Friends, the pandemic has really transformed our lives, hasn’t it? For me, I’ve felt pent up, trapped, and stilted—not to mention a little depressed. I’ve missed running races and traveling and going to coffee shops (where I do most of my work and my writing). Throw in a little personal struggle, and I’ve definitely muddled through these months, finding it hard to stay motivated. I’ve done what I can to keep my spirits up (Dave Matthews Band concerts on Facebook, Zoom meetings with friends), but still… I’ve been blue.
One day several weeks back I saw on Instagram that my friend, life-coach Rose Coates (@thepnwketoishgirl), had given herself a challenge to run 10 miles a day for 10 days. She was posting pictures of her runs, looking all glowing and fit. And do you know what? I felt this flush of envy come over me. I heard myself say, Why does Rose get to do awesome things while I’m stuck in my house?Just that. A little self-pity that someone else was living an exciting life while the pandemic was keeping me trapped.
Not too many days later, another friend was telling me about how he goes on runs he calls “journeys,” during which he might run for six or eight days for up to 30 or 35 miles. Again, I felt jealousy flood me. Why do other people get to do all the interesting stuff?
I am an adventurer by nature. If I don’t get adventure… If I don’t get to EXPLORE something, it doesn’t take me long before I feel bereft and a self-indulgent boo-hooing sets in. I like to push myself to see what my limits are. I like to find my way in strange places. I like to make mistakes and get turned around and find the right path again. And, turns out, you can’t do any of that from inside your house.
So, one morning I woke up and said to myself, I’m going to do 10 for 10 like Rose did (let’s leave the Journeys for when the weather cools down, but I’m scheming on that one). I threw down the challenge to my Sunday running buddy, Duane, who agreed to run 100 miles in 10 days too (we did most of our miles separately but ran together a few times, as well), and then sketched out two-hour blocks of time on my calendar for 10 days starting on Sunday August 2nd.
The largest number of miles I’ve ever put on my feet in a similar period of time before this was the week I ran the marathon in Antarctica. I started that week by running 27 miles in Punta Arenas, Chile so one of my traveling companions could get the marathon distance in on the South American continent, then ran the 26.2 miles on King George Island to get Antarctica checked off my list, then took a run through a park in the area (not sure how may miles that was), topping it all off with walking a good portion (though, again, I don’t remember how many miles I actually completed) of the 50 miles of the “W” trek in Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Anyway, that was a lot of running/hiking in a short period of time.
But this time, I really wanted to see what it would be like to hold to a sustained commitment for these 10 days. I did pull it off… And here’s what I discovered along the way:
- The more days I strung together, the more I didn’t even question if I would/could keep up the commitment. By day FOUR, I felt like this was just a thing I do. In fact, once the 10 days were over, I took two days off and have continued to run about 10 miles every OTHER day. It’s a standard for me now!!!
- Running long on a daily basis is energetically easier in some ways than running short. Don’t laugh at me. I’m serious. Before this challenge, I was always running four or five days a week, but unless I am training for something specific, my runs are usually short nowadays—three to six miles. To run for two hours DAILY, made me set my mind to settling into the time commitment. When I go for a three-mile run, I’m just wiggling my run into my day instead of organizing my day AROUND my run. So having to put two-hours on the calendar and knowing that the run has to be the central organizing feature of whatever else is on for that day gave me permission to relax into my pace… to be patient with myself. My generalized anxiety has gone down significantly.
- Not surprisingly, freedom arrived. I no longer feel trapped. On several of my runs during that 10 days, I had the thought, My legs are stronger than they’ve ever been. Just as our legs are the pillars of our bodies, our commitments are the pillars of our lives. The metaphor for me is that if the pillars of my life are strong, then my life is strong. My commitments will carry me any place I want to go.
- Finally… you have to pound out the sorrow and draw in the fire of life. There has been SO much to be sad about in the world lately. But every footfall was, for me, a catharsis. Connecting to the earth. Pounding out my objections to the bullshit happening around me. Hitting the earth with my grief. Railing against unfairness. Then pulling up from the soil the energy of life. Feeling the planet holding me up. Touching that which touches the fire in the center of our globe. Reaching a state of groundedness.
Friends, I totally recommend this exercise of choosing something JUST A LITTLE BEYOND WHAT IS COMFORTABLE for you and organizing your life around it for 10 days. If you’re not up to 10 miles, what ARE you up to. Maybe four miles for 10 days would stretch you just fine. Or maybe you want to do hand stands for ten minutes for ten days. One of my students in my program for writers made a commitment to write 1000 words per day. The task doesn’t even have to be physical (though I REALLY think our bodies need some focus right now since many of us aren’t getting touched as much as we’re accustomed to). What could it be for you?
If you commit to a task for 10 days, tell us in the comments below. Let’s push ourselves out of whatever ruts we’re in, dear ones!
P.S., If you are looking for a longer commitment to a life-style, check out Carol’s Running Action Online 12-Week Program!