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Why Run a Marathon?

Work smarter not harder is a familiar saying that, oftentimes, I agree with. If I can make a call while walking to the grocery store, that’s a great use of time that crosses two things off my list. I’m all about efficiency and strategic multitasking. But is there sometimes a case for working smarter and harder?

I was thinking recently about how some of the most worthwhile things we can do are not the same as the easiest things we can do. It’s easy to order takeout three nights in a row. It’s a little harder to shop and cook three nutritious dinners. But ultimately my wallet prefers I do the latter. It may seem harder, but ultimately, I’ve deemed it “worth it.”

Sometimes telling the truth, ending a relationship, or going out of your way to help a friend is hard. But we do it because it’s the right thing to do. And more than that, we do it because we need to, because we want to, because doing the hard thing makes our life better.

The night after I ran my second marathon, I was crawling into the guest bedroom at my uncle’s house next to my partner who had already posted up with a video game. He began telling me about some particular part of the game where, in normal play, you’d have either a player 2 or a computer to help you finish the final boss. (This is my loose translation and remembering. I might have the details incorrect but that’s the general vibe.) He explained that there was now a way where you could practice fighting the boss alone.

I was confused. But you’ll never actually fight the boss alone in the actual game, right? Whether you’re playing with a friend or with the computer, there will always be another person, right? So why are you trying it with one person?

Because it’s harder, he explained.

Yeah, no, I get that. Clearly, I said, burrowing into the blankets. But why would you go out of your way to make something harder when it doesn’t have to be?

Without missing a beat, he nodded toward the medal sitting on the dresser across from us. Why run a marathon?

Point taken.

I smiled myself to sleep.

Sometimes doing the hard thing is exactly worth it.


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