At some point during Christmastime 2020, I was compelled to set a lofty goal for the new year. The compulsion cannot be pinned to a specific source or event of inspiration, but rather a growing tired of sipping on bourbon & ginger ales while watching holiday movies. ‘Elf,’ the 2003 (objective) masterpiece starring Will Ferrell and James Caan, was being projected in my living room while a thought, unrelated to the movie, crossed my mind: do a lot of running in 2021. Get moving.
While mentally crunching the numbers, I told myself that I could run 1,000 miles throughout the course of the year. My body was fairly acclimated for this ambition — or so I thought — for it was accustomed to regular jogging. The math is fair: running approximately 2.74 miles every day for a year would amount to 1,000 miles by year’s end. Still, I thought this goal was a bit too ballsy — so I slashed the goal in half. 500 miles throughout 2021. Walking doesn’t count, nor does the tennis. (Either I’m a masochist or simply too much of a sucker for challenges.) Simple enough, right? Easier on paper, certainly. Life happens. Family comes before anything else. Work is a priority.
2021 feels like the longest short year that ever happened. It zipped by and lagged…at the same time. Before I knew it, October was in view. And then October flew by. (I still have the theme from John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ saved as my ringtone.) Personally, more shocking than the speedy year unfolding: my goal was only halfway complete by November. Reaching for my phone, I skipped between the calendar and calculator apps to see what procrastination looked like in numbers. In order to reach my goal, I was to run anywhere between 4–6 miles every day for two months. Lesson 1: Plan accordingly and don’t cram.
Unlike swimming, running is not easy on the body. It is a rhythmic exercise of high impact that can easily stress bones and joints. Early in the year, I was dealing with an acute pain in my left knee. The stinging would consistently crescendo as I entered mile three. The bones in my ankles would throb and pop in the opening strides; muscles in my torso would ache in these introductory steps. I’d whip myself into a controlled panic, thinking about my achilles tendon in my right foot: “If it hurts now, dummy, imagine mile 5.” The awful thought of this tendon snapping primarily…