1 year. 900 miles. And the discovery in every stride.
It really couldn’t be more appropriate that — as I put my thoughts and reflections from my #RunFor900 to paper — the forecast for my Sunday sunrise run is showing 17 degrees.
Wind, cold and darkness.
Just shy of 1 year ago, I chronicled the roots of my running addiction — from Couch to 5K, to entertaining the thought of training for my first half marathon, and the emotional moment I hit 13.1 miles for the first time on a training run.
But what I didn’t mention at the time was that I also set a goal of running 900 miles in 2015.
Why 900 instead of 1,000? I was already half way through February when the idea came to me. Not to mention I hadn’t even run 300 miles in a year before.
When I settled on 900, I did so figuring that was going to be about 300 miles beyond my comfort zone.
And so it began. I committed to plowing right through my half marathon training and lacing ’em up 3 to 4 times per week — upping my weekday runs to 4 to 5 miles each, and then ringing in every Sunday with a 9- to 12-mile sunrise trek.
For me, it wasn’t necessarily about losing weight. It was more about the fact genetics aren’t really on my side.
My mom lost her battle with cancer 12 years ago and my dad had major heart bypass surgery around the time I graduated from college. In addition to the fact I want to be around for a long time for my wife and kids, I was also starting to get the itch to run faster. And what better way to get faster than to run more, right?
Funny thing is, running faster wasn’t at all what my #RunFor900 journey ended up being about.
By the time I hit 700 miles, I’d silenced the pace announcements on my running app. I’d gotten faster, but the only reason I was recording the runs was to accurately track my march to 900. Running was no longer something I looked forward to getting done. It was something I wanted to last longer. My heart was in it, so this 41-year-old, flat-footed guy was going to start making stuff happen. It was about achieving balance, rediscovering myself and leaving excuses in the dust.
The bottom line is, everyone is always going to be busy. And there will never be any shortage of excuses.
I’m too old.
It’s raining outside.
It’s windy and cold.
It’s 100 degrees.
I have too much to do.
I can do it tomorrow.
I’ll get hurt.
Blah, blah, blah.
The biggest thing I learned from my #RunFor900 journey is that if we sit around waiting for the perfect day, shit is never going to happen.
All of the excuses are bullshit. There’s ALWAYS time if you want there to be time. We all love to complain and make excuses, because it makes things easier. So we can conserve energy. So we don’t have to face our fears and insecurities. So we can avoid the inconvenience of bringing resolution to something.
For me, running helps kick excuses to the curb. It helps me prioritize family, manage work and everything else, while still carving out time for myself.
I’m not saying there aren’t busy days. All of them are busy. So busy, in fact, that I ran at least 80% of those 900 miles during the dark of night or moments leading up to sunrise.
On weekdays, I almost always wait to run until after work, after cooking dinner, after helping my girls with their homework and after tucking them in for bed. So, basically, I hit the road at 9 p.m. And, while very few things are more exhilarating than running during a Sunday sunrise, I planned it that way so I’d be home in time to cook my family breakfast and leave the entire day open for adventure with them. Again, balance and no excuses. Let’s do this!
And I did. I have trouble finding the words to accurately describe the pride I feel in that. Three pairs of running shoes and my own flat feet carried me 900 miles — roughly the distance from Bentonville, Arkansas straight north to the Canadian border — in one calendar year. Runs in Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois. Several races: 5Ks, an 8K, 10Ks and my first half marathon, street races and a trail race. Tons of late-night solo runs in the dark and long sunrise runs through the countryside, downtown Bentonville and everything in between. Through snow, pouring down rain, wind gusts and 100+ degree heat with humidity you could see suspended in the air.
Even after 900 miles, there are days running still gets the best of me. I’ve come to accept I’m never going to be the fastest person on the planet. In fact, I’m probably never going to come close to the days I’d routinely finish 3rd in sprints at the end of high school football practice (nobody was going to catch Omari Mott or Clayton Ferguson). But I know how to power through the rough spots — and how to embrace the moments of exhilaration and runners high in between.
I’ve proven to myself that I’m alive and I can do things I’ve never done before — like run 900 freaking miles!
I now know what it feels like to get up before the crack of dawn and run from my driveway to downtown Bentonville without stopping … and keep on going, just because I can. I’ve seen so many spectacular sunrise color displays that I now make a point to never take for granted the clouds moving above my head — and all the other details that seem to escape our notice in the hustle and bustle of life. While putting one foot in front of the other, I’ve witnessed foxes, bald eagles, owls, armadillos, coyotes, snakes and more — all doing their thing. I’ve covered and experienced what seems like every street and trail Bentonville has to offer, crossed the historic War Eagle Bridge in the calm of morning and been accompanied by the crashing waves of the gulf coast in Alabama. I even motored up Crystal Bridges Hill a whole bunch of times — by choice.
And, whether the run gets the best of me or I get the best of it, the feeling during and after is like the quote I recently saw: “It’s this little vacation you get to take every day.”
Not a day goes by that I’m not beyond thankful that my wife, Tammy, convinced me to do that Couch to 5K program a few years ago. It has helped me discover a new me. A better me.
This is about more than running. It’s life. So bring on 17 degrees. Let’s do this!