What I Learned During my 8.5 Mile Run

Last Saturday I ran 8.5 miles. Yes, thank-you. Hold your applause please. Oh, you are too kind. Thank-you.

But seriously … I did it! I designed a training program this year to increase my overall distance/endurance in hopes that I am able to run the New York City Half-Marathon in March 2011. I have written quite a bit about my running in Set an Audacious Goal and Lessons I’ve Learned While Running.

One thing most people don’t know about me (but you do know what got me started working out if you’ve read Anything is Possible, but it was my dorm-mates Jeff and Jarred. They worked out a few nights a week and after much prodding, I started to join them. As luck would have it, I enjoyed it. However, I enjoyed running more than they did, so oftentimes I would end up going off on my own and running around the track. My final semester as a college student I wanted to run five miles by the time I graduated. The longest I’d ever run at that point was probably two. But I worked at it. And the week of finals, I did it. I ran five miles!

So this year, I’m adding 0.5 miles to my longest run each month to get ready for the awesomeness that is 13.1! On Saturday, I ran 8.5. (I’m getting there!) But I learned a few things I thought I would share with you.

Getting up at 5 a.m. sucks

Well, for the first 45 minutes. Once my feet started moving and my legs started to wake up, it was just a normal run. But then again, it wasn’t. The moon was out. A few cars were out already, but I was alone. It was peaceful.

Watch Out for Uneven Roads

The longer I run, the heavier my legs get. I think that is probably normal. But when I’m just running four or five miles, this problem doesn’t arise because the distance is so short. The lesson here is simple: pick up your feet! But more than that, if the road is uneven, be prepared for it. I didn’t fall,but I came close to it when I was on uneven and wasn’t prepared for it.

You Don’t Have to Think

Sometimes I enjoy my runs for the freedom they give my mind to think over things or I try to come up with great ideas. I didn’t do much thinking on this run and it was perfect. I just ran and listened to my music … and smiled.

(photo from everystockphoto)

The Improbable 2009

2009 is almost in the books! What an amazing year it has been and how amazing the future looks! I can hardly imagine what is possible, but I know anything is! A lot more happened this year than I thought possible… so here is just a glimpse.

1. I Can Run!

I began 2009 with a plan to run more. I didn’t figure I’d play much tennis, so I wanted to be more physically active. Nathanael gave me the Nike+ Running “friend” for my birthday in January and what has happened is nothing short of amazing!

April 17 Run Update

This first image is from April… My runs are averaging about 1.8 miles per run.

Jump forward to today and I’m averaging about 3.2 miles per run and just set a personal best for distance and mile pace. This year I’ve run (as of mid-December) 284 miles and spent more than 45 hours running. My goal was 275 miles, so I’m pleased and surprised with my final results. Next year will be more of the same, but I’m going to work on my consistency.


2. Reading is Awesome!

In 2008, I had a goal to read 20 books. I didn’t hit that mark. In 2009, I had a goal of 12 and while I came up a bit short, I read two 700+ page books, all the while writing my own and being a freelancer and writing 3-4 posts a week here at Finding Focus. All told, it was a wonderful year of growth for me. My goal will remain 10 books for 2010 and I already have that stack started. My favorites from this year included my one political read, Team of Rivals, as well as Outliers, Beautiful Boy and Agony and the Ecstasy.

3. World-Class Athletes are Very Humble

This year I had to amazing good fortune to fill in at the last minute at the US Open USTA Wheelchair Championships. I had never seen any wheelchair sport in person and I was skeptical. Not anymore. You can see some of my photos from the event. I will forever be a fan of this sport now. The best part aside from meeting some amazing people, were the athletes themselves. These were the best wheelchair tennis players in the world! Just having conversations with them over lunch and at the hotel… they are the most humble, relaxed and kind athletes I’ve ever met.

4. Challenging Yourself Brings Results

I’ve written numerous times this year (here and here) about how deciding to chase after a passion, painting, has resulted in some really cool opportunities. I’ve also had a chance to join a local writing group which has challenged me to be an even better writer, but also allowed me to learn about other writers. Both these passions have given me much this year, and I will continue to challenge myself next year to see where things can go.

5. Be True to Who You Are

This has been an extraordinary year for gay rights. In April, The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. Other states also took steps and some still took steps backwards. But just this month, our nation’s capital legalized gay marriage. My friends have been amazingly supportive of my own personal and family struggles this year, and while it hasn’t been the easiest year at times, I remain true to who I am, which helps me be true to the world.

6. Thou Must Giveth

I’ve been out of college for four years now and this is the first year that I actually gave earnestly to charities. I hope it is a trend that will continue. It began with Kiva back in the early spring. Then this fall, I ran a campaign called, OneStream, which you can still join and support entrepreneurs around the world. To date, I have given nearly $150 in loans around the world. In addition, I donated money to Heifer International this year for a few Christmas gifts.

7. Anything is Possible

That has been the theme for my year for sure. My speaking opportunities grew, and some were a surprise. I will never forget that day in August or September when I got one email and two phones calls on the same day from people and groups interested in bringing me in for an event or training. It is no surprise that Anything is Possible is also the name of my book that will be available in early 2010. This will remain a theme of my life in 2010.

As 2009 ends, I’m looking forward to an amazing 2010. I remember back on December 31, 1999, sitting in my bedroom at my parents’ house, watching the celebrations around the world as each major city welcomed the new millennium. I now welcome a new decade. In the past decade I have graduated from high school, graduated from college, started my own company, written a book, came out and showed my work in an art show. But most of all, I think what I will take from 2000-2009, is that I found love. I found it in the strangest of places and in the closest of friends. I can only imagine what 2010-2019 will bring. I welcome the journey.

What are YOU taking from 2009?

Lessons I’ve Learned While Running

Guy RunningAt the start of 2009, I made it a personal goal to run 275 miles over the course of the 365 days. Thus far, I’ve ran 99.8 miles (8.8 ahead of my schedule plan and 36% of my total goal) and I’m enjoying the process. Yeah, some days suck and I have to keep telling myself that bad run days are bound to happen. It’s the running that counts. But in five months of dedicated running, I’ve learned a few things.

1) Watch out for squirrels. I went to a college in Iowa (University of Northern Iowa) and there the squirrels were very friendly. Also, a few years ago my friend Eric and I went to Washington D.C. for a vacation and while outside the White House’s north lawn, a squirrel (A Presidential squirrel) just inched over to us. My point is while you’re running, squirrels are going to dart in front of you. Just like pigeons, squirrels own the road. Watch out! For life, things are always going to get in the way – just be on alert!

2) Timing is Everything. Just like in life, timing a run is everything. I know now to not run more than 2 miles in oppressive heat. I still do it on occasion to challenge my body, but just last week, I waited until the sun was nearly down to run my 2.5 miles. Why do you think marathons start at the crack of dawn: If they started at one in the afternoon, no one could finish them! With whatever you’re doing, you have to time it out and in some cases, be lucky.

3) Numbers Don’t Tell Everything. For me, who has never been much of a running, over my 40+ runs so far this year, I’m averaging a 9:16 pace (per mile). For me, that’s not really where I’d like to be at, but at the same time, I’m still training and working to get better. Part of the problem where I live is there is no such thing as a flat run, it’s all hills and while that is good for me, it also affects my time. No matter what, numbers will never tell the full story (they can tell a lot, but not everything). My numbers aren’t measuring my true passion, my drive, the energy I’m putting into the running, or the value of the time I’ve spent on the road.

(photo via aarmono from Flickr)

I Did It!

Photo of the Moment

2009 Trolley Run

I didn’t run the marathon yet – - but I ran my four-mile race last week! I finished with a time of 35:40, which for me is about 20 seconds faster than my usual mile split time! I was amazed and energized by the thousands of runners that were with me. I can’t wait for the next race!

This is just one of many steps in my journey to run a marathon. What are you working towards. Only you can go after it! Get to it!