The Marathon Analogy Doesn’t Work

I’m so tired of leaders who attempt to dupe us with this, “It’s a marathon not a sprint,” talk.

Everyone knows the only reason they say it is they know they are making unbelievable decisions with obviously disastrous consequences. The analogy fails for a few reasons, but the most glaring is that there are two elements to the races mentioned: speed and distance. An analogy works best if there’s only one element.

Maybe it is obvious to you, but I don’t even know which one they mean. Do they mean, “Don’t worry about my leadership, it’s gonna be bad for a long time?” Or “Don’t worry about my leadership, it’s gonna be bad for many more miles?”

I know, I know, you think there’s no way they mean “miles”. Okay. So let’s look at the time comparison.

The world record for a marathon is run at a pace of 2m54s per kilometer which is 174s. Divided by 10, that is 17.4s per 100 meters. The world record for the 100 meter dash is 9.58s—so about twice as fast a pace.

But by now I’ve thoroughly confused myself because I don’t see the point anymore. Is the leader saying “Recovery is going to take twice as long as you think?” If that was all they were trying to say, I’d think they could say it—and follow it up with data on how long we think it’s going to be and how long it’s actually going to be (and that it’s double). And then I get suspicious because if they won’t say the “twice as long” thing in plain terms—no analogy—then I want to know why.

As I figured this, it came to mind, that with a sustained 17.4 second hundred meter dash for an entire 26.2 mile marathon (421+ sprints), I hardly think anyone would suggest the marathon runner is giving less than his absolute best effort every single step, every life-giving breath—no different than the sprinter. Both men are running their absolute fastest for the duration of the race. Hmm. Duration. Are they simply wanting us to acknowledge the problem is a long one? Why not just say that? I know, because it doesn’t make sense. Because then they’d have to define the problem. Because in their inability to define the problem, they’d look weak. So rather than look weak, they’re going to try to dupe us. Here’s a sarcastic big thumbs up.

Now it’s my turn to use the analogy. Hey, leaders! We’re not stupid. But we also aren’t seeing all that you are. So you have some advantage. Please do your best—including the way you communicate to us. For now, stop using this stupid analogy as if it means something.

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