the ragged runner
Sometimes we all enter the mode of "ragged runner". Many of us look like Phidippides on certain days, and sometimes many of us come close to his fate as well. We make excuses for keeping up the race, we begin to look haggard, we start to lose our spark and our spunk, and we are next to empty. If we look at this character through the lens of Mussar, it is one of imbalanced diligence.
What are some character traits of the "ragged runner"? Worn out. Not taking enough water breaks. Forgetting to enjoy the scenery. Nasty. Impatient. Maybe not hearing the encouragement of the bystanders along the course. You can imagine the pathetic nature of this runner. But maybe you don't need to imagine. Perhaps you are fantastic friends with some of those runners. Or maybe you are one too.
the true prize
"Always find something to do - for yourself or for a friend, and don't allow a moment of your life to be wasted." --Rabbi M.M. Lefin of Satanov, Cheshbon HaNefesh
While being diligent means using one's time wisely and not wasting a moment, Rabbi Lefin hit on one important aspect: find something to do for yourself. Yes, you can do something for a friend, for your community, for the universe. However, if you aren't around because your efforts undo you, then you are no better than the marathon runner—dead.
Take time to savour those moments in life that restore your soul and let your race be one of diligent beauty while taking time to enjoy the beauty of life. Don't just make it to the end. Run through the finish line with enthusiasm and vigor...