Sprinters and Marathon Runners: How Your Personality Affects the Team

22 July 2022

Natalia Chistyakova

Scrum Master

Hi, my name is Natalia. I am a certified coach and leader of the scrum team at Rocketech. My task is to set up the team processes to make them as productive and efficient as possible at all stages, from investigation to release.

Any team consists of personalities that are divided into types. In this article, we will look at how personality types affect task completion, how to determine the role of each on a team and create a harmonious race pattern to ensure you reach the finish line and not burn out halfway.

After reading, you will understand:

  • What is a personality type, and how it can help you avoid burning deadlines;
  • What is the reason that we often feel inefficient and uncomfortable, although we tried our best to be helpful and efficient;
  • How a personality type affects the team processes;
  • How to select a squad to complete project tasks smoothly.

All people are divided into two types…

No, it is not the beginning of a meme. Sprinters and marathon runners are personality types based on their pace, style, and approach to work. I will provide some examples, and you may recognise yourself in them!

Suppose you took on a project and put yourself out for the first month. And then, you feel a breakdown and don’t want to do anything. Just lie like a starfish on the beach and not move at all.

Here is another example: you are used to working at a comfortable pace and having enough rest every day. However, you are required to run every day, getting more tasks that grow like a snowball, and you are afraid of being crushed by this avalanche. You would like to write your code calmly and have no contacts, then show the necessary result through little but regular progress.

Is it familiar to you? Do you agree?

It is because all people have a specific type of personality. If you understand your type of personality, it becomes easier to manage your tasks and communicate better with other people, setting the right expectations from each other. Moreover, you can plan the team workload more effectively too.

Why is it important?

The type of personality directly affects and is reflected in the problem-solving approach. Sprinters hit the work and do many tasks with a single heave, but they quickly get tired, and no one will budge you an inch.

Marathon runners are another matter. They are like hard-working ants dragging the project every day but step-by-step. They know that they are “playing long”. 

When discussing teamwork, a manager needs to understand who is who. Moreover, it is vital to have both types in your team!

For example, we have sprinters involved in the project. It is best to provide them with the task scope at the beginning of the sprint. They will do their job and get tired, but it will not be so critical anymore. The marathon runners will make the project last until the release, or sprinters will pull themselves up in a critical situation.

Sprinters and marathon runners: who is who?

First, there is no 100% pure type. Second, these two types are different, including career questions, making this aspect important for a manager. The motivation for one (a sprinter did the task quickly and got a promotion) is a curse for another (marathon runner likes to perform tasks at their own pace and not be touched).


They make a career in steep ups through 2-3 steps at once. They are idea generators, and their task is to come up with a grand project and quickly realise it. The more complex the idea, the better. Sprinters give their best during work (like a rocket when it takes off), and they need to calculate resources not to burn out.

Marathon runners

They need to pass long distances. This type of personality relies more on endurance and slowly builds a career. Marathon runners save a lot of effort accumulating knowledge, making contacts and performing everyday tasks effectively.

Important point

Everyone must learn their personality type independently to understand how to customise their process and style of work. You cannot switch or retrain it at once.

How does this relate to software development?

All projects at Rocketech are scrum-based, which involves organising sprints lasting from one week to one month. When working on short projects, we organise one-week sprints. The average sprint lasts two weeks. 

To execute long and complex projects, you should encourage marathon runners. However, sprinters are also needed because they can quickly help if a force majeure situation occurs.

At some point, we need fast professionals ready to reach the top. Sprinters are responsible for speed and will just motivate the team and quickly achieve excellent results. Marathon runners are responsible for consistent progress and quality.

I will provide an example of launching a rocket to the Moon, where the release is a lunar landing. The first stage takes it off the ground, and then the second overcomes the gravity well and puts the spaceship into orbit. It is the middle of the sprint when the sprinters have done their work. Then, the permanent engines start to work, and marathon runners who maintain the course lead the ship to the Moon and land it safely.

Development problem solving: case studies and lessons learned

I will share my personal experience. Once I joined a project where a team had only marathon runners. All guys were thinking big! At first, it is necessary to think over everything ahead. Of course, a vast planning horizon cannot be objective because this is a complex task. 

But the main trouble is that they did not want to start until they calculated all likelihoods. Of course, it was unacceptable to the client.

After that, I involved a few sprinters in the project, and the process began! It resulted in higher customer satisfaction and overall team effectiveness, so the rocket has taken off.

Sprinter or marathon runner: who are you?

To determine a personality type, you should get answers to specific questions. If it concerns the team, the manager should talk with colleagues and find out what pace is more comfortable for a person.

What questions to ask your teammates?

The most effective method is solving a specific problem. Ask a colleague to suggest a solution. It is crucial to note the proposed option: a person will do a preliminary preparation and analysis or be ready to solve the problem immediately.

You can also ask for everyday things (e.g., planning a vacation) and understand: your colleague looks at all sights on the first day or creates a plan for every vacation day?

What if the pace does not suit you?

If there are quick results expected of you, and you are a marathon runner, I advise you to:

  • Legalise this story. Discuss with the team the pace you are comfortable with.
  • Suggest another way to achieve the desired result. You should clarify what tasks you can do quickly and what you can’t.

All tasks should be distributed in such a proportion that you feel comfortable. If you have done one thing, do another. If you are a marathon runner, do not create super expectations and unnecessary obligations. The main task is to focus the manager’s attention on the high result and work stability.

How do we apply it now, and what does it give us

The concept of sprinters and marathon runners allows you to optimise the team workload by assigning a feasible task to each employee.

With our team’s example, we started conducting conversations with developers. We ask leading questions and emphasise their value within the squad. Thus, they feel comfortable and do not create unnecessary expectations for themselves and the entire team.

Last pieces of advice

For sprinters:

  • Plan ahead; otherwise, you won’t have enough strength for the second and third races.
  • If you don’t see a worthy goal now, give yourself a rest. Do what you have been putting off for a long time: learn another technology, make the repairs, or plan a vacation.
  • Don’t forget about the life around you when striving for a career peak.

For marathon runners:

  • Sometimes you have to slow down even for a long distance. It can benefit your career and the entire team’s performance.
  • Don’t forget about rest. A long distance can be just as exhausting as a short one.

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