I spent 2009 in Iraq. I ran some during the first part of the year, but not enough, and certainly not many long runs. As the mid point of the year approached, and as I got ready to return home to my family in Hawaii, I decided that I’d crank up my miles to the point where I’d be able to run a half-marathon without dying. My R&R arrived, I flew to Hawaii, and while there, I did some running.
But after my R&R, I returned to Iraq and a new, very stressful job. Long hours, crazy hours. So, I kept running. I realized that the long runs were helping with the stress, helping to keep some sense of balance in my life. Sure, I was running in the dark of night, and sure, I was spraining my ankle from time to time, but it was working for me.
So, I set my sights on the Honolulu marathon, in December 2009. I dusted off my Excel spreadsheet for the Hal Higdon mileage plan for training for a full marathon, and I started to put in the miles. December came, I ran the marathon, and life was great. I closed out 2009 by resting; it had been a hell of a year.
2010 started with no great design. I was home from Iraq, work was OK but not crazy. I still had the same job, it was still stressful, but at nowhere near the levels it had been in Iraq. I was going to exercise with my unit in the morning, and I quickly discovered that, one most weekdays, I’d have about 50 minutes to run.
Hmm. 50 minutes, five days a week. I could easily run 5 miles in those 50 minutes. I’m in decent shape, I thought — I could probably do that 5 days a week. 25 miles a week — that’d be neat to do. I could totally do that.
But what if I snuck out one morning each weekend, and went to run some different parts of the island? 25 miles per week with the unit is a respectable amount of miles, but really — it’s kinda boring. It’s a lot of streets in the neighborhoods, lots of trips around parade fields and between tanks. There’s no jungle canopy, no dirt trails along a cliff. There’s no exploring that way. I asked the wife, and got the go-ahead to add in a weekend run.
Hmm. 25 miles during the week, and, say, a half-marathon or so on the weekend. Geez, I’m up to almost 40 miles per week. That’s kinda cool. I wonder if I could do that all year. And if I did do that all year, well, 40*52 is over 2000. Wouldn’t that be something, to run 2010 miles in 2010. I wonder if I could do it.
And that’s what set the tone for the year. I started to read books and look online for places to go run here on Oʻahu – and ended up starting my own separate blog to write about my adventures running (and to make the website I wish I could have found when I decided to start exploring this island on foot). I found Na Ala Hele, and it changed my life — so many good trails to run and explore, so little time. My plan became to run 25 miles during the week, pick up some more miles on the weekend, hope to average 40 miles per week, and maybe — just maybe — put in 2010 miles in 2010.
But things change. In June, I ended up in Iraq again, for a short visit. Did it alter my plans? Only slights — 5 runs for 66 miles over the two or so weeks I was off-island, and it actually included an 18 mile, middle-of-the-night trek, too. 5 runs for 66 miles — that’s averaging a half-marathon every time I ran, with the shortest of those runs being just 10 miles (and that was the night I landed in Iraq — I landed, dropped my bags, ate a light meal, and then ran 10 miles).
As July started, I joked with some of my soldiers — I could probably run 10 miles every day, for a month. Thus was born the Sparta Challenge — 300 miles, in 30 days. I’m still not really sure how that came to be, but it was really neat to do — and left me feeling fantastic about my fitness and conditioning levels. 300 miles in 30 days? Wow – I am indeed a runner.
That left just three things.
1. There are two state trails that require special permits in order to access them; I’ve now run one of them, and am working on plans to run the second one at the end of this month.
2. My unit had an exercise set for most of September. That would eat into my running time. Instead of my usual 160+ miles per month, I managed just 138. It was off by a bit, but I don’t see this as derailing my efforts to run 2010 in 2010. I was worried, though.
3. I’d never run an ultra. I’ve run two marathons in my day, a couple of ~20 mile runs, and gobs in the 13.1+ mile range — but never anything father than 26.2 miles. Ever since Luxembourg, I’ve had “Run an ultra” on my bucket list. Well, i did that Thursday night. I ran from my house, half-way across the island to Schofield Barracks, where I took the long loop (11.25) around post and up Kolekole Pass, before running back home. 5+ hours, 31 miles — I think 50km is considered the baby of ultra-marathons, but it counts.
I never thought I’d run 40 miles per week. I never thought I’d run 300 miles in 30 days. I never thought I’d take off one night and run 50 km (especially since I’d run 10km that morning at PT).
Today, I am 83 days out from the end of the year, and I need to run just 382 more miles to reach my goal of running 2010 miles in 2010. Granted, during those 83 days, I also need to close up shop here in Hawaii and move back to Iraq for another year — but I can work with that. 382 miles in 83 days — that’s an average of just 4.6 miles per day, and only 32 miles per week. In July, I averaged 10 miles per day, and this week I ran almost 80 miles — I think I can do this.