Tag Archives: running

Declaring victory

Seth Godin’s post from yesterday, declaring victory, jarred me: “Whenever you start a project, you should have a plan for finishing it. One outcome is to declare victory, to find that moment when you have satisfied your objectives and reached a goal. The other outcome, which feels like a downer but is almost as good, is to declare failure …”

I was just thinking how much I enjoy entering into open-ended projects. For example, I’m currently writing every day and running every day. It’s simple to understand – have I done this yet today? No? then I guess I better get to it …

I don’t always do things that way. Six years ago, I set a goal of running the Riverbank Run (15.5 miles) in May of 2006. I loved the feeling of accomplishing such a tough goal (albeit an arbitrary one). As I finished it, I set a goal of running the Grand Rapids Marathon (26.2 miles) in October. My family was so proud of me – my brother actually cried at the finish line. As soon as I finished that, I decided to run Huff in December (31 miles on trails – only 5 miles longer than a marathon, but it took me twice as long to finish). My family just thought I was crazy then.

At that point, I noticed a problem – I didn’t have a goal for running anymore. I had accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish to that point. I would have loved to focus on ultra-marathons and running longer and longer distances. I have one really good qualification for these: I can eat a lot during a run without getting sick. I consumed more than 1,000 calories during my marathon. Very handy. Unfortunately, I had just started working for Microsoft, and I had a 3-year-old kid. I didn’t have more time to run, I had less.

Instead of running farther, I thought about running faster and trying to qualify for Boston. I would have had to take more than a minute off my best marathon pace – it’s tempting to try, but I never really believed I could do it. If you don’t believe you can, then you can’t.

I thought about doing triathlons, but I’m mediocre on a bike (notice I didn’t say I was a cyclist), and I’m a bad swimmer (I sink). I just don’t see an immediate goal for me there. Maybe I’ll do it when I retire and have time for crazy long rides and swimming lessons.

In 2010, a buddy of mine ran every day and wrote about it every day. He even ran with me one day that year. His streak running inspired me to start a streak of my own, but I fizzled. When we ran together, I told Doug that the streak made me feel bad, but that wasn’t the whole truth – failing at the streak made me feel bad. Twice I got a streak past 30 days, and then I simply forgot to schedule a run while traveling. That sucked. I didn’t see a way to reconcile streak running with travel.

Before I started my current streak, I realized that the beauty of streak running for me is that if I’m going to commit to it, then it forces me to prioritize running higher in my life. That’s a good thing for me. I thought about that as I smiled while running along unfamiliar Chicago streets in 16-degree weather Friday and Saturday. I was making time for something that’s important to me (and thinking about Frank).

And now I have a goal. To make the official list of retired and active running streaks, you have to run at least 1 mile every day for a year. That was the goal Doug set for himself in 2010 and accomplished. Once he started, he KNEW he’d run 365 days (thus the name of his blog), but if I remember correctly, he was pretty happy to take a day off when he reached that goal. When I started, I wasn’t really thinking about the goal – I just started running every day. Now it’s going to take prolonged unconsciousness or visible bones to keep me from running every day in 2012.

There’s something I like about open-ended projects (e.g., running every day), and there’s something I like about reaching a goal (e.g, running every day for a year). Seth’s post has really made me think about the difference and in what areas of my life I should be focused on one versus the other.

I do know that running is more fun for me when I run with purpose, whether that purpose is to run far, run fast, or run frequently. And my ultimate purpose for running is simply to have fun.

I also know that there are some crazy wonderful runners on the streak runners lists. Mark Covert has been running at least a mile every single day since before I was born. Actually, I believe he’s run at least 2 in fact. He’s averaged 9. He’s scheduled surgery for immediately after a morning run and then squeaked in a painful run the following night. I wonder when he will declare victory on his little running streak project.

Running Every Day

The Thursday after Thanksgiving, I was planning to run with my Uncle Frank at Riverside Park, as I often do. Frank is my best running buddy. We started running together about six years ago at our family reunion. Frank always ran about 7 miles from my grandma’s cabin to the shore of Lake Michigan, and that year, I finally decided to join him. We started running regularly after that and became very close. He’s very important to me.

But on Wednesday, November 30, I got a call from Frank telling me he wouldn’t be able to run the next day. He was having a hard time completing sentences, so he handed the phone to his wife, my Aunt Betty, who explained that Frank was at the hospital to investigate the cause of his sudden speech problem. They had already found a mass in his head but didn’t know what it was.

This was shocking to me, because Frank is one of the healthiest people I know. He’s 68, but when we run, he has to slow down for me, 26 years his junior. After I got off the phone and cried a bit, I thought about what I could do for Frank. Since he’s my best running buddy and can’t run right now, I decided I would run every day until he could run with me again.

Frank went into surgery the next day, and they removed (most of) a grade 4 brain tumor. He was home within a couple of days, and I saw him shortly after. He was doing great – laughing, being himself and praising Jesus with all his heart. Frank is handling everything as well as he possibly can, and his faith allows him to accept any outcome with remarkable peace. I find his strength inspiring.

Frank and Betty hosted the BIG family party at their house New Year’s Eve, and he looked great. He wanted to wait until after the holidays before undergoing chemo and radiation, but he’ll start that within the next day or two. Brain cancer is a nasty one, but apparently the mass has not grown back, which is positive.

I’m praying for you every day, Frank, and my prayer is to run. I hope you can join me again soon.

Cathy won!

I miss my running friends … haven’t been out with them enough lately. This past weekend, Cathy even won her first race – the Park 2 Park half marathon in Holland with a 1:29:40 time (average pace of 6:49/mile). Great job, Cathy! Great job pacing her, Ric!