It's Not a Sprint, and It's Not a Marathon, Either.

I’ve been doing social media and blogging professionally for a while now, and in that time, I’ve learned that it’s not a sprint.  Which is hard for me, because historically, I have some issues with pacing myself.

I ran track for a while in school.  I had neither the explosive speed for sprints nor the stamina for cross country, but I did do fairly well at mid-length distances.  The 600 in particular was my best distance.

Every race, I would bolt out way, waaaaayyyy ahead of the other runners.  I could keep my lead until the last 50 yards or so, when invariably, I would run out of steam and they’d start to catch up to me.  Every single race, one person would pass me just before we got to the finish line.  I got a ton of red ribbons, but no blue ones.

My coach, God love her, tried to teach me pacing.  “Instead of running 20 yards ahead of the pack, try staying about one or two strides ahead of the next person back.”  Which I did.  Once.

I came in dead last. After that race, my coach pulled me aside and said “Why don’t you just go back to running at a pace that feels comfortable to you.”  I suppose she figured second place was better than nothing.

It turned out that by setting such a blistering pace, I was forcing ALL the runners to go faster than they would have ordinarily run that distance. Being an inexperienced runner, I didn’t know that you don’t run that fast over a lap and half.  So even though I was running out of steam by that last quarter lap–so was everyone else who’d been trying to catch me.

When you work online, it can be easy to get caught up in the “You better act now!  Your social media neighbors are passing you by!” hysteria.  There is a certain “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect to the social media/blogosphere fishbowl that can lead to well, crazyness.  Or at least, severe burnout.

Providing you’re dumb enough to try to keep up with it.  Which I was–for a while.

There’s the temptation to lean on the old saw, “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”  But I think that even that fails to capture the essential problem with trying to keep up with the blogosphere, or even certain highly prolific sections of it.

For most online writers, it’s more like a triathlon than a sprint or a marathon.

I’ll be honest.  I don’t think blogging as a full-time, sole occupation is a particularly good idea, for a variety of reasons.  Maybe it is for some people, but not for me, and not for a lot of people.  For most people, even “professional” blogging is just an element of what they do.  A slice of the total work pie, which is in itself a slice of the total life pie.

Not only do you have to worry about trying to keep up with the guy (or gal) who doesn’t seem to know you can’t run that fast for that long, you also have to bear in mind that once this race is finished, you’ve got three more grueling legs.

I can’t help but think most people need at least a couple more “legs” in their lives to maintain a decent mental/emotional equilibrium. Even if writing, blogging and/or social media is the entirety of your “work leg” (the swimming portion of your personal daily triathlon), your “2nd and 3rd legs” may be keeping physically fit and devoting adequate time to nurturing your relationships.

Or you might be like me, and in addition to taking care of your primary work and doing blogging/social networking, you’re also going home to the full complement of household management sans a housekeeper and parenting small children sans a nanny.   (No offense to my husband, and not to say that I wouldn’t like to have time for keeping fit and maintaining my relationships, too…)

Okay, maybe even a triathlon still isn’t quite it. Does anybody but me still remember Bruce Jenner?  As grueling as the Ironman or other triathlons are, a decathlete has to compete in ten Olympic track and field events.

Better still is the model of adventure racing, like the old Raid Galoises and Eco Challenge.  Because you never really know what the day is going to throw at you, do you?  You might have a lovely topographical map in the form of your to-do list, but we all know how those maps can quickly fail to keep up with the changing landscape.

At any rate, no matter how many different “events” you typically compete in on a given day, you have to have the restraint to not spend all your energy on any one of them.

Most of the time.

marathon img courtesy datarec on sxc.

kayak img courtesy gundolf on sxc.

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