These shoes were made for walking.
My wife and I signed up for a walking/running challenge on New Year’s Eve 2015. The idea of Run The Year 2016 was simple – an individual or team tries to walk/jog/run for a total of 2,016 miles during the year. That amounted to a daily average of approximately 5.5 miles. Due to my wife’s hectic work schedule, we decided that I would do 1,464 miles (4/day) and she was on the hook for the remaining 552 (~1.5/day). My wife and I announced her pregnancy in August, which complicated the running plan toward the end of the year. We adjusted my responsibility to 1,600 miles to reduce her burden. As a non-athlete, the thought of moving my body an average of 4.37 miles every day was daunting. But what is life if not an opportunity to challenge your own abilities?
Walking vs. Running
The vast majority of my miles came by way of walking. I am perfectly capable of running the entire distance (I did several times), but I find that doing so requires a lot of mental overhead in terms of breathing and pacing. I favor a brisk walk because it allows my mind the freedom to appreciate the beautiful Utah scenery, to work through whatever problems are running through my head, and to simply exercise my imagination. With running, the goal is to spend the least amount of time moving over a particular distance. I prefer not to feel rushed.
There were twists and turns, but I hit 1,600 miles on December 31. Statistics and tidbits are presented here to illustrate the journey.
- 318 runs (87% of days)
- 5.03 miles per workout (median = 4.1 miles, standard deviation = 2.3 miles)
- My longest streak was 32 days
- The longest workout was 32 miles and the shortest was 0.62 miles
- The fewest miles in a month was 92 (June), while the most was 210 (December)
- Weather included heavy snow, fog, smog, rain, strong winds, brutal UV indices, single-digit and triple-digit temperatures
- I endured a broken toe and a gashed shin
As noted, I missed 48 days. Many of those were rest days, while others were due to travel and life not caring about my plans. Regardless, I was able to remain very steady. The figure below shows cumulative miles (orange) and the pace line (dashed black). You’ll notice the bump in June when I did 32 miles, followed by dips in late June and September that were caused by travel. The steep slope at the end shows my effort to adjust to the new goal of 1,600 miles and to make up for lost time.
These subtleties are seen by breaking the workouts down into monthly summaries. My output remained fairly steady through the first two-thirds of the year. September made things difficult and then my goal changed in late October – both of which put me in a hole. You can see what it took to climb out.
Monthly breakdown of miles.
Beyond my own nerdy desire to see what a successful year-long goal looked like, these graphs hopefully show you that a seemingly impossible goal is attained through consistent work.
This post is not designed as an exercise in dreaded humble-braggery. There are people who train by running 100 miles in a week, so averaging 133 in a month is not really all that impressive. My intention is the opposite. As we enter the season where you might be setting goals for 2017, I hope that my 2016 success will inspire you to achieve whatever it is that you want to accomplish. There is nothing special about me (seriously, see gashed shin). I’m a regular guy and I like to challenge myself. You can do the same.
I have a few takeaways from last year that I hope will help you frame your goals.
First, you will want to quit. The first day of a new goal is euphoric, but on the next day you will find that nasty voice in your head telling you to stop. Our brains are very good at trying to make our existence as easy as possible, and that voice is very persuasive. Ignore it. I found that after a couple of weeks the voice was reduced to a whisper and I finally told it to shut up.
Life does not care about your goals. Unexpected things will happen and your perfectly laid plans will go to shit. Do not let this make you quit. Instead, get rid of the guilt and move on. You have to be okay with failing.
Support is important. I could not have finished 1,600 miles without the encouragement of my wife. Tell someone your goal, because even having just one person who believes in you will make a huge difference.
Along with people who make earnest New Year’s goals are the resolution grinches who belittle them. Treat these people like your voice of doubt above and ignore them. Your life is short, so anything that you want to do to improve your limited time on Earth is worthwhile.
If you have goals, accomplish them. You need not be special, only determined. Ignore those who doubt you. Embrace those who help you. Regarding these things, poet Eminem said:
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo
No matter what your 1,600 miles are this year, enjoy the journey. As for my own 2017 goals, I will report back in a year. Until then, good luck!