We runners love to set goals. Drop a few pounds; shave a few minutes off a PR, improve our finishing kick. We set expectations, and then we go out and exceed them. Except for those rare occasions when we don’t.
A couple of years ago, I decided to run 4000 kilometres. Why 4000? I’m not sure. It felt like a big, braggable number. And it was just slightly beyond my comfort zone. Previously, the most I’d ever run in a year was 3500 kilometres.
A few facts about running 4000 kilometres:
In order to cover 4000 kilometres in a year, you must run 11k each and every day.
If you take a day off, you’ll need to run 22k on some subsequent day to make it up.
If you get sick, and miss a week of running, you’re on the hook for eighty clicks.
It quickly became clear that my whimsical little goal would require some careful planning. I’d need to pay attention to diet, sleep, hydration, injury prevention, stretching, recovery, supplements, etc. In short, I would need to become the most BORING person on the face of the planet.
I’m sorry to report, that’s exactly what happened.
I suffered injuries, I got sick, and I spent the entire year obsessively totaling my mileage. As the months went by, I became more and more depressed. I didn’t understand what was happening to me at the time, but I do now. I spent the whole year staring at the odometer instead of the gorgeous scenery I was running past.
“You used to be a peddler of joy,” Shawna said towards the end of the year. “But you’ve turned into a fun vacuum.”
On the last day of the year, December 31st, I was 6 kilometer shy of my goal. I’d run 3994 kilometers in 364 days. In the month of December alone, I’d run 600 kilometers.
It was a sunny and dry day, and there was no physical reason why I shouldn’t have pulled on my gear and dashed off the final 6 km to meet my goal.
And yet, I didn’t.
Years before, at a marathon, I’d seen a man cross the finish line, check his watch, and then yell – at the top of his lungs – the raunchiest swear word known to humankind. You know the one. I pledged then and there that I would never become that guy; I would never put goals and numbers ahead of my love of the sport.
It was a tough decision to make, and I felt conflicted about it. But later that night I went to a New Year’s party. 10 p.m. came and went, and not only was I still conscious; I was laughing and telling stories, and actually having fun for a change! I was so bubbly, so full of spunk; I didn’t know what to make of myself.
“I can’t believe I’m awake,” I said to Shawna.
“Welcome back to the world,” she replied.