Friday, 7 December 2012

My Mid-Life Marathon Crisis


Can my marathon running help me with the inevitability of getting older?

I’m 41.

If I’m not middle-aged already I am fast approaching it and I’m pretty sure my mid-life crisis is just around the corner. Also according to a raft of scientific literature I am meant to be entering the unhappiest period of my life.

During your life happiness is supposedly U shaped. You are at your happiest at the beginning and the end of your life and at your lowest ebb in the middle of your life, around mid-forty, precisely the age I am now. There are a number of reasons that people think this may be the case but I think marathon running holds the secret to explaining it and might give us all a little hope.

When I line up at the start of a marathon I set myself a goal of the time I want to finish in, in much the way we set ourselves goals in life. At the start it doesn’t seem to matter if I go off a little bit too fast or my pace is a little slow, I’ll be able to adjust later on and it will all be OK. If I’m running seven minute miles it hardly seems to be too different from the runner who is only a little bit ahead of me who’s running miles in six minutes fifty – just ten seconds faster than me.

Then comes the halfway point, the mid point, or if we keep up the analogy that the marathon is like life – middle age. At the halfwaypoint you more or less know if you are going to make your goal. If you cross the halfway point at 1 hour 45minutes you are not going to do a sub three hour marathon – although it can seem as if you are only 15 minutes off your target you might as well be 2 hours off your target. At the mid point or middle age reality lets you know how well you are going to do. If you haven’t met your goal this realisation can be  a little depressing.

But if marathons teach us this depressing reality they also give us hope.

Firstly what you do in the second half of the marathon has real consequences. What you do in the second half changes your finishing time considerably.

Secondly if you stay positive in the second half you will do a lot better than if you dwell on what you should have done in the first half.

So I’m going to try and take these lessons to heart both when I am running my next marathon and when I feel a little anxious about getting older and my next birthday comes.

(Hear the original audio version of this blog at

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