The Middle Miles

This morning as I sipped my coffee and read an article about Mike Wardian's crazy fast treadmill 50k world record — which he set on a cruise ship, after missing the record just day earlier — I stumbled on this quote that described everything I'd been wanting to put into words over the past few weeks.

“Don’t give up because it gets hard or something goes wrong. It’s the middle that’s tough. People cheer at the starting and finish line. The middle miles need mental toughness.

—Mike Wardian, Ultrarunner & World 50k treadmill record holder (3:03.56)

Wardian was speaking about how he keeps himself motivated during a race or record attempt, but it jumped out to me as a broader approach of how we reach our big goals.

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Right now, I'm toughing out the "middle miles" of training for Laurel Highlands. Gone is the sexiness of race registration and endorphin rush of setting a new big goal. The high of writing a fresh, clean training plan has been replaced with the mundane struggle of a long season of running.

Don't get me wrong — I still get excited about running these days — especially when my bum left ankle isn't acting up.  But inevitably, there always comes a point in every training cycle when I wonder if it's all worth it. 

That is why Wardian's quote hit me hard. It's not the beginning or the end of a race (or training season) that we need the most strength and support.  It's the middle miles that require the most mental fortitude.

The middle miles of training is when it's easiest to give up. We feel like we're spinning our wheels and our big goal feels so far away. We think about the social events we're missing, the sacrifices we've made, and the pain we've endured. It seems so easy to just stop and dismiss our goals entirely.

But this is the time we need to reflect on the reason why we set our big goals. That's the only way to get through the middle miles. The reason behind the goal is what strengthens our mental fortitude, and it's what allows us to keep moving forward even when our goal feels beyond our reach.  If we can harness the reason behind the goal,  we can control our mental strength through the hardest times.

And if we can do that — if we can find the strength to power through the middle miles — we might be surprised by the amazing things we can accomplish.

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