What I Learned From Running 1,000 Miles in a Year

Above all else, achieving this goal required consistency.

Benya Clark
Nov 28, 2020 · 5 min read
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Photo by Laurine Bailly on Unsplash

Today, I achieved a goal I had been steadily working on since January: running 1,000 miles in a single calendar year.

Although I’ve been running on-and-off for years, I was never good at staying consistent with it. I would often run 20 or 30 miles a week for a few months, only to go the next few months without a single run at all. My long-term running progress wasn’t great because I was so frequently starting over.

This year, I made a commitment to stick with running no matter what. Since the beginning of the year, I haven’t gone a single week without at least one run.

This consistency has been the key in hitting 1,000 miles in a year. I didn’t reach my goal through long ultramarathons or high-volume weeks. I got there gradually through a steady running habit.

My main focus was avoiding going even one week without a run. Early in the summer, I lightly strained my hamstring, which threatened to interrupt my newfound consistency. I considered putting running on hold completely, but worried I’d end up falling back into my old off-and-on patterns.

To make sure I didn’t break my habit, I went on a single, very slow run each week until my leg recovered. These were great as a psychological tool to keep me committed to my goal, even if they didn’t have any major effect on my fitness.

Another difficult period was the middle of summer. I live in North Carolina, where burning hot summer days are the norm. I had to adjust to running in the evening, and even then I had to slow down and cut back on miles. Through this, I again focused on maintaining my running habit, even if I wasn’t setting any personal records.

Although I ran every week, the flip side of this was that I never pushed myself so hard that I burned out. Despite running so many miles over the course of the year, the most I ever ran in a single day was 14 miles, and the most I ran in a single week was 40. It didn’t take huge efforts to hit my goal, just a ton of easy runs.

Breaking Down the Numbers

I love looking at the numbers behind my running, and thanks to tracking all of my runs on my GPS watch, I can easily see exactly how long my goal took:

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The author’s running stats for 2020. Via Strava.

Running 1,000 miles took me 209 runs spanning 154 hours and 20 minutes. That sounds like a lot of time on my feet, but it doesn’t actually divide out to too much per week.

On average, I ran 4 or 5 times per week and spent about 3 hours and 15 minutes running. That would have sounded like a lot when I was first starting out, but it isn’t so much that it’s disrupting my week or distracting me from other interests.

My average speed was around 9:16 minutes per mile, which is at the faster end of what I’d consider an easy run. My runs varied a lot in speed, however, and I slowed down considerably during the summer.

Did I Get Any Faster?

One of my main motivations behind the 1,000-mile goal was to improve my top running speed. It worked!

This year, I set new personal bests at every single distance I’ve ever run. Most notably, I brought my 5k time from 24:40 to 22:26 and my half marathon time from about 2:15:30 to 1:58:58. My one-mile time went from over 7 minutes to just 6:38.

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The author’s estimated best efforts as of November 2020. Via Strava.

All of these bests happened during the first half of the year. Once July hit, the North Carolina heat was just too much to be setting records. Where I live, the temperature often reaches the high-90s (Fahrenheit). The humidity is also miserable here in the South — sometimes I can’t tell whether I’m running or swimming.

Despite the awful weather, I attempted to set a few personal bests this summer. Unsurprisingly though, I never quite succeeded. My best record in the heat was a 5k in about 23 minutes during temperatures in the 80s.

The weather finally cooled down here just a couple of weeks ago. I think at this point, most of my records from the spring are probably soft and will be easy for me to beat. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do this December.

Advice and Future Goals

Although 1,000 miles sounds like a lot, it actually felt completely manageable when broken down week by week. On average, it takes just under 20 miles per week to reach this goal in one year. These aren’t total beginner numbers, but they aren’t elite either.

I think 1,000 miles in a year is a reasonable goal for the vast majority of runners. The key is to start right from the beginning of the year and maintain consistency no matter what. It wasn’t marathons that got me to this goal, it was just a ton of mid-length, easy running.

I reached my goal a month early, and I expect to hit around 1,100 miles by the end of the year. Next year, my goal is to increase my mileage even further. I think 1,500 would be a tricky, but reachable goal for me.

If you’ve never run 1,000 miles in a year, I’d highly recommend giving it a shot. It feels absolutely incredible to achieve.

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Benya Clark

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

Benya Clark

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

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