Motivated by Personal Milestones

AJW's TaproomLike many long-distance runners, I like to focus on numbers in my training. From my early years as a runner back in the early 1990s and up until now, I have used numbers to gauge fitness, understand fatigue, and make comparisons from week to week and even year to year. As a beginning runner back in 1992, I had long conversations with the cross-country coach at my school who taught me the importance of maintaining a running log. Ever since, I have maintained written records of my training, for years on paper and in more recent times on my computer. These records provide me with both guidance and motivation.

About a month ago, I was looking back over my training for the 2020 calendar year, and I realized that I was on pace to run 3,000 miles for the year. Of all of the various numerical benchmarks I like to focus on, yearly mileage logged has always been one of the most important to me. It’s not that the other benchmarks are unimportant but rather I have always used yearly mileage as a solid gauge of my consistency and durability over a predictable period of time. As a result, seeing that I could potentially log 3,000 miles this year lit a fire under me.

I ran my first 3,000-mile year back in 2000, which was also the year I ran my first 100-mile race at the Angeles Crest 100 Mile. I was 33 years old at the time and felt invincible. For the next five years, I logged consecutive 3,000-mile years, hitting a high-water mark of 3,620 miles in 2005. The year 2006 turned out to be an off year as an April injury sidelined me for almost two months and my streak of 3,000-mile years came to an end. However, I got healthy enough by 2007 to hit 3,000 that year as well as in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

By 2012, it seemed as though age was catching up to me as a series of injuries kept me from even logging 2,000 annual miles. In one place in my running log late in the year, I even wrote, “I am starting to think 3,000 miles in a year may not be in the cards anymore.” But, alas, I got focused in 2013 and 2014 and motivated in large part by the pursuit of my ninth and 10th Western States 100 finishes. I managed to log 3,000 miles in both of those years. At that point, at the ripe old age of 47, I had run at least 3,000 miles in a year 13 times.

Was that the end?

It certainly felt that way as 2015 brought me to my knees and I succumbed to major hip-resurfacing surgery in September of that year. Not only did I not even run 1,000 total miles in 2015 but it was the first year since I started running long ultras in 2000 that I failed to finish a 100-mile race. A vigorous rehabilitation program and the motivation to finish the Hardrock 100 got me back over the 3,000-mile threshold in 2016 and in 2017 turning 50 years old pushed me to another 3,000-mile year as I had birds of doubt swirling around in my head all year as a result of that landmark birthday.

Two years of sub-3,000-mile years later, I find myself, at the time of this writing, sitting on 2,550 miles for the year. With a little less than two months to go, it seems as though 3,000 miles for the year could be in the cards. Looking back on the first 10 months of running, what I’ve been able to do this year that eluded me over the past two is to maintain consistency. While injuries were certainly the most significant obstacles to achieving my goals in the past, motivation and drive also played a role. This year, for whatever reason, I have not struggled with motivation at all and as a result my running has been steady. We’ll see how the next two months go but with any luck, sometime after Christmas, I’ll turn the old annual odometer over to 3,000 for the 16th time in my running career.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. Long established for the high ABV IPAs, their recent addition to the growing list of Hazy IPAs is quite good. American Beauty Hazy Ripple IPA is a deliciously tart unfiltered IPA that goes down smooth. While not exactly a lightweight beer, weighing in at 7% ABV, it is unexpectedly smooth drinking and clean tasting.

Call for Comments

  • Do you have certain personal milestones which mark your running?
  • Are these goals that you try to stick to year after year?
  • And how about milestones which have evolved through time?

There are 9 comments

  1. David T.

    Wow, 3,000 miles sixteen times is AMAZING, AJW! Any idea what your overall odometer since 1992 is? I definitely wish I had written down a training log during high school cross country— probably would have motivated me to be a lot more consistent and spark the love for the sport that I didn’t find until many years later. Sitting just under 200 miles left to my first 3,000 mile year over here at age 32 and hoping for many more! With many fond memories of speeches you gave us in middle school as well!

    1. AJW

      Thanks David, I have my paper training logs in a box in my closet so I’ll need to dig them out to get a full count. Those Head-Royce years were among my biggest training years for a few reasons; one, I was at the perfect age for big volume (not too young to be stupid and not too old to get injured all the time), two, living in Oakland was the perfect training ground as just outside my doorstop and up the hill from school were some of the best in town trails in the country, and three, the people who lived and trained there at the time were all fantastic (probably still are) so motivation was pretty easy. Glad you’ll be hitting 3000 this year!

  2. Tropical John

    AJW, these days an arbitrary personal milestone is often what gets me out the door. My former coach and friend for more than 40 years, Mike Fanelli, and I have engaged in a long-standing lifetime mileage contest. We are both at around 113,000 miles and after all these years are within a couple hundred miles of each other. My racing days and 3000+ mile years are in the rear view mirror but inching forward with the lifetime total keeps me going! Well, ok, that and the fact that I love to be out on a trail in nature.

    1. AJW

      Hey TJ, I have followed the “race” between you and Mike over the past few years and I think it’s great. 113,000 lifetime miles is really incredible and a testament to your durability. Here’s hoping you can log a few more miles on a nice trail this weekend.

  3. Devon Yanko

    I highly regret getting rid of my old training journal from about mid 2012 and before. I wish I could go back and get an accurate count of ’05-’12 to know how many miles I’d accumulated then so I could add them to what Strava now records for me. I definitely try and aim to always end of a round, satisfying number, although I typically fall short. But it stretches me to try and aim a little higher (because of course its always more miles I seek). This year I am on track to run the most I’ve ever run in a year and while totally arbitrary, it does feel good to be 14, almost 15 years into my ultra running career and still improving!

    1. AJW

      Devon, where are those old training journals? Did you actually throw them out? I, for one, would have actually paid money to read them, especially the comments:). Hope you and yours are doing well.

      1. Devon Yanko

        I tend to be a stress declutterer- “life changing magic” and all. I *think* I just recycled them all at some point. I actually use to go to Kinkos and print/bind my own annual training journals. Sigh, those and the heaps of college recruiting letters are things which I had a hidden cache of to dip into when I needed to.

  4. Ron

    Love this, AJ! I’m fascinated with those kind of numbers, especially as it relates to consistency through the years. I regret that I became lax in maintaining my log book, so I don’t have a good idea of my lifetime mileage, which I’d really like to know. My good friend Dink Taylor is meticulous, and went over the 100,000 mile mark about 3 years or so ago, and is still going strong. That really helps keep the competitive juices flowing!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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