Marathon vs Sprint

If you need to build a deliberate life, you need to know which of the two (consistency or intensity) drives you. I try and find out about myself.

When you run, you can do it in two different ways. Both may seem similar but they differ widely. These are Marathons and Sprints.

Of course, both need passion, training, instinct, and superhuman effort. And while the things you need in the two (the technique and the methods and the skills and all that) may differ from each other, both demand you to put in the hours and the practice.

To illustrate the two, I will lean onto the two GOATS of running – Kipchoge and Bolt – to make a great example. Both of them need teams – probably more so in Kipchoge’s case (pacers etc.) – but they are individual personification of achievement of a team.


The man who has become synonymous with marathons is Kipchoge. While each of his achievements needs a tome of its own, the most incredible feat is his sub-2-hour marathon.

Marathons need tiny steps and consistent progress over a very very long period of space and time. And because it’s repetitive work over and over again, these get boring.

The keywords are consistent, drudgery, long-term, and boring. And in one word, marathons require consistency.


The GOAT of sprints is Usain Bolt. If you want an idea of his greatness, see this.

Unlike a marathon, a sprint needs a burst of energy that you typically expect from a rocket ship. It starts with a big bang, requires you to give all you’ve got, and you have to last till you tide over the finish line. In the case of a rocket, the momentum takes it ahead. In the case of a runner, they end their sprint after a few hundred meters. You blink and you may miss it. It exhilarates the runner (and the audience) and is over before you know it.

The keywords are fast, energetic, and exhilarating. In one word, sprints require intensity.

So, why talk of Marathons and Sprints?

Well, in life and in work, you can operate as a marathoner or a sprinter.

You could build the marathon muscle that will help you work for at least the next 10 years – you know, perseverance, patience, long-term thinking, politeness, relationships, delayed gratification, tiny successes, and all that.

Or you could develop the sprint ability to live each day like it’s your last. Things like high-risk-taking ability, love for games of odds, acceptance of impending doom in the wake of failure, a tinge of irrationality, and all that.

Most people I know of who’ve been able to build a great life for themselves and others around them have been marathoners kinds. Yes, there are a few who’ve taken the fast road to riches but then they are few and far between.

And if you are like me (an ordinary person with average chances), your odds of success would become far far better. I mean look at me. I’ve been on it since at least 2014 now. So 10 years. And I still don’t know where I’d end up.

However, like most advice on the internet, there is no one size fits all. While the idea of being a marathoner is true in general, there are two exceptions.

A/ Are you driven by (and built for) intensity? Or consistency? There is no easy way to find this out. Look at what you’ve enjoyed in the past – Short bursts of focused work or long spells of meandering? Ability to obsess deeply over a problem for a long time or quick fix solutions that are fast and easy? The ambition of making an impact over a large parcel of humanity or living the life of a free person on a beach?

B/ Does the work you do need intensity or consistency? For example, if you are in the business of films, you could give one superhit and then do nothing. And come back after a few years. In your lifetime you would probably make 20 films. No, I do not mean you would not work on your craft while you are not making films. It means that you will immerse yourself in a piece of work and forget about everything else. Any “project” business would require intensity – you know, website design, art, books etc.

On the other hand, if your work is to operate a cinema hall, you need to open the hall every day and sweep it and place the new films and sell tickets and all that. The only way to make it big there is to continue working for years and scale the cinema hall into a chain of screens.

These two questions would help you figure out where you want to be and how you want to live. And once you know what you are suited for, I think creating a deliberate life around that should not be tough.


PS: This is not one of my best posts. But I had to post.

PPS: While I was writing this, I realized that I need to find work that allows me to get into medium-term sprints (say 6 months) and then allows me to switch off for the next 6 months. I think it boils down to consistency. Look at Ankit – mad respect for his consistency. I don’t even deserve to mention his and my names in the same sentence!

Of course, I don’t have it in me to be consistent but I can be patient AF. And maybe that could be a place where I could live at? You know, regular sprints for a long time!

What do you think?

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