I blame Runners World.
Runners World had a holiday challenge they were promoting. Run every day, at least one mile a day, from Thanksgiving (November 28th) to New Years Day. It sounded like a good thing to do. It would keep my busy over what is sometimes an iffy part of the year for me, my races were all done for the year, I’d been slacking off in November, and it would be good for my planned base building for the coming year. On top of that it might help me get through a very food and drink oriented time of the year without taking me off my goal weight that I’ve happily reached.
Now up to this point, my goal was 50 km/week. In October I did 197.5 km, slightly below my target. November, as I mentioned, was very slack, with only 176.9 km for the month. My biggest month ever had been August with 228.77 km. April and May also exceeded 200 km.
The official start date of the Holiday Running Challenge was November 28th, but I’d run the two days prior to that as well. In hindsight, not decreasing my daily mileage was probably a bit of a mistake. But I had another challenge coming up in January with one of my Google+ groups where I set a pretty lofty goal of wanting to hit 300 miles (483 km) for the month, so I ramped up my December running to work my way up to this.
Now normal (a word that is seldom applied to me) consensus is that a runner should increase their mileage no more than 10% per week. My December total was 359.93 km. Over a 50% increase. But if I could keep this up through January, I was going to make the fabled 300 miler club.
It didn’t happen.
I ran pretty much 80 km/week in December with the final week at 88 km. On New Years Day I completed my Runners World Holiday Run Streak challenge, beginning my January distance challenge and deciding to go for 100 consecutive days to claim the www.strava.com 100 Day badge. I could now claim the two days prior to Thanksgiving into my totals. And I wasn’t alone. My good google+ friends +Jeremy Murphy and +Beth Crea were also streaking, even if Beth was running for the evil girls team in the January comp Beth had started streaking on the same day I did, and Jeremy was a week ahead of us.
109 km/week was my target to hit my January challenge. The first week clocked in at 106.62 km, but I just couldn’t sustain that. I’d like to blame my change of job in that period for part of it, when you work 12 hours or more a day it makes it difficult to get a lot of long runs in, especially if you have to make the mess hall by 8pm to get your dinner (I can’t run with a full stomach, although it’s a great way for me to diet *lol*), but in all honesty, my body was tired and needed a rest.
I ran 83.77 km for the second week in January and 81.29 for the third. I realised I couldn’t hit my goal but still wanted to do the best I could for the January challenge. Week four came in at only 55.10 km. I wanted to put in a big push for the end of the month and pulled my first 50 km (50.72 km) “run” from somewhere out of my nether regions on the 31st. I ran this just on my own, and I wasn’t looking for time, which is a good thing because I didn’t have it in me *laughing* My total moving time was 6:46:31, just over eight minutes a kilometre, and that doesn’t include the hour or so of rest breaks along the way where I paused the watch. I walked all of the last 9 or so kilometers, but I did it! And I feel confident that, with some proper distance appropriate training and some rested legs that I could complete a 50 km race in under 5:30:00. January closed out at 388.59 km or 241.64 miles.
By the time February hit, I was toast. Streaking is one thing, but two months of running 50% further than my body was used to was breaking me. My total for February was 141.8 km. Valentines Day I was at the beach with my friend Matthew and some his family for a BBQ. It’s the same beach I run Christmas Day with my son. The sidewalks getting to the sand were so hot I burned a huge blister into the pad of my right foot cutting a 10 km run down to 3. The next day I ran with blister pads and sports tape, but very fortunately the blister subsided in time for my run the day after that.
March brought on a spur of the moment trip to Bali, where I ran along the paths of Sanur Beach, dodging scooters, children, dogs and tourists. I marveled at the Balinese jogging along barefoot, the callouses on their feet so thick they looked like shoe soles. Some jogging in plastic rain coats and sometimes rain pants as well, I assume for losing weight by sweating it off because it wasn’t even threatening to rain. If I was still on the path after 8am I certainly knew about it, as the humidity and heat climbed. A sure sign that I was ready to have my run streak over was how upset I got about not being able to get a proper sports massage on my legs, something I’d been really looking forward to. Everyone kept performing reflexology on my feet despite my requests, and not even touching the backs of my legs. I’d had a bad nights sleep the night before the second massage, tossing and turning, my body sore from sleeping on the sheet covered pile of construction rubble they called a bed and had to bite my tongue hard to keep from tearing the poor girls head off. As they say, a sign of over training is grouchiness and irritability, and I had it in spades! I did some, comparatively speaking, long runs (12.5 km, normally a medium run back when I had legs that worked) to make sure I hit my goal of 1,000 km for the streak. I then exported my runs from Garmin and ran them through a spreadsheet to find out I was actually about 8 km further than I had thought, a mistake in my day to day adding somewhere.
I got back to Perth in time to fly back to work the next morning, and that evening on site I ran my last and final run of my 100 day streak. It was only 2 km, and in speaking with friends I referred to it as going out with a whimper, but then I realised I was being totally unfair on myself. I had accomplished something major, in my books at least, and it was wrong to belittle it that way. So instead I now refer to it as my victory lap, and deservedly so.
So I did it. 100 consecutive days of running. Whether I wanted to or not, whether I was well or not, whether I was on holiday or not. I ran over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I’ve lost count of how many runs were begun between 11 and 11:45pm because I hadn’t wanted to or hadn’t had a chance to run yet that day. I ran my first 50 km distance. I’ve run AFTER my first 50 km run. I’ve run with blisters bigger than any I’ve had in my whole life. I’ve run in heat over 110F. I’ve run full of alcohol after going away parties leaving my last job. But I’ve run.
I’m no elite athlete. In fact, I’ve been anything BUT an athlete my entire life. But I did this. Not through any genetic advantage, but through sheer stubbornness and willpower. And if I can do this, anybody can.
My last day in Bali I finished reading Tracks, by Robyn Davidson. She says:
“The two most important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision.”
Take that step, make that decision, pull a Nike and “Just Do It”, in life, love and running.
Wearily but proudly,