According to my Nike Plus app, yesterday I ran my 1,000th mile. I want to take a minute and break down some of the different numbers because I think it helps to put my journey into perspective.
These numbers are from the first runs I did with the app back in 2013. Part of the reason why the times are so slow is that I wasn't actually running -- I was running then walking then running then walking. Most of the runs have very low mileage because that was all I was in shape to do. That 7.5 mile "run" was actually a walk I did over several hours when I had a lot on my mind. It's easy to look at these numbers and see how much I was huffing and puffing and note the small distance covered. As someone who is now a more athletic and competitive runner, I have the option to look back at these numbers and feel embarrassed. I don't feel, embarrassed, though. I feel enormously proud. These days, getting out the door to go for a run doesn't require a lot of bravery. I know what to expect, I know my body can handle what I ask of it, and I know I'm going to be fine. Back then, I didn't know any of this. I didn't know if I could run for five straight minutes. I didn't know if I'd have to stop along the way. I didn't know if I'd feel silly dragging my body along the concrete at such a slow pace. I didn't know how to manage my water intake. I didn't know the proper socks to wear on a run. I didn't know how to pace myself. I didn't know if I'd be back tomorrow. I didn't know if I'd make it through. But I started anyway. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that required a lot more courage than any of the runs I do these days.
These numbers are from my most recent runs. I now consistently run about an 8:30 mile -- and I now run the entire time without walking breaks. I also cover significantly more distance. It's rare these days that I'll do a run that's under 4 miles, though occasionally one sneaks in. So here's what I want to say about these numbers versus my 2013 numbers. Is running today easier? Yes. Is running today easy? No. Do all my runs feel great? No. Does every run still challenge me? Yes. Are there times when I think I may not make it through? Not really -- I've trained myself to a place where no matter how difficult the course gets, I know I just need to push through a little longer. Sometimes I trick myself by saying I'll let myself walk as soon as I get to the top of the next big hill -- but once I'm there, I just keep running. I no longer have the desire to walk because I now have a body that's capable of carrying me over long distances in a run. I know I can lose it fast, though. I never skip runs because then I'd feel like every run after that was just me playing catch-up. There have been times when I've scheduled rest in -- like on vacations or the week after the wedding -- and I think these times are necessary to the survival of any runner. In a typical week, though, I run 3-6 days a week. It's just a part of my routine -- something I don't need to think about anymore. And if I do need to think about it, I remind myself why I run in the first place: to clear my head. To find my peace. To challenge my body. To get stronger. To get faster. To improve my times. To feel like I've accomplished something. To get out in nature. To push myself. To say I did it.
These are my personal records to date. If you had told me two years ago that I'd be capable of running a mile in 7:08, I would have applauded your attempt at humor. If you'd told me I'd be running races where I'd be finishing in the top of my age group or gender -- sometimes even finishing FIRST in my age group or gender -- I wouldn't have believed you for a second. But this is what happens when you start something, stick to it, and keep going. I didn't start running out of the gates, as these numbers clearly show. More than that, I didn't start out as a consistent runner -- at all. I ran 51.65 total miles in 2013. I ran 266.19 miles in 2014. So far this year, I've run 690.2. It is not out of the question that I could run 1,000 in a year to come. But I had to have a few slow years building the groundwork before I jumped into things full swing -- I just had to. Otherwise I would have burnt out. I would have quit when things got tough. Now I'm strong enough to handle when things get tough, but only because two years ago I was strong enough to lace up my shoes, walk out the door, and start.