Becoming a Second Miler: Endure the First

“You can’t walk the second mile until you’ve walked the first.” – Dr. John C. Maxwell

Fighting Through the First Mile

Huffing and puffing, my mind and body are in an all-out war. I have just started my daily run and my body, moved from an anaerobic to aerobic state, is kicking and screaming. My mind is working to squash the latest protest from my body. Straight from my thoughts, I form these words, “If I can just make it past this first mile…” At this moment, my goal is not the other miles but completing this first one. As more distance is created between me and my starting place, my body slowly falls into alignment as my breathing stabilizes and I fall into my running rhythm. I remind myself that one mile, although immediate, is not the ultimate goal. My mind is programmed to go past the first mile and I must endure with no exception. 

Why is there so much resistance in the first mile for runners? Running coach Alexa Duckworth-Briggs provides the following explanation:

Before you start running, your body is in a nice rhythm of breathing and heart rate to meet the amount of CO2 you need to expel from your body each minute. Once you start to run, your body doesn’t do anything to change the heart and breathing rate straight away… It only knows something needs to change when the CO2 levels in your blood get high enough to trigger an alarm in your brain, which tells your heart and lungs to speed up their work to clear this CO2 backlog. The problem is by this time, your body is playing catch up and has to work harder to clear the CO2 in your muscles and bloodstream and get the level back down to the desired range.

The first mile is equally challenging in life. Despite it being obligatory, we can clog up mentally when we confine our lives to the first mile. Simply doing what is required is perhaps the fastest path to a mediocre existence. This confinement often reveals itself in recurring bouts of complaining and murmuring at every facet of life. The mental clogs developed wreak havoc on one’s attitude and life outlook. A forecast of negativity is broadcast as life beyond the first mile becomes more elusive. 

A Fear to Overcome

I believe many of us don’t break into second-mile living because the fear of being taken advantage of takes hold of us. This phobia puts mental restraints on our impetus to go past the norm, from the ordinary into the extraordinary. I agree there are some people that will attempt to take advantage of your second-mile mindset. But painting everyone you meet with the broad brush of suspicion only relegates you to the confines of the first mile. Also, residuals from past hurts can get in the way of becoming a second-miler. Succumbing to this phobia makes us perpetual first milers. The end result is self-centeredness. 

How do you break out of the first mile hurdles and enter second-mile living?


Much like running through the first mile requires a continuous push, so does entering the second-mile living. Before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, he wondered, “What would it be like? A pebble in the road of aviation we had merely to step over? Or an insurmountable Chinese Wall that would destroy the X-1 (the plane Yeager flew in) and me in it?” After completing the feat that ushered in a new aviation age, Yeager admitted to the “casualness of invading a space no man had ever visited…” 

From Yeager’s experience, I view breaking into second-mile living as making the choice to keep taking the next step, which aptly describes persistence. As cramped and log-jammed as first-mile living is, many have found it comfortable and enough to get by in life. Invaded by the intoxicating aroma of doing the least possible, many opportunities to make a lasting impact are passed over. Persistence is a choice that helps us get past the first mile and overcome the fear of people taking advantage of us. 

Despite no fanfare or celebration at the moment, Yeager, who passed away on December 7, 2020, is and will always be remembered as someone who chose to go past the norm, above and beyond to discover something greater. Will you? 

Final Thought: It takes approximately 2,000 steps to complete a mile. In each of those steps is one overarching decision: persistence; the determination to take the next step, and the next one after that. As you endure the first mile with your mindset on becoming a second-miler, you will think less of being taken advantage of and more about giving the advantage to others. The result is other-centeredness. And your best life awaits in the second mile. 

Keep on keeping on. 


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