It’s that time of year when many of us determine what we want to do or change in 2019. It’s a worthwhile and noble activity – always good to take stock!
Last week I made a tentative race schedule for the year, with target times for various distances, keeping in mind the S.M.A.R.T. principles: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound. It’s easy (and fun!) to plop things down on paper. To throttle that some, I put considerable thought into what it might take to meet these targets. I tried to incorporate the time-proven principles of progressive training, exertion-recovery cycles, and balance with other demands in life. No doubt my optimism is at least a tad ahead of reality, which is often the case in goal setting. And maybe I’m in denial about the effects of aging. But I do feel excited about committing to the necessary work.
All of this is fine, but I was reminded of the importance of keeping things in perspective. We know lots can happen in the course of a year: injury, illness, accidents, job changes/pressures, family needs, etc. And we either adapt and respond to these changes or get rolled over by them. If we are dead set on meeting a running goal that gets derailed, pity those who have to put up with us! Let’s be real. Things will happen! And at that point, taking the long view is paramount. We might start by asking ourselves if we plan to run for just the next year? I expect 99% of us will say no – that running means a lot to us and we’re in it for the long haul. So the choice is to act accordingly!
I thought about how in 2018 I had planned to run 1,600 miles, up from 993 in 2017 when I was recovering from broken ribs. This is obviously well above the oft-cited 10% increase per year rule, but it was based on having run 1,450 miles in 2016 and 1,650 in 2015. I pushed it to the limit, ran a number of races and was on track for the 1,600 miles. But then in July I lifted something awkwardly and strained my lower ab – a place I’ve never had a problem with. It kept getting worse and during a track workout in late August I stopped and concluded I just can’t do this. It turned out to be a sports hernia, not something needing surgery, just time to heal, stretch, and strengthen. I stopped running for four weeks, then took another four to slowly build back up (OK, I did run a race the first week back – but at a much slower-than-usual pace!) The short of it is, I ended up the year with 1,360 miles. On December 31st, I sat back, and thought – “overall, it was a good year.” My 2019 goal is 1,650 miles. We’ll see how it goes!
I expect most of us have this internal dialogue at the beginning, during, and at the end of each year. If we can step away from ourselves, as if someone was telling us their story, yet it was ours, we might objectively think, “that’s pretty interesting!” I’ve met very few runners who don’t have intriguing stories about their running and in particular how they’ve managed to keep going, sometimes against the odds. Running is a pretty amazing sport with a bunch of variables impacting how well we run on a given day or even whether we can (or should!) run. It makes running an intellectual as well as a physical endeavor. And no doubt we embrace that or we wouldn’t be doing it. Here’s hoping each of us either meets our New Year’s resolutions or gracefully accepts what runs our way. Bring on 2019!