Miles of motivation

Posted November 20, 2013 at 11:13 am


In 2010, I ran/walked the entire 26.2 miles of the Des Moines Marathon. It took me about 5 ½ hours, but I did it.

The Des Moines Marathon was the culmination of a season of training that included a solo run from Prairieburg to Monticello, and a half marathon in Cedar Rapids. It was the crowning achievement of a running “career” that began in 2007.

It also crushed my motivation to keep running.

Not that the marathon was bad. I came out of it relatively unscathed. I was a little sore for a few days, but it got better.

It was just: What else was there to accomplish?

Some former marathon runners advance into even longer races, or switch over to Ironman and other triathlon events. As a guy well into his 50s (well into), I have no desire to do any of those.

Many people swear by alternative races, such as the increasingly popular “color runs” (you wear a white t-shirt, and you get splashed with color as you run so that by the end of the race you and your shirt look tie-dyed). So far, that hasn’t piqued my interest.

A lot of folks around here make the trip to Des Moines for the annual Living History Farms seven-mile cross country race, which will be run Saturday. I’m told it is a blast, although the idea of slogging through muddy trails on a 40-degree November day doesn’t sound like that much fun to me.

Oh, I have gone through the motions since 2010, running in a few, scattered races. Other events have gone by the wayside. I used to start my running season with the Dyersville 8K in March and end it with the Marion Turkey Trot 8K in November. I haven’t done either of those for the past two years.

In fact, I’ve gone from a peak of 14 races in 2008 (yes, I keep track) to just three this year. My reduced involvement has produced a predictable result: The 26 pounds I lost in an exercise drive six years ago are nearly all back.

Despite this, I have loyally hung onto my subscription to Runner’s World magazine, partly to keep some small connection to the sport, partly because it can be fun to read, and partly in a flailing search for inspiration.

I think I may have found that last one.

Marc Parent writes a monthly column in Runner’s World called “The Newbie Chronicles,” which is tailored to beginning runners.

He’s been writing that column for at least four years now, so he’s not exactly a “newbie” anymore. But in the December issue, he floated an idea that just might turn things around for me.

The Streak.

No, this has nothing to do with running unclothed, a fact for which we can all be grateful. It’s about building a streak of consecutive days in which you have run.

Parent wrote about the Runner’s World Holiday Streak. Participants run at least one mile, every day, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. The idea is to get through the holidays without weight gain, and perhaps emerge fitter than you were before the holidays.

A mile a day? I can do that. I’m no Michael Melchert (4:55.5-per-mile average at the State Cross Country Meet). I’m not even who I was five years ago (a PR of 7:29 per mile at the Dubuque Labor Day 5K).

But I can still do it in about 10 minutes. The appeal is obvious: Counting the time to get dressed, loosen up a little and then run it, the whole thing can be over in about 15 minutes.

Rejuvenated, I decided not to wait until Thanksgiving, and got started on Nov. 9. As I finish this column on Monday, my streak is up to 10 days, and that alone gives me an incentive to keep going. Skip a day, and I’ll have to start over.

The possibilities are intriguing. It may inspire me to start adding distance again, and maybe even return to Dyersville in March and see what I can do. Maybe that will further motivate me to add more races next year.

During this streak, I am giving myself the option of running my mile on a treadmill in case of freezing rain, heavy snow or extreme cold. I’m not crazy about running on treadmills, but I’ll do it if necessary.

After all, I have a streak on the line.