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