On or about my most recent birthday, I committed to a plan to run in 46 events for each of my years. Actually, it kind of evolved from 50 Events by Age 50 – meaning about 11 yearly because I was going to retroactively apply the handful of races I had done the year before…you know, just to make an even 5 year period and not because I had questions.
The idea wasn’t that there is some magic number, but rather that attaining that goal would require continuous, sustained commitment to fitness over a lengthy period of time…and that I really didn’t have enough T-Shirts so this seemed like a good way to get them.
Realizing, of course, that having a goal without actually having a plan, was a recipe for failure, I set about finding these events to run.
In the months previous, I had registered for several races in advance as doing so is generally cheaper and, frankly, I’m kind of cheap. I signed up for the Rugged Maniac onsite of last years race at some ridiculous discount, and the Battle Frog sometime in October at an equally ridiculous discount – both of which I’d registered to run by myself, something I’d never EVER tried. Sometime later, I registered for the Spartan Sprint, so I had the nascent beginnings of a “plan,” but only that. I suppose it’s really helpful to WANT to do what you’re planning.
My plan slowly grew – adding a “fun run” 5k in February run by a local running group, then a series of St. Patricks’ Day themed runs and my plan was hatched. In fact, it was at this point that I began thinking “perhaps I could do a little better than 50-by-50.”
Now, I have to disclose at this point, that I’m not much of a runner. I don’t particularly like running, I’m not really built for speed either. What I do enjoy are obstacle races – hence, the reason the first three on my agenda were OCRs. They’re physically and mentally demanding, and let’s face it, pretty damn badass. Not everyone wants to do them, not everyone actually can do them so when you want to and can, you should.
There’s little by way of a secret as to why it became important to me to pick up this mantle on or about my birthday. As one’s youth gets progressively distant, and the questions, doubts, perhaps even fears of middle-age come into the forefront, time ceases to be your friend. If it’s going to happen, it needs to happen now. I didn’t want to be that late middle-aged guy who has a few tweaks and dings, perhaps a spare tire, and high blood-pressure medications. I didn’t want to be that senior who has to sit by a window watching others go about their activities of daily living. We’re not here forever, and we’re only here once, so I want to be sure I’m physically able to do everything I want to do.
By February I had done 4; March 10; and April 16. By this point, I’d registered for a couple of what I would consider epic challenges: A 200-mile Ragnar Relay, a Spartan Super, and quite possibly the most demanding Spartan Beast. A marathon relay tossed in there, and some thoughts of a half-marathon as well, although that remains unscheduled. Some weekends I would run 3 races: once I ran 2 5ks on Saturday and a 10k on Sunday, another weekend I ran a 5k and the Spartan Sprint on Saturday and ran Sprint a second time on Sunday. This was as much an expression of my goal motivation as it was my sometimes extreme personality.
None of this happens, of course, without accountability and without a supportive peer group. The people I went to high school with have been the most important influence toward working to this goal, holding me accountable – because they all have their individual goals as well – and, perhaps most importantly, refusing to allow those goals to keep me from achieving more: achieve one goal, define a new one. I’m thankful I had the good sense to define my peer group wisely and I’m thankful I have such a strong bond with these men.
Today, I run race 38 on the year – a 5.5-mile, hillfest. My 46 has grown now to a plan of 54 and half way through the year I’m left to redefine my goal further and to set new ones. None of which could have happened without setting that initial goal getting me off the couch. There is a lot of literature about goals and goal setting, not all of which I’ve found helpful in this journey. For me, having a fitness goal was important, but I needed to bite off small chunks. I needed to have a series of successes and demonstrate such a schedule was possible before I lept in. Had I set a goal of 100 races for the year, I could imagine being here in Mid-July deciding I couldn’t make it. For me, having a modest goal and building out worked wonders and I can’t imagine I’d have been better off for having a more audacious goal – I may have been worse off. I know my personality and that’s made all the difference here.
I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished to this point, accomplished with the support of my friends and family, but I’m not done and nor is my plan done. Without my initial simple goal, I’d have never have found out where I could go and the power of ones friends. I’m incredibly fortunate.