The middle kilometres

A few years ago I started jogging.

I’d never had a comfortable relationship with running. I played football, but after a few years I became goalkeeper and stayed there for more than a decade. Goalkeepers do many things; running is generally not one of them.

I started because of parkrun, a 5km timed run in the local park, where you’re racing nobody except yourself (and only if you want to).

It was something to do on a Saturday morning that was better for me than cappuccinos and almond croissants and studying the racing pages.

Soon I noticed a strange thing: the feeling I got at the end of a run was unlike any other feeling in my life. Accomplishment, yes, but something more than that too. Something primeval. Something unexplained by mere thought. Endorphins, hormones, chemicals — whatever it was, it was flowing around my entire body, and making my mind work better too.

So I soon enjoyed, like almost nothing else, the feeling of having run.

I did not enjoy the feeling before. Putting on the running shoes was perhaps the hardest part, and my mind would always try to find a way to back out. (“Why not go for a run tomorrow?”)

I did not enjoy the feeling during. During a run, for a long time, all I could think of was getting to the end.

It took at least a couple of years for me to enjoy the feelings of before running and during running, but the after running feeling stayed, and only became more powerful.

When I run, I find the middle kilometres the hardest. No matter how long or how short the run, the middle kilometres are always the toughest.

The first few are generally fine, the last few are fine, but the ones in the middle, now matter how gentle the weather or the terrain, are tough.

I started thinking about this, and found it could be applied to almost any venture in life.

The start of any venture is easy, and the end — either an accomplishment or a relief — is often good too.

But the middle is always tough.

Three things about this.

  1. We must have a clear finish line in our mind, as this helps things get easier
  2. We must start, as without starting, there is no finish
  3. We must be prepared for the difficult middle, because the middle is always difficult