After working for companies like Bitpanda and Dynatrace, Christian Prohinig now joins the engineering team of AURENA Tech as Backend Lead.
Marathon vs. sprint: two concepts to reach a goal
Our scrum master Orsolya Gyulai (GO) ran her first marathon at the Vienna City Marathon on Sunday 23rd April, and frontend engineer Eugene Cross, an experienced marathon runner, took part in the London Marathon on the same day.
How did you prepare for this challenge? And what was your motivation?
GO: I am a hobby runner. I had the goal to run a marathon before I turned 40 in my mind for a very long time. Last year, while I ran the half marathon for the 5th time, I realised that the Vienna City Marathon would also celebrate its 40th birthday this year. That was enough motivation for me to register and begin my preparation for this race. Systematically, I increased distance until I could run at least 40 kilometres per week. I mixed different training styles: intervals, workouts, long runs, and marathon simulations with other sports activities. I planned a lot of regeneration time and rest days into my schedule. In addition to the physical training sessions, I also read a lot of running magazines, listened to podcasts and even joined some group training to share experiences and get inspired by other runners.
Eugene: London is my home town, and I’ve always wanted the chance to run the race. It’s popular and heavily oversubscribed. I’ve entered the ballot many times but never been lucky. Since joining a running club five years ago, I have improved my running and been able to qualify for the race by hitting a goal time. That has meant I finally have the opportunity to participate, which I am very excited about. I am also raising money for three causes close to my heart: Alzheimer’s Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK, and The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
How was the experience for you at the event? Did you reach your goals?
GO: My goal was not only to complete my first marathon but also to enjoy the experience by keeping a smile on my face and injury-free. I’m delighted that I could accomplish all that. I did not want to set any time or pace goals. I only visualised myself receiving my medal before they closed the finish line. I achieved it, and I feel really blessed that my family was there to root for me and cheer me on, especially at the end, when their support gave me wings so that I could sprint through the finish line.
Eugene: It was an amazing experience. London is like no other marathon I have ever run. The support and noise along the entire course are immense. I beat my personal best by 2 minutes, with the help and encouragement of my club teammates and friends dotted around the course. So I am pleased with the result.
What makes running a marathon so special? How is it different from a sprint?
GO: For a sprint you must reach your highest speed from the very beginning and keep or even increase that high tempo until the end, with an average step length of 2.5 metres. For the marathon, you need another approach. You start running slowly and get to an average step length of 1.6 metres. You adjust your running to the circumstances continually and vary the tempo according to your body’s signals while mentally focusing on the finish line.
Eugene: No matter how many marathons an individual has run, each race is always a big challenge. More so than any other distance event, it’s always hard to finish the race well. That is why I keep coming back for more! One reason is that the body will run out of natural energy stores after 32 kilometres; the last 10 kilometres can be really tough, especially if the runner hasn’t taken on enough replenishments en route. The distance is also very mentally challenging, with the mental side just as important as the physical, especially in those final few kilometres. Unlike running a sprint, where you run as fast as you can, in a marathon, you must always pace yourself and make sure you are running within yourself. Going off too quickly in a marathon will always bite you towards the end.
If you compare the characteristic of a marathon to a sprint in the scrum process - what is the major difference? And is there anything that you have learned in your marathon experience that might be helpful in software development?
GO: In scrum, a sprint can be defined as a time unit in which the team implements a pre-defined scope to achieve an intermediate goal. The intention is to reach a target quickly, which ideally already brings value to the business. Within a sprint the team commits to a certain piece of work to complete with pre-defined processes and tools, agreed team rules, and company regulations.
In the long-term perspective, which could be seen as a marathon, we set and maintain a long-term focus by continual goal setting, progress management, and updating developing mechanisms and tools, to react to all kinds of changes along the way. We have the habit to stop and retrospect after every sprint to improve our processes to deliver the work.
Similar to running a sprint versus a marathon, in software development, we cannot maintain a sprint pace on a long product development distance. Our goal is to run a very long distance at the highest possible pace. That is what a marathon is about. We need endurance and evenness.
One of the biggest learnings from the marathon training is the intervals, which are short distance runs at high speed with recovery periods. We do this to get faster and build the endurance needed to run the marathon distance. That is a skill that can be used in the software development context. Interval training is the iterations (in scrum called sprints) where the team attains a high speed, concentrating on the work.
After the sprint is closed, there is a recovery time, where we do sprint reviews, reviewing what has been completed and delivered. We do a sprint retrospective to highlight what went well and what could be still improved and we also do a sprint planning where we incorporate all the learnings from previous sprints and decide on the next piece of work to pull into the sprint. A vital lesson to remember here is to plan in recovery times instead of continuously sprinting by celebrating all the milestones and sprints we complete.
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