepreneurs as well as executives. When you observe those who make it to the top, the element in common is the level of intensity at which they operate, sometimes at levels that can feel unhealthy.

The narrative needs a shift. Success at the apex isn’t about a leisurely jog; it’s about sustaining what seems like a sprint over the long haul. It's about mastering the art of maintaining an extraordinary pace without succumbing to burnout.

This re-envisioned understanding urges individuals and organizations to foster a culture that cherishes sustained effort, but also acknowledges the intensity and speed at which this effort must be rendered. It also invites people to reflect on the level of effort they are willing to put in and make sure they have expectations are realistic. It's absolutely fine to be casual runn, as long as you don't expect to win the NY Marathon.

So, the next time someone offers the marathon analogy, ponder - is the pace I am setting for myself or my team audacious enough to meet the goals we set?