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It was around 2017, I was a passionate cyclist living in London and I loved mornings. I’d discovered over the years that I’m most hopeful when I wake up. This led to planning activities during 0500-0900 before the 0900-1700 workday. It was like finding the bonus disc of a DVD (millennial reference) – and realising you’d been missing out on a whole bunch of good stuff. Morning walks with a friend, cycling to a bakery that was just opening or focused hours on writing and illustrating. When I recently heard about a group of runners who self-organised mid-week half marathons before nine, I was immediately fascinated. As someone who adores sport, I was eager to witness the raw physical challenge but more nosily, the buzz, emotion and spectrum of thoughts they shared at the finish line.

Many self-help books and click-bait YouTube videos, loudly exclaim the life-changing benefits of waking up early and ‘smashing the day’. I’m not here to talk in those terms. People’s brains, motivations and life conditions are far too varied for a ‘one size fits all’ approach to how a successful 24 hours is cultivated. It would be dishonest of me to say every time I start a day with exercise, or a morning activity, everything else that follows is beautiful and transcending. It just shifts my mindset periodically into one of optimism, flow and calmness. And we all have different times when that happens, that pocket of time where the ambitions we have during vulnerable reflection are aligned with what we are doing in that very moment. Through the story of the half marathon before nine, I wanted to share one route towards that – the morning. 

Our minds are complex little things and figuring out how to motivate and inspire them is a life-long journey of successes, failures and inevitably the realisation that there’s no secret sauce. Some days you have it and other days you’re an a**sehole to yourself. What I’ve found in my experience is that community, habits and simple intentional activity can be an antidote to the forever wandering and unforgiving self. Simply put, having plans with good people. Given how busy and relentless our lives can be this can feel indulgent and overly reductive. But our daily existence has become so driven by set time-frames we believe are immovable that we’ve possibly forgotten there’s an option to change them.