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A year on the run…literally

As I discussed in my first—and last—marathon completed post, I set a fairly outrageous goal way back in January: I decided I’d walk or run 2,016 miles in 2016. If you do the math on that, it means averaging 5.5 miles a day—for all 366 days in the year. I set this goal despite running probably no more than five miles in all of 2015. In my old "real world" job, my boss would call that a BHAG.

But as of yesterday, I have—amazingly to me—reached my goal, a full two weeks before year end. 2,016.74 miles in 352 days, or an average of 5.73 miles per day. (That'd be if I ran every day, which I didn't. More on that later.) After looking at this graph all year, it was incredibly satisfying to see it cross the goal line, even if by just a smidge—though there are two weeks left in the year.

I honestly can't believe I did it; it seems like a ridiculous amount of running to do in one year, unless you're a world-class marathoner, which I am definitely not.

If you'd like to see all sorts of geeky stats about a year's worth of running, as well as some of my thoughts on the experience, keep reading…

The statistics

I used a spreadsheet to track my running through the year. It's a fairly simple thing in some respects (one tab for each month of the year, a summary tab, and the graph), but it allowed me to track my progress against the goal on a daily basis.

Each day I ran, I'd record the mileage, my approximate pace, whether I ran inside or outside, what I watched (if I was running on the treadmill), what shoes I was wearing, and notes if anything seemed worth recording for posterity. My target for each month was simply 5.5 miles times the number of days in the month. My summary worksheet then totaled each month's data, and added everything up to show overall progress:

Looking back from today (353 days gone), here's how my running year broke down:

  • 353: days in the year so far
  • 37: sick or hurt days
  • 4: travel days
  • 312: Net "runnable days" in the year so far

The sick/hurt day count seems high, and you might believe it's related to all the running I was doing. However, of the 37 days, 17 of them were due to an eye injury where I was asked not to run. I lost five more days when I cut my toe doing stupid stuff in the yard, and seven more when I injured a rib wakeboarding. Only five days—I hurt my left foot during a run—were directly related to my running activity. That leaves three days where I was too sick to run.

Of the 312 remaining days, I ran on 258 of them, or 83% (73% of all the days). On days that I ran, I ran over 10K (6.2 miles) 85% of the time. In summary, my 2,016.7 miles to date were done at an average of 7.82 miles per running day. Here's a look at the full year to date (353 days).

Distance# of Days% of Days
Didn't run9426.7%
.1km to < 5km154.3%
5km to < 10km246.8%
10km to < 15km16446.6%
15km to < 20km3610.2%
20km to < 25km144.0%
25km to < 30km20.6%
30km to < 35km10.3%
35km to < 40km00.0%
40km and up20.6%

Most days, I ran at least a 10K (85% of all days I ran were at least 10K); I really like the 10K distance, as it's long enough to get a workout, but not so long as to take up a huge chunk of the day.

One of the most critical aspects of my success was our treadmill: Without it, I doubt I would have hit the goal. Treadmill running is not my favorite—by far—but it does get rid of a number of excuses. "The weather's too crappy to run" … "I have to stay home and watch the kids" … "I'm expecting a package delivery" … "It's dark outside" … etc.

All of these excuses are addressed by the treadmill. For me, it was great because I did a fair bit of running at night, and a fair bit during pretty ugly outdoor weather. It's also much easier to dress for a treadmill run—no guessing as to what the weather's going to be like.

Of my 2,016 miles, nearly 75% (1,595) were done on the treadmill. I would have liked to been outside more, hopefully closer to 50/50, but it just didn't happen. As a result, I got very familiar with this view…

I took that photo last night, just after crossing the goal line…no bonus points for correctly guessing that the movie is The Martian. And speaking of movies (and TV), that many miles on a treadmill gives lots of time to watch stuff.

And watch stuff I did. All of Friends. All of Sports Night. Several Apple keynote events. The Tesla Model 3 launch event. The old HBO series From the Earth to the Moon. Movies galore, including the complete series of Lord of the Rings (3), Harry Potter (8), and The Matrix (3). And a whole slew of individual movies…The Force Awakens, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, Money Ball, Rush…about 30 in all. I also watched some NFL games and some World Series games. Overall, I'd guesstimate I watched about 245 hours of video during my indoor run time.

The experience

This was incredibly hard. Damn hard. Physically hard, of course, but also mentally hard in terms of staying focused on the long term goal. It seemed so easy to take a day off here and there…but whenever I did, I knew I'd have to make up 5.5 miles. Two days off? 11 miles behind! That wears on your mind, day after day.

Schedules could also lead to tough days; there were many times I'd do a long treadmill run late in the evening, only to wake up knowing that the only time I had to run that day was early in the morning. Some runs came after five hours of driving, which is never pleasant. Other days I didn't start running until 9:30pm or later.

The exertion part of the running was quite bad at first. I was so far out of shape that it was all I could do to walk four miles at a moderate pace. I was impressed, though, with how quickly things changed.

As seen in the image at right (click for the full-month view), I started off with a four-mile walk at 4mph. The first couple days were hour-long sessions, then I added more time to increase the mileage, but still at 4mph. By the end of the month, my pace was up to 5.5mph. This is still incredibly slow (around an 11 minute mile), but was a 37% improvement over the start of the month. And most importantly, I could easily maintain that pace without feeling winded the whole time.

My pace continued to improve through spring and summer, settling in around an 8:15 pace for a 10 mile run. Not speedy by any stretch, but more than fast enough for me.

So what's next?

Not "2,017 in 2017," I can say that with certainty! I'll keep running; I've already committed to the Portland half marathon next October. But no more full marathons, and no more ridiculously long runs—my days of 20 milers are done.

My plan is to do a few 10K runs each week, with a longer run on the weekend, so that I end up running four days most weeks. I expect I'll run between 1,000 and 1,500 miles in 2017, depending on how my schedule works out. And that's fine with me, and fine for my shoe budget.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go for a run…no, seriously.