I was an occasional runner as a kid—primarily winter track for a couple of years in high school as the coach also taught some random electives and gave “extra credit” for runners—in addition to pretty regularly playing pickup games of baseball and football, where quickness and hustle were my primary advantages. A few years later, in the Army and then National Guard, running was a thing I did when required, but at no point did I ever consider myself a Runner.
I’m not even sure I recognized it as an identity one might claim if you weren’t an elite professional runner at the Olympics or doing marathons.
Fast forward to 2012 and I purposefully started running again because I thought it’d be fun to do a Tough Mudder with some friends! It absolutely was, and it remains a personal milestone, but Couch-to-Tough Mudder in 10 weeks (or, as I called it back then, Operation: Don’t Die) isn’t necessarily the best way to respond to the mid-life realization that you’re getting older and should be more mindful of your health. Nevertheless, it worked, got me running on a regular basis—Operation: Don’t Die became Mission: Keep Challenging Yourself—and made me realize I actually like running a lot, especially trail running.
Ever since, running has been my preferred form of stress release and 2019 was stressful af—for both personal and more general “the world is going to shit” reasons—and, from a running perspective, the most productive, as I set PRs for annual (563) and trail (65) mileage. I even ran my first half marathon since New Year’s Eve 2016 when I needed 13 miles to hit 500 for the year and manufactured a local course!
2019 got off to a good start thanks to the Winter Dozen Challenge which ultimately forced me to get outside 6 days in a row the final week of January because I’d slacked off most of the month, launching me through the winter and the rest of the year with a consistency I usually don’t have until mid-March or April. I ran only two of my regular races the first half of the year as my focus was mainly on consistent mileage, until I decided to sign up for the Halloween Half in Morristown with only 10 weeks to prepare for it.
Thanks to Garmin’s Half-Marathon Training Plan (with Greg McMillan), I ran three times/week, including stride repeats and progression runs for the first time, and slowly learned to manage my pace, also for the first time. Those 10 weeks of “formal” training were the most mileage, most varied, and most consistent pacing I’d ever done, and I managed to finish the Half in under two hours (1:57)—in pouring rain for the duration—which technically wasn’t a PR but it definitely felt like one.
RUNNING INTO 2020
I turned 50 last August and my knees started to bother me for the first time ever towards the end of the year, so I finally discovered the related benefits of knee sleeves, foam rolling, ice baths, and moderation—easing up on both mileage and frequency after the Half—so I’m now prepared to tackle another Winter Dozen Challenge this month.
I don’t have any specific running goals for this year beyond continuing to enjoy Mission: Keep Challenging Yourself (and avoiding injuries), which means I probably need to be more consistent with cross-training than I was in 2019. We moved to another part of our town over the summer so I also have some new, less hilly routes to explore after 7+ years on increasingly too-familiar roads. I don’t anticipate beating my new annual mileage PR as I’m not planning on doing another Half—but I wouldn’t mind spending more time and miles on trails this year, including possibly revisiting a Tough Mudder or Spartan race.
Mostly, I’m grateful that I’m still able to run at all because nothing else comes close for clearing my head, sorting my thoughts, and avoiding disappearing into the couch and Destiny 2’s loot grind forever, especially since 2020 is likely to be an even more stressful year than 2019, on every front.
Shout-outs to a few of my favorite running things (no affiliate links, just things that make running more enjoyable for me):
- Brooks Ghost 12 and Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 for comfort, durability, and good looks
- Garmin Forerunner 645 for feeding my obsession with data
- Strava for also feeding my obsession with data, plus a great community
- Jen Miller for her excellent weekly running newsletter that’s always interesting and inspiring