Why You Should Commit to Your Career Marathon

This post has been adapted from the original entry from the member-exclusive Evolution Weekly on April 24, 2016. Sign up today and get entries like this sent directly to your inbox!

Why You Should Commit to Your Career Marathon.jpg
"Life is a marathon, not a sprint."

When you hear the word 'Marathon,' what comes to mind?

42.195 kilometers. 26.2 miles. 3-5 hours. Years of training.

No matter how you cut it, marathons are inherently difficult and require considerable amounts of time to complete.

This past week, on Patriots Day (the third Monday of April), the 120th Boston Marathon was held. And while I had never given too much thought about actually running the race myself, it did provide some fun and interesting parallels to career building.

The actual race is fairly straight-forward. Run your ass off for just over 26 miles (26 miles and 285 yards to be exact).

Now that does seem to be a bit of an odd length, right? I mean, why not just make it 26? Or 25? Or 30?


It turns out that the event was greatly inspired by the legendary run of Pheidippides from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. Pheidippides was a Greek soldier given the urgent task of informing the Athenians of the win against Persian forces. He ran nonstop from the fighting (26.2 miles), reached Athens, exclaimed 'We have won!," and immediately collapsed and died.

Yikes. Not how most of us want to complete a marathon. But then again, not many of us are trying to complete one anyway. And maybe that's the problem.

But we're not Pheidippides. We can choose the pace we wish to run and what our own marathon will look like.

You've probably heard the phrase "Life is a marathon, not a sprint" at some point or another. I'd generally argue that it's true, but I think we can take that a bit further.


Think about your career for a second.

Do you consider it in pieces? Or do you think of it as some never-ending, amorphic path that just happens and you're along for the ride?

Do you have a career goal in mind? Do you want to run your own firm? Leave behind a legacy? Just get the next job? Get your license? Change to something other than architecture?

Each of us has to answer three major career questions:

  • What is the one thing you want to achieve in your overall career?
  • What are you doing right now to make that happen?
  • Are you willing to do what is necessary to make that happen?

Be careful. If you choose not to answer these, you're still answering them. You'll just end up somewhere you may not want to.


Think of the one thing you want from your career more than anything and write it down. It doesn't matter what it is. It doesn't matter how crazy it sounds, or how unobtainable it might seem to acquire. Write it down.

Right now, seriously. I'll wait.

Ok. Now you have that one thing that you're striving for.

Picture it at the end of your own 26.2 miles. Work backwards from there. What do you need to do along this road in order to get to the end? Is it simple enough to just show up? Are there specific things that need to happen in between?


And running is running, right? No, actually it's not. If you were to place a sprinter next to a marathoner, you'd notice one major difference. Their legs have been trained for completely different purposes - one is for long distance and stamina, and one is for short distance and power.

I mean picture Usain Bolt, one of the greatest sprinters in the history of the sport, next to marathon world record holder, Dennis Kimetto.

You may not know Dennis, but he is a long-distance runner from Kenya (the country with 8 of the top 10 world records for the marathon). He has a lean and lanky stature that pales in comparison to the muscular Usain Bolt. Even so, Dennis would still be able to beat Usain in a marathon just like Usain would crush Dennis in a 100 meter dash.


Be a Marathoner, not a Sprinter. Don't just think of what you're doing here as sprinting through one task to the next.

If you're doing this right, you're in it for the long haul. Develop and care for the muscles that will get you there. Don't burn yourself out mid-way and give up.

You know where your end goal is. But how you get there is completely up to you. Create your own Marathon. I'll see you when you cross the finish line.


Take time to think about what your 'one thing' is that you want from your career. You'll look back at this from time to time and it may even change. Reverse engineer how you will get there and begin taking steps to work towards that goal.

The road will be tough and it will be long, but you can achieve great things in your life if have the will to keep moving.


Season 6 of 'Game of Thrones' begins this evening. As a fun lead up to what has now become an event of sorts in the LaValley household, my wife and I just rewatched all 50 episodes of Seasons 1-5 over the course of the last month and a half. Now, while that wasn't necessarily a very difficult marathon (since I'm fairly certain we're obsessed with the show), it did feel like a minor victory for nerd culture.

Will Daenerys find Meereen and be reunited with her Dragons? Can Cersei find forgiveness for the Faith Militant's walk of Shame? And what's the deal with Jon Snow......?!?!?!?

Winter is Coming. I hope to see you there when it does.

Valar Morgulis.

This post has been adapted from the original entry from the member-exclusive Evolution Weekly on April 24, 2016. Sign up today and get entries like this sent directly to your inbox!

CareerMichael LaValley