In a few days, I will begin my ninth consecutive month of running. I committed to running a minimum of 15 minutes per day, every day for the year 2016. In order to understand the “why” behind this madness, I can explain the place I was in when I made this commitment. At the time, I was working a 40 hr/week job in a cubicle, talking on the phone all day. In January of 2015 I weighed in around 205 lbs, the heaviest I had ever been. If you rewind a few years, while in grad school, I had learned that when one experiences a change of career, change of location, change of relationship status, and/or a birth and/or death in the family, it places that person into a high risk/high stress situation until corrective measures are taken and stress levels reduce. I had experienced every one of those in the couple years prior to making my commitment to running every day. I was searching for a ritual that was healthy, sustainable, personal, and achievable. Running 15 minutes a day sounded like the right choice for me. It would give me some much-needed activity, it would allow me some time alone, and it would anchor me in a physical activity that would require me to make decisions that support that commitment.
I have certainly learned a lot about myself in 9 months, but the greater lessons I have taken from this involve managing my expectation, my experience, and how I can process the results of what is happening in my body, mind, and emotions. The truly great revelation that I have taken from this practice, so far, has been the fact that every day can’t be a good day. There’s a lot of room for the interpretation of good, I’m using it here in the sense of saying “I finished that run, I accomplished what I wanted, and I feel good”. There are a lot of days that getting out the door and running – no matter the pace, miles, or feelings – is the best I can muster for the day and that’s a victory. Of course, everyone wants to breathe fire every day, but that’s just not possible. Especially as I still make my way on the comeback trail, there are down days physically, mentally and emotionally (I was almost in tears as I tied my shoes to run yesterday), but there are also days that are great. It’s easy to be inspired on the good days; it’s easy to be excited about the next run when you just smashed a big run and it’s easy to get out there when it’s 70 degrees and low humidity (it never is 70 degrees AND low humidity around here). It’s my commitment that fuels me on crappy days. It’s my desire to be better that fuels me after I tanked a run.
Commitment and desire are intangibles, what about when you are physically destroyed? Running through the heat of summer, training heavy weights 3 days a week during base phase, running when you’re in the middle of moving all leave you physically depleted and stressed. This requires a tremendous amount of mindfulness and humility. Knowing that no matter what happens, you will be running at least 15 minutes sometimes means you have to dial back your strength-training for the day, spend extra time warming up/cooling down afterwards, or simply taking the hit to your pride and saying “I can’t do more today”. Running 366 (it’s a leap year) days in a row isn’t my only goal, so I must strike a balance in order to complete both. I don’t just want to run, I want to run fast. At the same time, when bad days happen, or bad weeks, rather than write them off as bad and move on, I can learn to accept that even a small and slow step forward is getting me closer to my goals.