Learning to Stop Chasing the Miles I Haven’t Run

At the top of 2015, I set the goal of running 1,200 miles in 12 months. I’m not going to make it. As of this writing, I’ve run 1,100.993 miles. It’s conceivable that I run just under four marathons in as many days, and it’s not likely.

It took me a minute to get comfortable with this. At the beginning of December, I had 207 miles to go, and I did the math. Twenty-one runs of 10 miles in one month? Sure!

Except – running isn’t all I do. Enter those character-building life lessons my mom has always been such a fan of. Up until about a week ago, my focus was on all the miles I haven’t run this year. They were all I could see. 

Focusing on all the miles I haven’t run would mean fatigue, injury, missed time with friends and family.

Those miles began to take the joy out of running. Every run was a task to complete, ticking away at the miles still out there waiting for feet on pavement. I’ve already run five times as many miles as I did in 2014. In the past thirty days, I’ve run 88 miles farther than the average for men 30-39. I feel better about my health and fitness than I have since my first few years as a runner. I haven’t been able to appreciate it until now, and if I were to hit 1,200, I probably wouldn’t be any see past 1,200.

This is what I’ve learned from running in 2015. As much as moving toward those 1,200 miles has pulled me into or out of bed early because, “I’ve gotta long run in the morning,” missing the goal has made me see the need to let go of some things to get to others. In November, when work had me reading, re-reading, and reading again to edit the National Ed Tech Plan and October’s marathon had brought a tendon strain to my foot, my mileage fell to 25 miles. That, as it turned out, was what I was mentally and physically capable of, and running forced me to find a way to be okay with that.

Slavishly working toward my goal in these last few days of 2015 could get me there. Focusing on all the miles I haven’t run would mean fatigue, injury, missed time with friends and family. It would mean starting 2016 resenting running rather than appreciating the lessons it continues to teach me.

I’ll run between now and the new year. It won’t be to run toward the realization of an arbitrary goal. It will be to run through whatever is happening in the moment and with appreciation of how far the last 1,100 miles have brought me.

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