Done it! In the month of January I ran 31 runs over 31 days, to a grand total of 111.4 km and I am ridiculously proud of myself. I know, I know – as mentioned before, the goalposts for “average” runner have become more ambitious over the past few years, and for many, 114.km is a casual week of busy-work. Hell, I can even look at my running app right now (I use Nike Running Club, for anyone remotely curious) and see that of the 67,875 people around the world who took part in the monthly “run 100km” challenge, I placed… wait for it… 27,427th.
But having just compared myself to the rest of the world, I’m also aware that comparing yourself is not the point. I’m not a professional athlete, I’m not planning on racing, I’m just trying to stay mentally and physically healthy while having a nice time. My primary goal is to enjoy moving and make it a habit.
Physically, my body has, to my amazement, adapted. There were some really low days in the middle where everything ached and moving for even a mile round the block was like dragging sandbag-thighs. Throw in icy rain and skin-cracking wind, and goodness there were some grim, grey days. But then, towards the end… it felt… better? Even at times, easy? While I’m delighted, doesn’t change the fact that my body is, I suspect, also going to appreciate a few days to chill out, not least as I have an imminent martial arts exam that is likely to leave me bruised all over. But I have learned that I can recover while moving, and can fit in more than one kind of exercise a day. Trying to do my minimal “getting old so it’s necessary” strength work – and how I loathe strength work – on the same days as a run has always been a mental hurdle I’ve been reluctant to leap, and this challenge forced me to do so.
As we get older, it has seems that it can become a habit to assume that we can’t do something new. Even at the lofty age of 36, I can feel creeping upon me the temptation to resist the new, to resist a thing that might make me uncomfortable, or which I feel I will fail at, and to therefore dismiss it without even trying. Neither am I blithely unrealistic in a “if you just believe it, it’ll happen!” way – it is too late for me to become a chess Grandmaster, for example – but I probably could run a marathon if I really worked at it, or do a Mandarin A-Level. I’m just not willing to sacrifice the things in my life that I currently love to achieve these things. The sight of hard bloody work can be as great a barrier to overcome as the work itself.
My base-line assumption has been that I can’t run every day. It is cognitively unsettling, and incredibly nice, to be proven wrong. And even if I hadn’t done it, I am proud of trying. I would like to go through life challenging things I think are true, even if the answer is that I’m pretty pants at this new thing I’ve just tried.