Two-hundred and fifty-nine days ago I began my 1,000 Mile Challenge. Yesterday I completed it.
I learned about the 1,000 Mile Challenge last February while simultaneously recovering from a knee injury and training for the Gettysburg Marathon in April. The goal was to run 1,000 miles (1600 km) in 365 days, and I could choose any start date I wanted. The math revealed that I would need to run just under 20 miles (32 km) per week to achieve this feat. It seemed pretty daunting at first. That would be like running a 5k every day for a year! My marathon training would require much more of me than the 30 Day Challenge would, at least up until race day, so I could probably put some distance in the bank leading up to then. I decided to go for it. Even after the marathon, the summer months would provide an excess of suitable running days. What did I have to lose?
The website for the challenge gave some stats as I progressed toward the goal, but overall it could stand to have a UX designer give it an overhaul. As a result I put together my own spreadsheet to track my runs and perform some more advanced calculations such as estimated completion dates and required distances per week to meet the goal. These numbers not only helped keep me on track, but also provided a little extra motivation when I was getting down on a week. Eventually I decided to try and finish before Daylight Saving Time ended on November 5. As long as I kept my average distance over 26 miles (41.6 km) per week for the last two months, I should be able to hit that mark. I did, with a week to spare.
The final 29 days of the 1,000 Mile Challenge overlapped with my 30 Day Challenge to run every day, which I am on the verge of completing. These two challenges drastically altered the picture of my life with running. Even before I decided to attempt the 30 Day Challenge, I was in a good relationship with running. I feel like a big shift occurred after the Gettysburg marathon. Somewhere along the course of my training I found a new peace in running; a new appreciation for it. I was running 4 or 5 times each week on my own accord. The weight I lost training for the marathon stayed off, and even continued to drop throughout the summer. I felt calmer and more relaxed. When I entered the 30 Day Challenge on October 1, I was more afraid of becoming too bored my current route options, seconded only by a fear of any icy days that might lie ahead. While the previous months had strengthened my body, October strengthened my mind. It’s strange to think of a day without running now. It’s become a part of my daily routine, and I really enjoy that.
As running crept into me over the last year, I learned much more than I thought I would about its history — our history — and the physiology of running. For example, there is ample evidence to suggest that human beings evolved as long distance runners in order to hunt prey. We weren’t as quick off the line as a gazelle, but we could run it to exhaustion. So I should rebuke myself for all the times I called those ultra runners crazy. It turns out they are simply naturalists.
There have also been studies, recently, that show a correlation between running and the increased formation of new memory cells in the brain. For someone whose family has a history of Alzheimer’s disease, this alone is enough of a reason to keep running. When you dig into the research, the studies implying the health benefits associated with running appear to be growing at a rapid rate as well. From lowered risk of heart disease to improved self control, running and exercise are at the core of it all.
With the challenges now effectively over, what’s next for me? Will I be able to keep up the motivation to run as frequently? I could start a new 1,000 Mile Challenge, or I could wait to see how many miles I can log between now and my anniversary date on February 14. There are a number of options, but at the moment I’m leaning towards a little break. With the holiday season coming up, I’m sure I can find plenty of reasons to pop out for a run without the need of an arbitrary goal looming over my head. Be that as it may, there is still much to learn, I will continue to post my updates as I do.
For those who are wondering, here are my final numbers:
- Total days spent on the challenge: 258 (107 days early)
- Total runs to complete the challenge: 157
- Average distance per run: 6.41 mi (10.32 km)
- Average distance per week: 27.19 mi (43.78 km)