Life: Marathon or Series of Sprints?
“Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”
I’ll admit, I’m not much on cliches and trite sayings. Some of them serve a purpose, I suppose. As an athlete and as a coach, what would I have learned about teamwork if the word team had an i in it, for example?
“Life is a marathon, not a sprint” has always struck me as too packaged, too easy. Kind of like “letting go and letting God,” it is true at some level but not as easy as it sounds. Sure, most lives consist of many days, weeks, months, and years, and some parts of it are best planned for in the long term. However, the saying is mostly misconstrued to hint that we should pace ourselves for the long haul and seek a balance among the various segments of our lives.
I don’t know about you, but a balanced life has always seemed a bit elusive to me.
It Seems Like Only Yesterday
I heard another saying of whose origin I can’t track down that called life a “series of sprints.” I have a few things I want to accomplish in this life–many of them with value beyond my own lifetime–and quite a few of them have deadlines. For instance, something like “instilling the values of a real man” in my boys might seem like a goal with plenty of time to accomplish. Well, maybe it did once upon a time.
“Life is not a marathon but a series of sprints.”
After reading Robert Lewis’s parenting classic Raising a Modern-Day Knight for the first time almost twenty years ago, I set some deadlines for instilling these values in my sons. By age thirteen, they would know the manhood principles of rejecting passivity, accepting responsibility, leading courageously, and expecting the greater reward (God’s reward).
I hit the mark with Older Brother, surprising him with a steak dinner close to his thirteenth birthday. A dozen or so men wrote letters to speak into his life. Several met us for dinner and spoke personally to him, encouraging him to live up to the principles that we use as a filter for many coming-of-age moments. One of our friends blessed us with tickets to an NFL game, my son’s first, to commemorate the occasion.
Just like that, Older Brother is home from his second year of college. What might have seemed like a marathon at the beginning sure does resemble a series of sprints now.
The Series of Sprints Continues
I almost got caught up living life as a marathon with the Little Fella. Just two springs ago, he was tagging along to all of Older Brother’s games, working the camera as my broadcast partner and I called the game. Two weeks ago, he tried out for and made the ninth grade team. That’s high school baseball, a far cry from where we were just two years ago.
A series of sprints.
His age-thirteen year came and went like a flash. I had good intentions to take him on a special trip to lay the groundwork for his life as a modern-day knight. Good intentions–like mile eight or fourteen or twenty-one of a marathon–often pass by without much notice. Time passes.
Next week, Older Brother and the Little Fella and I will embark on what I hope is one of the most valuable times of our lives. I will be posting from the road next week to give you a peek.
Another in a series of sprints.
[callout]In Coach Dave Season Four: Travel Ball, the dads of the Scarlet Knights lead their sons through a manhood process.
A great book for dads and sons to read together and discuss.[/callout]
Do You Ever Slow Down?
It’s a fair question that I have often been asked. I teach. I coach. I write. I make every one of my boys’ ball games that I possibly can. I spend time with my wife and a daughter, I’m in church regularly, and I’m involved in a men’s Bible study group. I do book signings and read a multitude of books and blog and work landscaping jobs (some of them even in my own yard).
But, yes, I do slow down. Last Friday, I came home from my last day of school and sat my laptop in my office. I walked to the den, laid down on the couch, and took a hour-long nap. Later, Mrs. Right and I went on a date. We ate cheesecake and drank coffee and talked.
By Saturday morning I was eager and energized to start on the first of three book projects that I’ll be working on this summer, the next of my series of sprints. I’ll be in search of the right words to communicate what I want to say. I’ll be steering clear of those trite sayings and overused cliches. But first, I had to stop and smell the roses.
Al Ainsworth is the author of six books: