The First 50 of the First 1,000
In 2023, I'm going to run 1,000 miles. Here's what's happened so far.
In 2023, I’m running 1,000 miles.
I’m not a runner.
In fact, I avoided it my whole life. But since last May, my miles have been increasing and my mind expanding.
Once I started, I’ve wanted to keep a formal training journal.
But my thoughts are split out over my notes app, scraps of paper, and tweets. So, I thought I’d glue it all together in a familiar place. After all, I started this Substack years ago to build a habit of writing every day.
So, why not use it to write about running nearly every day?
Before The First 50
I started running out of necessity.
My wife signed us up for a sprint triathlon in August of 2022. Of the three disciplines, I had spent time only biking. For the past couple years, I’d been riding Peloton and riding outdoors solo and with the family. But, running and swimming were a complete afterthought.
As for swimming, I loved my Friday afternoon and weekends by the pool, but I wasn’t doing laps.
And running…well…let’s say it’s been complicated.
The Old Running Wounds
Now that I’m running regularly, I often flashback to running memories from my life. The most difficult was the 12-minute run which plagued me all through high school.
Back then, we had to met a certain fitness standard to earn the choice of not running on our choose-your-activity days. I was always falling short of the 1.5 mile standard that gave you the power to never run again. So, I would have to run laps a couple times between 12 minute run tests.
The results? I was perpetually falling short.
Looking back, my school education was pretty messed up when it came to running.
And the wild part, I loved gym class. I was always hustling more than everyone else and sweating through the next couple classes as a result. Badminton, Basketball, Floor Hockey, you give me a silly game, and I’m all in.
But running, just running…absolutely not.
What I didn’t realize back then is that running is the silliest game of all. You go nowhere, oftentimes returning right to where you started. You don’t win anything. You can’t beat anyone—except yourself.
And that’s why I love running now.
The 1,000 Mile Challenge
I didn’t set out with some grandiose goal, but I had been inspired by so many runners.
My friend Matt raced his first Ironman in May.
Jeremy Singh was logging miles and cheering me on.
Jeanne Torre reached out and encouraged me to find my own way with running.
My Uncle had run another marathon after a 13 year hiatus and wrote a book about it.
I was writing about my running on Twitter, and people were gravitating to it. As it resonated with them, it started to resonate with me.
Then, one day, Hayden Flohr asked:
And without thinking, I blurted out my response:
I didn’t feel dared into the idea. Part of me felt like it had been bubbling under the surface waiting to come out.
As soon as I hit send, I got scared and I started doing the math. 1,000 miles is:
84 miles per month
20 miles per week
Damn. It sounded hard, but plausible.
Reverse Engineering Success
To get to 84 miles per month, I focused on where I found recent running succes.
In October of last year, I was still building the running habit and getting ready for a 5k in November. On October 31, I checked my total mileage: 39.8.
Being so close to 40, I figured 45 miles in November would push me a little bit further.
I made it simple and said, “I’ll run 3 miles every other day. That’s the minimum requirement. If you feel like more, do more. That’s all it will take.”
When I added it all up, I ran 68.4 miles in November. It was proof how setting a low bar can lead to surprising results.
But, 68.4 isn’t 84.
November had perfect weather, so I knew January was likely going to suck.
Oh, and the cherry on top of the this sad sundae, December was one of my worst running months. Low mileage, 4 sessions, an injury, and the death of grandmother.
I had a tough hill to climb.
Adopting 80/20 Running
I started the month slowly. “Build the habit, enjoy the run, find the fun and the challenge,” I told myself. I knew that once I got back into the groove, I would be able to focus on the bigger picture.
The Week of Slow
As I was building back up, I started reading 80/20 Running by Matthew Fitzgerald. In the book, he preaches the “Week of Slow” to acclimate your body to moving slower. So on my birthday, I started with 4 miles at a snail pace. It was surprisingly difficult to put the governor on. But then, I logged a few more sessions of 3, 7, 9 and 6 miles.
They weren’t pretty, and in fact, I hated going so slow.
But it was the mental shift I needed, because slow and steady is the only way you can go far. Yes, the journey of 1,000 miles begins and ends with a single step, but in the middle there are 998 other steps you must make consecutively.
The Talk Test
After the “Week of Slow” and finishing the 80/20 book, it was time for the Talk Test, a simple way to find your zones to build your running plan. 80/20 running means that you are spending roughly 80% of your running in Zone 1 and Zone 2, low intensity.
So the Talk Test helps you find your training zones along with the help of a calculator.
My biggest takeaway: I’m terrible at pacing myself.
I couldn’t smoothly increase or decrease my pace, and my self-administered Talk Test required a brain and body connection that wasn’t quite there. But that running realization made me realize that I was still becoming a runner.
Setting The Next Race Checkpoint
I like to think of races as a way to keep yourself honest. More than destinations, they are training checkpoints. Something to focus your running and work towards.
In my mind, I thought the path to success looked like:
Half Marathon > Marathon > Ultra
I searched for some half marathon options nearby, but there many longer races until the weather gets consistently nice in Chicago suburbs. But after expanding my radius, I stumbled into a half at my alma mater. It seemed like the perfect place to conquer some college demons, so I called my college roommate and Half Ironman friend, Matt, to join me.
I found out that he was already running a half in Nashville in April. It looks like the college demons would have to wait.
Thanks to some old Southwest gift cards, I booked a plane ticket and signed up for the race.
My first 13.1 will be in Nashville with a good friend who’s fitness journey is running parallel to mine. What could be more fitting.
The Plan So Far
I’m only a few weeks into 80/20 Running, and I’m already a believer.
I feel far better than any other time running. I have more energy during and after running, and I recorded my fastest 10k with low effort on a long training run.
I’ve had only one dry spell where my running consistency lagged for more than two days. But when training plans get upended by an impromptu father-daughter trip to Legoland, I find it makes it easier to return to running.
Side Effects: Sobriety and Obsession
In an unexpected side effect, my drinking is approaching an all-time low. I’m not abstaining in a Dry January fashion, but booze has fallen out of favor.
I went out with friends, and I had two beers. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that.
The best part, I had the same amount, if not more, fun. My Golden Tee game was sharp, and I won the final round. Now, I still stayed up too late, but I didn’t suffer the compound effects of drinking and lack of sleep.
In fact, I’m so into running that sleep has been the hardest thing for me. Not from overtraining, but from staying up reading or watching running documentaries.
Road to 1,000 Miles Status: 63.9
As of writing this, I’m at 63.9 miles for January. That’s only 4.5 away from my best month yet. And with 3 days left in the month, I’ll likely add about 10 more miles.
Hard to believe that I’ll be only 10 miles off the annual pace in a month full of snow. But the forecast is about to turn towards freezing, and now it’s time to deal with the curveballs of February.
Thanks for reading The Push. Subscribe for free to receive new posts, follow my journey to 1,000 miles, and start running more.