Just a little less than two years ago I ran my first 5k, the Monster Dash 5k, in downtown Atlanta. Prior to this first 5k I was a complete couch potato heavily invested in a sedentary, slothful lifestyle. I was overweight (as high as 365 at one point) and so out of shape, walking to my mail box was an heart attack inducing exercise (I document and summarize here). Last year was my first full year as an athlete, mostly focusing on triathlons and running races. In that year I completed numerous 5ks, 10ks and flirted with some other distances. By the end of last year I finished my first double digit mile run, followed two weeks later by my first half marathon. At the end of the year I had amassed a whopping 307 miles of running with an average running mileage hovering close to ten miles a week.
This year I was unsure what direction I wanted to head. I set triathlon goals to complete longer distance races and I became determined to run more half marathon distance road races. I was unsure what I wanted to achieve as my late season or fall goals so I set my goals wide. I figured running wise I would aim for about 800 miles of running for the year, a pretty big goal considering I ran only 307 miles the year before. I realized with rest and racing mixed in I needed a serious plan and if I was to push for something big at the end of the year I was going to need to slowly start bumping my mileage into the twenties and low thirties. I figured this would provide a solid base to build a marathon plan off of in a couple of months if I decided to go that route.
In February I decided to try the one thing I was certain to hate, trail running. I was afraid of the sheer size and volume of hills, the massive possibility of injury due to shifting rocks, sliding mud or any number of things. What I instead uncovered proved to change my outlook on the rest of my second year as an athlete… I loved trail running and began to embrace it, as summer moved on I found myself trail running as much as possible, often times choosing trails over roads.
As summer pushed on I committed myself to my big end of year challenge and goal: a 50k trail race, an ultra marathon. With this challenge accepted I once again changed my running goals. By this time, my weekly running mileage often fell in-between twenty five to thirty five miles a week. Ultra training would require closer to fifty with long runs on Saturdays hovering between eighteen and twenty four miles with a Sunday chaser run of five to ten miles. I tried to put this mileage in on trails when possible. My first couple of greater than eighteen mile long runs had me dead to the world with muscle soreness that was so bad I just wanted to lie down and die if my quads and hamstrings would stop cramping. I pushed on and found with every weekend long run and following day slow run I was getting stronger and stronger. Eighteen to twenty four miles no longer felt so daunting, they were challenging but doable and often fun.
Each week of training I saw my total mileage climb steadily upward til I hit 800 miles in the middle of August. Suddenly I knew I would have 1000 miles for the year and I knew I would have it probably before I began tapering for the killer trail marathon I committed myself to in the middle of October. This weekend I ran a difficult trail 25 mile run on Saturday (actually a new max distance for me) and a fun run with friends on Sunday to push me past the 1000 mile mark and beyond for the first time. As the mileage ticked past the 1000 mark I got a bit emotional reflecting on the journey and how I got to this point. I ran three more miles because my training plan called for them. While the event was special and important to me, I realized that to everyone else it was a high five, a congratulatory word but not much of a celebration, they have little investment in this journey I was on, it is a trip for one. It was a harsh reminder that I run for myself and to achieve my own set of goals, and in the end I am the only person I need to please. It was time to file this away as a personal victory and move on, time to think of what is next.
In one year I went from barely able to run a half marathon with 307 running miles in a year to 1000 miles and beyond and able to run distances well past twenty miles with quick recovery to run the following day and be able to walk reasonably normal the days following. In one year I have now achieved both my ‘A’ and ‘B’ distance goals for the year. I did not figure I would get to this point so soon and currently I do not have another mileage goal. I know though for the next several months I have a strict plan I have to follow to get me to my first trail marathon, Ragnar Tennessee and 50k races. Til next time.