On being a middle-distance (not a long-distance) runner


I have attached as the second half of this post, a short extract from my book. (For those who haven’t read the book; you will notice that the extract is exactly 200 words long. The book is written in short bursts of three paragraphs, all of this length).

One of the things I allude to in this extract, and in the book generally, is the psychology of the middle distance runner, which I argue is different from that of the long-distance runner. One of the purposes of my book is to explore the mind-set of the former; for while there are already lots of books about distance running (Murakumi, Sillitoe…), I’ve never before come across anything which explores why people run 800 or 1500 metres. The distance, I say, is important: Steve Ovett was as different a personality from Linford Christie, as either were from Ron Hill or Steve Jones.

Long-distance runners are light; middle-distance runners are heavier. Long-distance runners are remorseless; long distance runners are irrepressible. Long-distance runners set about their tasks (not just running) with stamina; middle-distance runners do so rather with energy and purpose. Once we reach our limit (whatever that is) we can go no further.


I run because it is my personality, a trait so deep in me that if I leave it unexpressed, I feel a sense of frustration in everything I do. I see in my life the same traits that I exhibited as a middle-distance runner: a capacity different in its way from the short burst of the sprinter or the stamina of the long-distance runner.

My job requires me to assimilate quickly the life stories of my clients, fields of professional expertise, and even sometimes whole fresh disciplines of the law. I soak these up, absorb them, fire everything into the job immediately to hand. The case learned, and the advocacy performed, the task ends. I want nothing more to do with the case ever again. I have joined my profession late, in contrast to those who began in their early 20s, I will leave it without becoming a Judge or a QC. In a case, in my career, I lack the stamina of a long-distance runner, who can perform the same task in infinite repetitions. Unlike them, I rejoice when I stop.

With the same joy in creation and the same aversion to the necessary task of correction, I write.

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