Above screenshot is of my run a few weeks back. It tells you that I did a 10K (10,000 meters) run in 56 odd minutes. For the diet conscious, who are always calculating the number of calories in every grain of food, I burnt some 650 calories in the whole process. 

This one is more interesting as it shows my pace during the run for each kilometre of the 10k. Now observe the interesting part here. The part about which I am so proud of myself, that I decided to write an article on it. The pace at the beginning was 6 (mins per km) and went on to almost 5 at the end. Now this, to the layman, might not look anything wow. But to a runner, this is SIGNIFICANT.  To be able to attain a speed of almost 13 kmph towards the end from 10kmph at the beginning, its a major shift in momentum and very difficult to to get.

The beauty is not the last 1k, but to go faster in the second half of the run (5-10k) than in the first half. And that, my dear friends, is called a NEGATIVE SPLIT. We runners would do anything to get this. It’s not easy for the simple reason, that when we start running, we are all fresh, have a lot of energy,  take off on a high and invariably are at our fastest best. Regardless of the distance, 5k, 10k, 21k or the full marathon (42k), we will end up getting slower towards the end. 

Now you must be thinking, well, so if you want to be faster at the end, then you start slow in the beginning and get to your natural pace in the latter half. But see, that is not practical, as we run with an intended overall pace in mind and we want to achieve goal. So the only way to do it is to try and conserve (read hold back) some amount of energy in the first half, to be used in the latter half. 

Similarly, as a writer, many of my articles, I start with lots of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement; the words are flowing easily and am able to compose great sentences; but as I approach the latter half, the objective is more to complete the page, attain the requisite length and the quality of writing suffers. The latter part suffers, it’s tough to achieve a negative split even in writing. 

This might (I cannot say with confidence, would like the readers to chip in) be true even in cooking, singing, (composing) and some other areas as well. We are far more energetic and creative in the first half, than in the second half. But the real ‘high’ needed in most cases, is in the second half, as we want to ‘finish strong’, leave an impact, have a ‘lasting impression’ on the guest/audience, as the case might be. 

So is true in ‘Life’. Think of our life as  an average of 80 years with two halves of 40 years each.

Now Imagine the first 40 years:

  • We are born. As a child we are bundle of energy, growing up fast.
  • We are learning, excited to do more of everything we learn, walking, running, knowing people, discovering things.
  • All the way through school, college to the work life/family life, we have so much energy for everything. Attaining milestones, getting in and out of college, getting awards, rewards, certificates, scholarships, accolades.
  • All through our personal life, we are again full of energy, understanding our family members, making friends and building friendship, finding life partner, getting married, having kids, growing up the child, we are full of energy, enthusiasm and excitement.
  • All through our professional career, again, we are out there to just grow as fast as possible. The first job, the first project, we want to do exceedingly well and get to the next one and then the next. We want to add responsibilities, add team members, expand geo, etc. more more more. full of energy.

Now as we reach the so called ‘mid life crisis’ age of the 40s, we do some ‘introspection’ and realise that the ‘real life’ actually begins now. We are ‘settled’ from family perspective. Kids are in late teens and ready for college sometime soon and have their path set. The spouse, also in the 40s, also has his/her life perspective at a similar level. 

From here, we can either plateau, enjoy the empire we have build for ourselves and start taking things easy, or we make a bold fresh start and achieve a Negative Split in life. How, you may ask?

Fun Fact – All of what you see of me today, the running, reading, writing, motivational talks, etc. 110% all has happened after I turned 40!!!

  • I had never run beyond 2K till I turned 40 – I have run 18 half and 13 full Marathons since then.
  • I had not read even 100 books till I turned 40. I have read 400+ since then.
  • I did not write anything of significance every anywhere till I turned 40 – I have written 140+ blogs and a best-selling first book since then.
  • I had never even considered myself as a public speaker till I turned 40 – I have given more than 100 physical and online lectures to audience sizes as large as 550.
  • Professionally, I know this would vary for different people, but I guess one can earn much much more in 40s and 50s than in the 20s and 30s (assuming one is working till 58) and anyone who decides to retire earlier, would have done so as his/her 40s would have been a blockbuster decade!. And anyone who retires early, invariably finds alternative ways to continue to generate wealth.

I could go on and share about my other ‘hobbies’ like singing and photography, albeit to a much lesser extent, but I have seen a distinct change post 40.

Some people ask me if this was triggered by an incident or event or something. And the answer is a firm NO. this is a gradual realisation and only happens once we give ‘time’ to ourselves, to think and to evaluate. 

There is an awesome book I read in 2020 by David Brooks, called “The Second Mountain” which talks about how we have taken individualism to the extreme—and in the process we have torn the social fabric in a thousand different ways. The path to repair is through making deeper commitments. In the book, Brooks shows what can happen when we put commitment-making at the center of our lives. The commitment to self driven life is what he describes as ‘the second mountain’. 

Here are an excerpt of the book:

That is the thing you notice about second-mountain people. There’s been a motivational shift. Their desires have been transformed. If you wanted to generalize a bit, you could say there are six layers of desire: Material pleasure. Having nice food, a nice car, a nice house. Ego pleasure. Becoming well-known or rich and successful. Winning victories and recognition. Intellectual pleasure. Learning about things. Understanding the world around us. Generativity. The pleasure we get in giving back to others and serving our communities. Fulfilled love. Receiving and giving love. The rapturous union of souls. Transcendence. The feeling we get when living in accordance with some ideal.

And here are couple of quotes:

“The joy, as C. S. Lewis put it, is not the satisfaction of the longing but the longing itself.”

“We think we want ease and comfort, and of course we do from time to time, but there is something inside us that longs for some calling that requires dedication and sacrifice.”

Three examples of people, whom I can cite, who have achieved ‘negative split’ in their life:

  • My father, Kishore V Sonpal – all who have read his biography will agree.
  • Amitabh Bacchan,
  • Dr Manmohan Singh,
  • US President Joe Biden
  • Donald Trump
  • Narendra Modi

— u can add to the list

So net net, in summary, I would say, the joy of achieving negative splits in life is to be able to do a lot lot more in the second half than the first. Where,  we do not sit on an easy chair,  legs on the table and rest on the laurels we have achieved in the first half. Instead, we make the most of the solid foundation we have built in form of education, family and work experience and use it to our advantage to grow exponentially, both personally and professionally. Go after those half buried child-hood dreams, dust off the cycle and the golf-kit, shave off that growing beard and get your youth-time look back, explore those destinations marked on the globe as kids,  plan something with our old friends, make new friends, learn a new art, try and create something, do something new of your own, start giving and doing charity in a really big way, there is so much more out there to do !