F is for finish

The letter FI ran parkrun this morning, as I always do on a Saturday morning (parkrun is a 5k timed run happening in a park near you somewhere at 9am on a Saturday morning; if you’re at all interested in running I do suggest you check it out). As I ran, I was debating two alternatives for this post: is it F for Finish or F for Frustration? Then I started wondering if we ever do really finish anyway. We say it sometimes: I’ve finished, when we’ve completed a task. Or I’m finished with this, when we mean that we’ve had enough. But are we really finished?

When I first learnt about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, back several years ago when I first trained to teach, I remember a discussion with others in the group. The theory is that each need in the hierarchy needs to be fulfilled before we can worry about the next – if we are lacking in basic needs like food and shelter, we are unlikely to be able to fulfil needs higher up, such as love and self esteem. At the top of the hierarchy is self-actualization, and we debated whether this was a final point, or an ongoing situation: whether it was a finish-line to reach, or an ongoing race.

As I ran, I also wondered whether running becomes any easier, and decided that while it can become easier, if you stop pushing yourself, the true answer is that you keep making the same effort but get further for it. You increase the speed at which you run, or you increase the distance you can run, or both, and you still feel tired at the end but with more to show for it.

The first time I ran parkrun, I walked it more than ran, and many times on that route I felt I’d had enough, I wanted to stop. It was two laps of a course, and as I approached the finish line the first time I was fully prepared to declare I’d had enough, I was finished with this running business, but something kept me going, and I did eventually stagger over the finish line, only to suffer for the rest of the weekend. Now, I can run the entire route without a walking break, and up to four minutes faster than that first time, but I’m not content, I haven’t finished. I’m trying to get more for my effort, to run further and faster.

Even in another situation, where I’ve declared I’ve had enough, I’m finished, I’m still looking to move on in a different way. Because truly, you’re never finished until life has stopped. And it’s the running that counts, and the effort you put into it, not reaching some elusive point where you can declare that you’ve reached the end, you’re finished.



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