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?