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The problem of the third act

May 11, 2020

Bill Wilder famously said: ‘If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.’ He was talking about storytelling and the way that the first act has to set up the groundwork for the resolution for the end to be satisfying.

It’s a curiously universal rule.

Any run – whether a race, a training session, or simply those enjoyable junk miles that your Garmin harshly categorises as unproductive – is divided into (potentially unequal) thirds.

The beginning, when you’re easing into the run.

The middle, when you’re cruising.

The end, when you’re finding out whether you could tack on a couple more miles or dear god can’t we just stop now?

More often than not, the dear-god-stop-now runs start with an over-punchy beginning. A good beginning requires control, structure, and pacing. Endings are tricky, but beginnings – particularly in this cooped-up time when this may be the only outlet at the end of a day – are harder.

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