I ran over 500 miles in 2018. 75 of them were in December. Why? Because when I saw how close I was to 500 miles, sometime in early December, I had to go for it.
And then it snowed, and I just don’t run in slush or ice (though I hear it’s a great way to naturally clean your shoes). And I also traveled for work, my schedule not allowing for any runs. So not only were 75 of my miles in December, but 47 of them were in the last 10 days.
While that’s not a lot for some runners out there, it is an awful lot for me, and especially this year, since I didn’t run any races over 6 miles or so. I don’t recommend suddenly going from a 40 to 50 miles per month runner to a 75 miles per month runner, but I have to admit that I’m really proud of myself…not just for making it to 500 miles for the year, but for buckling down in the second half of December to make it happen.
I had a lot of time to think about what I was doing in those final pavement-pounding miles. So here are some lessons I learned:
Procrastination is not your friend when your goal is best achieved through steady progress. I like to believe that if I had set my goal early in the year, I would have hit it much earlier or had been able to maintain progress—instead of spiking my mileage—at the end of the year.
Procrastination is your friend when you need a little bit of motivation, pressure, and self-competition to achieve a goal. The fact that I was close-but-not-too-close to my goal when I checked my mileage in early December ignited some serious initiative.
Some deadlines are arbitrary, but so what? As a Questioner (from Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies), I typically don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because if I want to make a change or achieve a goal, I start immediately and believe January 1st is meaningless. But there was just something about the deadline of December 31st to get all of my miles in. Maybe it’s because others set goals based on the year, including—and perhaps most importantly—the app I use to track my mileage, times, and routes (screenshot above).
Variety is the spice of life. I put strength training on the back burner in order to focus on running and I missed it so much! When reviewing my fitness data for the year, I noticed that I ran a measly three miles in February. Thinking about why that was, I remembered that I was focusing on a workout program that didn’t give me time to run. I was proud of myself for finishing that program too, but any routine that takes away the balance that keeps you motivated needs to be rethought. (This lesson was also learned through route changes, races, mileage variations, and different running buddies.)
A slow mile is still a mile. Some people go fast and some people go slow—and sometimes I went much faster/slower than I did the day prior—but when your goal is the distance and not the speed, it doesn’t matter.
Rest is important. Those last 10 days were brutal, and there were a couple moments where my body was angry and I was ready to throw in the towel. I was worried that if I took a rest day, I wouldn’t be able to handle the make-up miles in the time remaining. But then I took a look at my schedule and saw that I could work in a morning run one day and an evening run the next day, which gave me some semblance of a rest day in between. Allowing myself time to rest (including sleep and ice) is the only way I made it through—and without injuries to boot!
When the going gets tough, it’s easy to talk yourself out of something (and into excuses). A few years ago, I wrote about how I didn’t think to look for shortcuts during a relay until I started getting tired, and I noticed something similar with this challenge. I found myself thinking back to all the runs where I forgot to wear or start my watch and maybe didn’t record any mileage; I thought about all of the walks I took with my husband and my dog and how, if I counted them towards this total, I’d be well above a thousand miles by now and it’d be fine to stop. And while I’m all about flexibility and adjusting goals based on new information and reality, I had to stop myself from being too lenient. I believed I could do it—without all the fine print—so I did!
A beautiful day makes a great motivator. We may have different definitions of what a nice day looks like, but the point is to take real advantage of the days that make your heart sing. We saw a big snowstorm in early December, but the rest of the month was unseasonably warm and I felt foolish being inside. If it was nice enough to be outside, I had to get out there.
Removing obstacles can go a long way. On the flip side of the nice days, 2018 is the Triangle’s wettest year on record, and I can vouch by all of the times I opted to stay inside for a workout instead of go out and run. As a bit of a Christmas gift to ourselves, my husband and I bought a treadmill and I was able to rack up some end-of-year miles on it that made a huge difference in getting to 500. Some friends of mine with similar mileage goals have their gym memberships to thank, too.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, these lessons aren’t just for running 500 miles in a year. In fact, they’re not just for running at all.
I hope you get the chance to take some time to reflect on your year—your goals, accomplishments, and lessons—in order to start 2019 on the right foot. No matter how far your feet take you.