You should try runningDecember 31, 2023
'Tis the season for resolutions, and I have a suggestion: you should try running.
My wife and I just did our yearly planning for 2024. I was reflecting on my year, and realized that, past not drinking, the most impactful thing in my year was running.
How was it impactful? Well for starters, I ran over 500 miles this year. At an average pace of 10 minutes per mile, that's over 80 hours of my life: 2 whole work weeks. That's a lot of time to think. And I didn't even run that much until July!
I picked up running a few years ago to deal with anxiety, but have never taken it seriously. I've done a few 5K races, and mostly hovered around 1-5 mile runs whenever I felt like it. But this year, I was feeling a lack of accomplishment one does in their early 30s. For some reason, I decided this would be rectified with marathon. I read some blog posts and cooked up a plan.
There is a deceiving simplicity to running. There's nothing to it - just put your shoes on and go. And yet, it's one of the most difficult things to do.
Running is a battle. Obviously, it's a battle with your own body. But it's also a battle with your own mind. It's a battle with the elements. It's a battle with time.
Lots of people talk about shoes, lactic thresholds, and V02 Max... but in my opinion, the mind is the only interesting part. Not only do you have to convince yourself to get out the door, but you have to convince yourself to keep going. You have a lot of time to realize how much you don't want to be running, and think of better things to be doing with your time. You need a why.
I used to hate running. I was the kid who would walk the mile in gym class. That might have been because of my baggy ass jeans and skate shoes, but really I just didn't have a why (I would have rather been playing Neopets).
What changed? I found a why - a few in fact!
- Anxiety. I started running primarily to help with anxiety. It worked, and continues to. I don't understand the science. It just works. It's the reason I'm writing this: if one person reading this has difficulty with anxiety and decides to try running, I will be happy.
- Ideas. 99% of the miles I've ever run were without a watch, let alone headphones. It's my time to think. Sometimes, it's my time to avoid thinking. All that matters is the next stride, or getting to the next tree. And in the noise or vaccuum is where my best thoughts have come from this year. If I'm working on a coding problem I can't figure out, I know I just have to be patient until about mile 3. Every leap in my business is rooted in a run idea. I can't overstate this effect - I count this channel of inspiration as my biggest continuing advantage in life.
- Health. This one is obvious, but still has to go on the list. Since taking running seriously, I've lost over 20lbs, feel better, look better, and can sprint back to the car when I forgot something without breaking a sweat. The calorie affordance after long runs is a perk too - guilt free donuts!
- Confidence. Choosing to do something difficult, figuring out how to do it, and then executing on your plan is a great way to build confidence. This is subtle at first but grows. In my long runs, I realized I had a negative self image for years. I was always the slowest kid in gym class, and I always told myself I couldn't run. I was wrong. I can run. I can do anything I set my mind to.
- Momentum. When you start your day with a run, you've already done something difficult. The rest of the day looks a little easier. And with confidence, health, ideas, and anxiety in check, you can accomplish anything.
- Goalposts. I missed 4 hours on my marathon by 6 minutes. I'm going to get it next time. It's arbitrary, but it's something to work towards even when nothing else is going on. Nihilism is difficult when you have a goal.
- Community. I've met some great people through running. It's a great way to meet people, and you can do it anywhere. I specifically want to thank my sister Daphne for encouraging me in my first race (pictured above), and the guys I met while running my first marathon - we helped each other accomplish something.
- Fun. Running is fun. It's a great way to explore a new city, or your own. It's a great excuse to see the sunrise, or the Chicago waterfront. I love watching the seasons change. Fun is Good.
I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a coach. I'm just a dude who likes to run. If you're looking for a why, I hope this helps. If you're looking for a how, here's what I did:
- Put your shoes on
- Go outside