5 Running Lessons from 80 Days

5 Running Lessons from 80 Days from Elevate Fitness in Syracuse

by Elevate Fitness Marketing Director and Certified Spinning Instructor, Jason Jaquays-Tarbox

On Wednesday, 2 October 1872, Phileas Fogg, a rich British gentleman, set out on an extraordinary journey.

In some ways, so did I, although my adventure began on June 30 of this year. Now, I didn’t set out to travel the world, in fact, the farthest I travelled in my 80 days was Prospect Park in Brooklyn. But in other ways, I really did go Around the World in 80 Days. 

I previously shared What I Learned Running Every Day for 60 Days, and while that seems very similar to 80 days – let me assure you that those 20 extra days have made a tremendous difference, as I suspect the next 20 may as well.

Instead of sharing at 80 days what I’ve learned, instead, I’m going to share when I’ve proven – if only to myself. There are plenty of things I knew about running that I’m not entirely sure I believed before I started my run streak, but the last 80 days have forced me to be honest with myself about certain facts. And here those facts are, in no particular order …

You really DO need to replace your running shoes regularly. Most experts agree that shoes should be replaced somewhere between every 300 and 500 miles. For me, running a minimum of 3.1 miles 7 days a week, that works out to roughly 97 to 161 days, assuming I started with a new pair of sneakers. Which I did not.

How do I know I should have replaced my sneakers by now? From the pain in my feet, of course. I started my run streak with an OLD pair of Altra zero-drop sneakers with an extra-wide toe that had at least 300 miles on them when I started. Since I’ve put 371.45 miles on during my streak, that puts me around 671.45 or AT LEAST 171 miles overdue for a new pair of running shoes. And boy, can I feel it. 

No matter who you think you are as a runner, there’s plenty of opportunities to surprise yourself. I assumed after years of running and settling in around an 11 minute per mile pace that that was who I am as a runner.

But, consistency and practice have proven that you really can become a much better runner even if that’s not what you’re trying to do. Our Elevate Fitness Run Club coach, Kevin Collins gave me some speed workouts to try and before I knew it, I was running my 5K minimum daily distance in under 30 minutes consistently. Not only that but for some portions of my run, I was actually running an 8:36 per mile pace. Unheard of in all my years of running.

The lesson? We all fall victim to self-fulfilling prophecies and settle into complacency –  probably not just in our runs, but in real-life too (since running isn’t real life, I guess?). Sometimes you have to question the status-quo and seek out a coach or read an article or ask some questions to see if you’re settling.

Overthinking makes things worse. Most days, I get my run out of the way first thing in the morning. Most days, I don’t have to think about anything as my brain doesn’t really fully turn on until I’m a mile or two into my daily run.

This is great because it means that most days I’m not making decisions regarding my runs, I’m just running them! And for me, decisions are what has stood in the way of my consistency in the past. Should I run now or after work? Should I run outside or on the treadmill? Should I listen to must or run music-free? All of these decisions would ultimately keep me from starting my run in the past, but I found that by making my run my first priority of the day, it was so much easier to make it happen.

And this theory was never more clearly true to me than on those days when I didn’t run first thing in the morning. For the entire day, my brain would be plagued with questions that pulled my focus from real-life. And worse, I’d start to ask myself questions like, what if I change my minimum from 5K to a mile today? What if I walked the first and last mile? Maybe 75 days is where I should end my streak. Maybe if I run double tomorrow it will still count as a streak*.

The run may not be physically any easier when I do it first thing in the morning but it’s far, far easier to run mentally when I get it out of the way nice and early.

Not every run will be a great run, but no run is a bad run. Sometimes the runs that make me feel the best, or feel the most accomplished, or the most energized are the ones that look like bad runs on paper. They’re super-show. Or I had to stop and take a break between miles. Or I just struggled with every step.

But in the end, knowing that I’d finished my run and kept my streak going for another day even on those bad-run days was somehow exhilarating. I mean, anyone can do the work and stick with the plan when the work is easy – isn’t it a greater accomplishment to do the work and stick with the plan when the work is hard? Or the weather is crappy? Or you forgot your earbuds and have to listen to the sound of your feet slapping the belt of the treadmill?

I really proved to myself during this experience that there really is no such thing as a bad run. 

People won’t care about your run streak nearly as much as you will. And that’s okay. At first, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting cheers and accolades from my friends and acquaintances. I mean people were commenting, and usually the comments were positive. But where were the balloons? The parades? The tearful confessions of how inspiring my Instagram followers find me?

Yeah, there was none of that. It’s a very private experience for me, my runs. And when I start thinking about how cool it is that for 80 consecutive days, rain or shine, regardless of how busy or bored or sore or far from home I am, I’ve still managed to run my minimum distance every single day – I’m overwhelmed with a sense of pride in myself that I’m not sure I’ve felt in a long time, if ever.

I pick things up, I put them down. I learn a new skill, I abandon it. I reach a goal, I scrap it and set a new one. I’m not one to find long streaks in most things. But in running, I’ve managed to stay the course. And I’ve learned things about running and about myself along the way. And I’ve managed to impress myself and make myself proud.

And I guess, at the end of the day. Everything I thought I wanted from my Instagram followers, I’m getting from myself. And that is so much better.

*Note – I never gave into this line of thinking and every single day I’ve run a minimum of 5K between the hours of 5:30 am and 9 pm.

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