THOUGHTS ON AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM RUNNING EVERY DAY FOR TWELVE MONTHS. A FRIEND AND I DID THIS IN 2011; IT STARTED A VERY MINOR MOVEMENT. -JRS
A winter evening, early December, 2010. While walking to meet some friends at a bar, an idea came to me: What if you were to run every day for an entire year?
At first, the notion was a little esoteric. What it would be like, I thought, to run in the same space—in this case, the park near my apartment—for twelve months, experiencing the minute, day-to-day changes, the lurch and shift of nature along the spectrum of the seasons?
Matters more pragmatic quickly came to mind. How would you pull it off, logistically speaking? You’d need to avoid injury and over-training. The weather would often be awful. And then there’s work, socializing, sleep, hobbies, life.
The solution: Establish a simple, feasible daily routine, a run that you could fit in, no matter how busy you were. Fifteen minutes, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. 15X365.
Excited about the concept, I thought of the one person who might join me, someone as determined and dedicated (read: foolish and stubborn) as I, someone—it just so happened—who was among the friends I was about to meet at the bar: Robert. J. Brockie, fellow ex-pat Newfoundlander and Montreal transplant.
As expected, he was game in about five minutes. We hashed the idea out over beers that night and on a number of nights to follow.
15X365 was on.
And so, we ran. We ran in the blowing snow, in blistering cold, in battering rain, in broiling heat. We ran early in the morning and late at night. Before work, after work, on vacation. We ran through illness, through injury—we even ran through a temporary fall-out in our friendship (which was, I admit, completely my fault).
We ran drunk. Yes, drunk—which, in case you were wondering, were the worst runs of all. By a long-shot.
We also ran—and I hate to state this—while tending a fairly regular smoking habit, in my case about a pack a day. (I know, I know. We’ve both since quit.)
But we did it. Every day. And on New Year’s Eve of 2011, we did the final, three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth run. Together.
Running every day for twelve months, you’re bound to learn a few things. Apart from the obvious (don’t drink and run, don’t smoke), two main ideas come to mind, and they happen to apply to areas of life other than running:
I. Motivation ≠ Desire
People mix these up all the time. Sure, sometimes exercise (or learning a new skill, or writing, or building a business) can be fun. Thrilling, even. But, let’s face it: Often, it just plain sucks. And you don’t have a lot of free time. And work has been draining lately. And the new season of whatever show you’re into just came out.
In my case, I can say with one-hundred percent certainty that, in years of running, I have never experienced anything resembling a “runner’s high”. Point is, I like running, but I don’t love it.
That said, I do love the feeling of having run, that sensation of getting it over with, of coming home, and kicking off your shoes. That awareness of having accomplished something that can float you through the rest of your day.
And that’s the point: Don’t fixate on wanting to run. You don’t have to like it. Instead, focus on wanting to get it over with. Remind yourself that you will not regret it, and that, if you put in the effort, you get the reward.
Momentum, not motivation. Get up in the morning, put on your running clothes, lace up your running shoes, open the door, and step outside. There. The hardest part is over.
II. Force of habit
The true success of 15X365 comes from forming a habit. Given that much of our behaviour is governed by habit, learning to install a new one it can be a powerful tool.
How? Start small. Create a manageable assignment—literally low-ball it (e.g. fifteen minutes). Do the thing, and then repeat the thing, and then repeat the thing, and then, before long, you won’t have to think about it. You’ll get up, put on your running clothes, lace up your running shoes, open the door, and step outside.
Same applies elsewhere. For example, I’ve had equal success with writing, working up to a quota of two pages per day. Started with maybe a paragraph every morning, than gradually, incrementally worked my way up to five-hundred words or so. It adds up.
This also works for undoing negative habits (e.g. smoking); actively replace the habit with another, positive (or at least less negative) one.
I haven’t run much since that year. Recently, I’ve started doing very short, very light runs, four or five mornings a week, throwing in a longer one here and there. I prefer other forms of exercise, lifting weights, marital arts. But all in all, the experience of 15X365 was awesome, and I take pride: we said it, we did it.