Occasionally I get it in my head to run every day -- no EVERY DAY -- for a month or so.
The first day of June 2020 arrived with a windy, drizzly morning and punctuated by the news that some, but not very much, of the world was starting to re-open. For myself, the first day of June marked the start of week twelve of working from home in the middle of a global pandemic that shuttered the economy and everyday life. Seventy-seven days have passed since normal was put on hold, and we retreated to our houses to wait out the battle between a killer virus, human immunity, and the hope for modern medicine to find a fix.
The simplest way to explain what happened to my training plan was that my plan did not account for the temporary collapse of society.
It was balanced on a knife-edge of opportunity and motivation.
It was powered by schedules that had been fixed to days that had meaning.
It was moving in lockstep to race countdowns and run club meetups and workdays that ended at four-thirty in the afternoon.
The result was that roughly nine weeks in I found myself out for a run, but lost for any reasonable excuse as to why I could barely complete -- what just a few months previous I would have considered -- a warm-up run. It was a bad day, to boot, which did not help, but buried in the blur of frustration and shame of having lost -- more, sacrificed -- my hard-won fitness to a virus I didn't even have was the notion that there was still a piece of this under my control.
Intense training is never easy, else it would not be labelled so. And running a minimum distance every day -- every -- single -- day -- make no mistake, is most definitely intense training.
Stuck deep within the commitment to put in distance every single waking day is the counter-punch to otherwise lacking motivation. Opportunity is forced to meet a goal. Schedules are managed around the run and it never matters what day it is when every day is run day. It is it's own goal, with it's own driving forces, and the result is time on feet adding up to accumulated training.
The first day of June 2020 arrived and I went for a run on my lunch break. It was sunny, but cool, perfect for a light run. It won't be perfect every day in June, but there will be a run to do.
October 1, 2014
Thirty days of September (plus August 31st, but who’s counting?) comprising a total of 32 consecutive runs. (Oh, because I ran twice one Saturday in the middle there.) The goal was to rebuild my strength. The goal was to buckle down, just get some distance in, even a little bit, every day. And now, as October rolls in, here I am: almost 170 klicks richer for the experience, four races stronger, and thirty-two consecutive runs spanning thirty days more sore.
Did I mention that I’m tired?
The rules were simple: between waking and sleeping get in at least 3 km of running. Every day. No matter what. No excuses.
Admittedly, it was not much. Just a bit. But considering I was coming off a summer of failed training that (just a week prior to starting this effort) had resulted in me literally rolling on the street in pain during a race… three klicks was pretty solid. I never went more than about ten, but I never went less than three.
The result: 168.4 klicks run…. almost precisely four marathons worth of distance.
What did I learn?
1) Some days your body really does need a break.
Did I mention I’m tired? You can look at my log and you can see exactly how I was feeling. There are a couple of days in there when it was every bit of energy I had to lace up and do a meager three-point-four klicks. Just this past Sunday, in fact, following my awesome-sauce mountain race with a personal best 10km time in my back pocket… I dragged myself on a pathetic three klicks around the hotel where we were staying… just to get it done. In retrospect, I should have taken a break. But there was a goal to be met and a plan to be followed and a commitment to be upheld. So you just do it, regret it a bit later, and learn whatever lesson comes along with it.
2) There is rarely a day when a run is impossible.
Get out there. Yeah, you’re busy. Yeah, it’s raining. When you plan to run every day of the month, without exception, you are –I guarantee– going to run up against a scheduling conflict. There was a couple of days last week when I was booked pretty much solid from 6am until 10pm. Karin was out of town and I couldn’t just go out for an hour-long jaunt while leaving Claire asleep in bed. Solution: get up at 5am… and get in my run. Just get it done. There is always an excuse, but when you have a commitment on the line you sometimes need to make the time even when that time doesn’t seem to be there to be made. Now I know that if I need to find the time, yeah it might hurt or suck or leave me trotting around the local park in the pitch black of pre-dawn… but I can find the time.
3) You get back what you put in.
There are lots of ways to measure fitness progress, and I could hold up a couple of progressively better sub-one-hour ten klick race times (this slow-poke has never broken one-hour before!) as clear indicators of that. But I think what triggered in my mind was some data from my watch. My watch estimates VO2 Max… and for the most part I’m just a hair above average. My data has for the last year floated between 44 (in the weak parts of the summer) to a high of 46 back when I was training hard for that half I never ran. Three weeks into this run-every-day effort my watch chimed at the end of a hard run that “A new VO2 max has been detected.” I’d hit 47. Not amazing. But higher than I’d ever measured. Numbers are awesome that way.
4) Races are meant to have finish lines.
My secret confession at the end of all this is admittedly a bit foolish: it’s that my original run-every-day goal didn’t end at the end of September. I’ve never said this aloud or written it before, but part of me wanted to run every day leading into my next race… in January. Part of me wanted to defy whatever odds were stacked against me, defy every notion of reality, ignore the need for rest and recovery, and do what those extreme running plans suggest: run every day until race day. But I’m tired. I hurt. And the value of a day off for recovery become more and more apparent with each passing run. So, as bold as running every day might have been, and as short as those little three klick jaunts were, every race is meant to have a finish line. Mine was September 30th.
What’s next? My official training for the half marathon in January starts after a couple days of rest. Stay tuned!