How to Run 1,000 Miles

At some point in late 2017, I woke up and decided I was going to run 1,000 miles in 2018.

And then I did it.

Receipts!

Receipts!

It was hard.

Weekly Miles in 2018

Weekly Miles in 2018

But it wasn’t the kind of hard I’ve become accustomed to. In fact, that’s exactly what made this audacious goal appealing in the first place. The kind of “hard” that I’m used to is the hard of uncertainty. It’s the compound hard of not knowing if you’re solving a problem at all and whether you’re solving the right problem in the first place. Running 1,000 miles is the opposite of that. Literally every step spent running is progress towards the ultimate goal. Drop in some basic arithmetic and it’s even pretty easy to calculate how much time it should take you to run 1,000 miles.

Achieving a goal like this reminds you that you are capable of doing difficult things. And when you spend much of your time dealing with difficult problems of uncertainty, it’s important to get that kind of reminder. Not the light, conscious kind of reminder that you get from the satisfaction of checking off something on your todo list, but rather the deep, visceral, glow that only comes from repeated strain, perspiration, and perseverance.

Everybody needs a break from the uncertainty, not to relax, but to practice doing hard things. Where pushing yourself matters, but you know that you’re always pushing in the right direction. This was the joy of running all those miles this year.

What follows is a few more words on the things I found along the way to keep me going. But the most important thing is:

Find your 1,000 miles.

Bay Area Running

Bay Area Running

A little more background

I have always envied distance runners. There’s something pure and brutal, something super fundamental about running that has always intrigued me. I never really thought I had the endurance to be a distance runner. Even though I dabbled in distance running in the past: in high school I ran on the cross country team and every practice, every race, was grueling. Nothing about running cross country felt natural or sustainable. Mostly it was a good excuse to get out of PE for a semester. But part way through 2017 I needed to turn up the intensity on my exercise routine. I found the inspiration, tools, and commitment to run like I have never run before and that gave me the confidence to commit to 1,000 miles in 2018.

Find inspiration

I’ve enjoyed watching Casey Neistat’s daily vlog almost since the beginning. 8-10 minutes a day of random stuff from another person’s interesting life is strangely compelling when filmed like a high budget documentary. One thing that stood out from the start was Casey’s running habit. Or more accurately: his running addiction. His positive outlook is super encouraging and watching him make running a daily part of his routine is great inspiration. His intense pace and distance numbers served as high bar to pursue. Early on, my goal was very simple: run farther and faster than Casey Neistat at least once.

Commit

Everybody knows this is the hardest part of any exercise regime: sticking to it. I’m probably repeating what a thousand self-help books have said before, but: whatever you do, figure out how to take the first step. My suggestion? Start today. There is no right time. You will have good days and bad days. Waiting for the perfect moment is just procrastinating. And when you get out there and run one mile, the second mile is easier. The third mile is tough again, but that’s how it goes. For me, the worst days for getting out there are when it’s cold and dark but some of the best runs I had this year started in the cold and the dark.

Pain is another obstacle to commitment. I’ve been fortunate to avoid major injury but I encountered my fair share of aches and pains. The worst thing you can do is google your symptoms. The best thing is to pay attention to your body. The tricky part is not letting soreness become an excuse while simultaneously not overdoing it. Ask me about my knee.

Track your progress

For all the gear heads out there this is a great opportunity to buy some gadgets. For everyone else, the quality of free software for tracking your runs is truly phenomenal. I’ve been using Strava, and while it’s certainly not perfect, it tracks all the stats that are of interest to me. I especially enjoy its “Segments” feature, which lets you virtually compete,with other runners who follow the same route. Setting new PRs on a segment is a great motivator. Seeing how much faster you are than others is an even better motivator. Not that it’s a competition, but back to the commitment thing, if this is what gets you going, use that.

Anyway, checking your stats and tracking your progress towards the audacious goal keeps the hard work front and center.

Portland Running

Portland Running

San Diego Running

San Diego Running

Give yourself permission to fail

On the flip side of commitment is the recognition that you will have days where you feel like you can’t do anything. If you don’t think you can run five miles, run three and walk two. If you don’t feel like you can run three miles, run one and walk two. If you don’t feel like running at all, give yourself permission to just get out there and go for a walk.

Every step at any pace is progress.

Get your friends involved

Finally, I cannot stress the importance of having a support system. If you’ve got a running partner, great! If not, social media can be a surprisingly effective analogue. On many days, the thing that helped me go farther or faster was the knowledge that I could share that success with a group of supporters around the world and get instant feedback. Is that a bit vain? Sure, but in contrast to the low value posts that often saturate our feeds, everyone recognizes the genuine effort of physical exertion.

So big thanks to everyone who left me a 👍, a ❤️, and encouragement of any kind.

🏃‍♂️

Artemis

A new novel from Andy Weir, author of The Martian, Artemis tells a fun story of industrial sabotage set in the eponymous frontier colony on the Moon. It's an enjoyable book and while maybe not quite as intense as The Martian, the plot is solid and compelling. I'm not really qualified to judge whether Weir was able to write an authentic female perspective, but I appreciate that the main character is a strong, smart, independent woman. She's the kind of character we could use many more of.

Artemis benefits from Weir's extensive technical research and the world of Artemis feels entirely believable. The only detail that I got hung up on is the population of Artemis. 2000 people feels like an order of magnitude too small for the bustling economy described in the book. It seems like there's far too many specialized professions and locations for a city of that size.

Otherwise, good book. Recommend.

(Amazon.com)

The Player of Games

This is the second book from Iain M. Banks that I've read. I found The Player of Games to be much more enjoyable than Consider Phlebas. The character development is noticeably stronger. The plot is more compelling and, ultimately, the story arc is much more satisfying. Where Consider Phlebas seemed to end rather abruptly, this book wound down to a more satisfying ending.

Overall, I'm not sure I'm completely hooked on Banks' work, but the universe in which these two stories take place is interesting. In contrast to other recent science fiction I've read, I didn't find either of these novels to be particularly thought-provoking. The civilization at the center of The Player of Games built entirely around a game, while intriguing, didn't illuminate challenges we face in the real world (though I suppose it could be taken as a kind of allegory for modern life). I'll probably read more of his work, but I'm in no particular hurry.

Recommend? It's not bad.

(Amazon.com

Consider Phlebas

Consider Phlebas is the first of two books from Iain M. Banks that I picked up after learning that the SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ships are named after spaceships in his Culture series. I should have written this little mini review (is that what these are?) months ago, but I'm just now getting back to it in an effort to rekindle a little more consistency with my reading (and writing) in 2018.

Overall, it's a solid book and the Culture universe contains everything you could imagine or want in a science fiction novel. Space travel, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, space pirates, high stakes games and more all make appearances in the book. I enjoyed the world-building, but the plot actually felt thin and the end was ultimately unsatisfying.

Recommend? Eh.

(Amazon.com)

Aurora

As occasionally happens with novels, I found my eyes glued to the pages of Aurora and finished the 450 page book in less than 3 days. Couldn’t have been better timing: Aurora ties in well to my other recent read, Accelerando. Both cover the challenges of developing an interstellar civilization and though they take dramatically different perspectives, the conclusions are surprisingly similar.

The grand scale of the book allows time to explore difficult topics in the human petri dish that is the generational starship bound for the eponymous planet Aurora. Governance and self-determination are hot topics in a tin can traveling at one tenth the speed of light with a population of a few thousand people. The ship’s AI,  the semi-omniscient narrator, offers a thought-provoking discussion of consciousness and purpose. And at every turn, there is death. But Robinson manages to normalize death in a way that comforts: a recognition that death is an inevitable part of exploration and of life itself.

Indeed, it’s a book that left me wondering: what is the purpose of life? Would we willingly doom our descendants to imprisonment in the name of exploration? Why have descendants at all?

The ending left me wanting, but the more I think about it, the more I think I understand what Robinson was trying to convey. Humans will likely always have a primal longing for Earth. Whether you were born on another planet or a generational starship, you will feel inexplicably drawn to the ecosystem that you evolved from. It seems only natural.

Highly recommend.

(Amazon.com)

Accelerando

Right from the get-go, Accelerando assaults the imagination with a barrage of near-future possibility. The cadence of Stross’ writing along with a high density of techno-jargon that mixes reality and fiction stimulates in a way that other prose does not. This a favorite feature of many of Charles Stross’ novels and Accelerando does not disappoint. 

The story arc spans the tumultuous period of accelerating intelligence brought on by the release of the first truly sentient AI and achieving the Singularity. The plot could be a bit richer, but the book works well as a vehicle for asking intriguing questions about a future where AI is omnipresent, consciousness can be augmented by computing, and we can slip seamlessly between biological and computational existence. 

Accelerando also presents an interesting quandary surrounding the nature of space exploration. The novel makes it clear that our present understanding of the vastness of space is shockingly naive. Even when we achieve a level of immortality by transferring consciousnesses into a space-faring computer, the distances between interesting places in the universe prove to be an impossible barrier.

Recommend.

(Amazon.com)