It’s a marathon; not a sprint

It seemed a great idea at the time.  And given that so many members of my family have managed it; what could be so difficult about attempting the London Marathon.  So when I gained a place in the ballot, my decision was pretty much made for me.

Then to motivate me further this weekend was the extensive coverage of Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya who managed to make the 26.2 miles in under 2 hours; the best recorded time in history. Reading Eliud’s story has made me think about how we as school leaders can learn from the marathon experience.

Firstly, whilst Kipchoge certainly deserves all praise and immense respect, he couldn’t have done this on his own.  Forty one pacemakers, specially designed running shoes, a clearly thought out course and a car with laser precision support all made a difference. Delve even deeper and you find the Kenyan tradition of running popularised in “Running with the Kenyans”, Adharanand Finn’s mindblowing book about their training camps and incredible commitment to barefooted excellence is well worth a read. 

This all demonstrates, as John Donne rightly said, “No man (or woman) is an island.”  If we are to become great, we are going to do it by standing on the shoulders of giants, by running alongside them, knowing when to listen, and making use of modern technology rather than simply trying to change the world as a “have a go hero”.   

Secondly, Kipchoge’s attempt took time, effort, dedication and planning. As I said to one of our senior leaders this week, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  We need to give ourselves time to think, plan, create and refine.  The Harvard research on architects as leaders of schools concludes, “Architects redesign and transform, focusing on long-term impact.” 

Finally, Kipchoge did this for something greater than the regulators.  He already has the world record.  “It’s not about the IAAF, it’s about history,” he explained. “I really want to leave a big legacy.”  Sometimes, whilst respecting those who govern our area, as school leaders we need to think about the biggest picture; the legacy we leave in the hearts and minds of the children and staff we lead and serve.

Written by:
Julian Dutnall
CEO, LIFE Education Trust

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