Run the Year 2021: Run/Walk 2,021 miles in 2021. What could go wrong?
Whelp. It didn’t go exactly as planned, but I got it done. As a running coach, I advise all my runners going into a race to have three goals. You’ve got you’re “A” goal which is almost out of reach, your “B” goal which is still a challenge but a bit more manageable, and your “C” goal which should keep you moving when the going gets really tough. (I should mention that I took this advice from the wise Meb Keflezighi and his amazing book “26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career.” Read it. Really.) Anyway, I had three goals starting with my “Run/Walk the Year 2021” challenge.
2021 miles was more than I’d ever purposely tried to complete in one year, even on a heavy ultra running year. I knew I was going to need to count walking too, as long as it was “purposeful walking.” This means I decided I wasn’t going to count miles doing things like walking the kids to the bus stop, roaming around the gym at work, or grocery shopping. But I was planning to walk on days I didn’t run. I thought it would be a nice break.
Stupid. I’m a running coach, and I know better than this. Walking is certainly NOT a break if you are still planning to get some decent milage in. 6 miles was my magic number for the year. I wanted to get in at least 6 miles every day whether it was walking or running, and I wanted to do double digits at least one day a week for my “long run” day. This would get me ahead of the game and I thought “banking” miles would help if I ran into any snags down the road, like getting sick or going on a trip somewhere that wouldn’t allow me the time or energy required to run. Sounds like a solid plan, right?
Well, as mentioned, walking is NOT a break. News flash: 6 miles of walking takes a LONG time! It takes WAY longer than running 6 miles, for me at least. 6 miles generally takes me 2 hours, sometimes more depending on if I stop for things like taking pictures or breaking somewhere for coffee. 2+ hours on your feet is NOT a break no matter how leisurely you go. Time on your feet is time on your feet. It’s simple math, really. Therefore .. Not. A. Break.
I managed my original plan for several months. However, I was tired all the time. My low back was beginning to hurt and it was getting harder to stand on my feet for too long without it aching horribly. I felt at least 20 years older than I was, and I have always considered myself pretty fit. It was discouraging. Eventually I knew I was going to need to change this plan. I needed REAL breaks for my body. I realized that this challenge is a true manifestation of that clichéd saying: “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
This challenge is truly the ultimate ultra marathon. I didn’t give enough credence to a challenge that you must chip away at for a whole year. I’ve done some really hard races in my lifetime, including 6 ultra trail races and 7 marathons. They HURT. They hurt during and they hurt after. But the finish line was a lot closer. This race was like that “sneaker hill” that doesn’t look all that hard but that goes on for miles. Sometimes I’d rather do that short, steep hill because I can wrap my brain around that better mentally than those long and slow shallow hills.
So in the end, I didn’t make my “A” goal. I was on pace for that for quite awhile, but the finish date kept inching out further and further. A few years ago, this would have really discouraged me, but not anymore. Ever since I stopped racing for those finish lines as fast as possible and started enjoying the journey more, I’ve found a lot more love in the process. I still have SUCH a hard time with the concept of “rest” which is so ironically easy for me to advise my clients on. But I also am getting better and better about honoring my body and trying REALLY hard to listen to it. It deserves that respect because of all it does for me. It shows up for me. Every. Single. Day. So if I want to live to run another day, I have to look ahead. That’s really what this challenge helped me do .. To look ahead and trust the finish line, even if I can’t see it.
I did reach my “B” goal. The last 100 or so miles seemed to drag on forever, but patience brought me to my very last week. I had one 3 miler and two 6 milers planned and it was perfection. I got my last 6 miler in with a few of my zombie running crew. That’s what we call ourselves because we run so early in the AM. That day, I had to get it done at 5:15AM, but I knew there would be no excuses. I was so incredibly grateful to have others show up for me that early too. I got it done, with the last of my miles completed on December 23rd, 2021. I felt amazing. That’s how it should be.
So maybe I did something after this that I shouldn’t have. I signed up for 2022. But I’ve decided NOT to train for it. I actually don’t expect to hit 2022 miles this next year. I signed up for it for two reasons. Reason #1 is I really like the RTE Tracker app. It synchs with my Garmin and Strava and you can check out your stats any time. Reason #2 is pretty simple .. I just want to see how many miles I can get in for the year when I’m not actively trying to reach that magic number. Let’s call it research. I have a lot of miles ahead in 2022 and I’m planning to run two marathons. We’ll see where I end up at the end of the year.
Anyone else want to join me? Register here. It’s not too late!!