Last Sunday I did a 9 mile trail run. That run represented my 365th consecutive day of running. I started on June 10, 2012 running 5 miles on a beach in Jamaica and finished on June 9, 2013 with this run through the woods of the South Mountain Reservation in New Jersey. During the year I ran a marathon, three half-marathons, and a bunch of shorter road races. I ran through marathon recovery, two strained hamstrings from playing Ultimate Frisbee, and seven weeks of plantar fasciitis. I found accomplishing the streak to be a worthy and worthwhile endeavor.
So what life lessons can I draw from such an exercise? I share my reflections below and follow each with a question for readers.
Our Limits are in Our Heads
During the years prior to this year-long streak I had some steaks of 50 or 60 days. From that perspective, 365 days was hard for me to imagine. During my streak, other runners would tell me they couldn’t imagine being able to compile such a streak. Yet from this end of the streak, when it came down to it, the streak consisted of 365 streaks of one day in a row of running. Sure, there were days when getting the run in was more complicated than others (e.g., when travelling), but when it came down to it, the streak required no additional strength, no additional talent, and no additional work—just deciding to run every day.
So, what are the things in your life that you have deemed impossible that when more deeply considered are eminently doable?
Rest is Relative
When people heard about the streak they often asked, “Don’t you need to rest?” For me rest became relative. I ran about 2550 miles during the year. That is an average of 7 miles a day, so for me a 2-3 mile run became my rest day. The reduction in length and intensity gave my body an opportunity to recuperate from my much longer runs.
So, what are the things in your life that a change in intensity—rather than “resting”—can bring about rejuvenation or reinvigoration?
The Streak was my Companion and Motivator
Most mornings having one of my running buddies, Bill Haskins, come by my house at 5:20 a.m. was a powerful motivator to make sure I was out of bed, stretched, and out the door. However, during the past year when he wasn’t there, the streak served to get me out of bed on those early (or cold, or rainy) mornings when I might have preferred to stay in bed.
So, how can you build such supportive, non-human “companions” into your life?
Running Became Habitual
As the streak grew there were actually very few mornings when I needed something else to get me out of bed. Running had become something I did EVERY morning. Not some mornings, not most mornings, I did it EVERY morning. It was a habit and habits do not require external motivation or active internal motivation to generate action. That’s the definition of a habit. When I was a full-time professor I wrote virtually every day; it became habitual. Not writing became the unusual event.
So, what positive habits can you build into your life by doing the thing every day?
Please let me know your reactions to my reflections or the answers to any of the questions.