If there’s one thing we know about human beings, it’s that we have a propensity for making mistakes. The history of mankind is littered with smart people making dumb decisions and I am certainly no exception. I’ve never done anything as monumentally idiotic as start a land war in Asia, but I’ve made my fair share of missteps, the most recent of which was choosing to do a month long running streak.
Back in July I took on the challenge of participating in four races in four weeks and found myself on a bit of a runner’s high. What did I do with that irrational buzz? I doubled down on it and decided to run every single day for a month. I talked myself into the idea that August was the best possible month to attempt such a grand adventure, what with its long days and warm temps, and jumped right in.
As it turns out, August is not a good month to run for 31 straight days. No month is a good month to run for 31 straight days. Because running for 31 straight days is really stupid.
Let’s start with the obvious. I’m too old and too busy to run every single day. Run streaks are a young man’s (or woman’s) game. Perhaps if I were in my twenties, running every day wouldn’t have been so taxing on my body. But I’m not in my twenties. So throughout my August streak, my 41-year-old legs felt sore and fatigued pretty much all of the time. Not just when I ran, but always. And when I did get out and hit the road, my legs desperately wanted me to stop.
And while I may not be the busiest man in the world, I do have a lot on my plate. I have a wife, a son and a hell of a long commute. Working a daily run into my schedule was irritatingly tricky. Some days my mandated mile required me to wake up way too early. Other days I’d have to rearrange an already tight calendar just so I could maintain the streak. Most sickeningly, on at least one occasion, I ran on a Friday night. Not a Friday evening. A FRIDAY FREAKIN’ NIGHT!
But perhaps the most fundamental problem with running for 31 straight days is that it goes against one of my guiding principles: everything in moderation.
I believe wholeheartedly that I can eat bad foods, drink alcohol, sleep in, or watch mass amounts of TV, as long as I do these things in moderation. Can I spend the entire day watching football and eating donuts? From time to time. Should I do that every weekend? Only if I want another ex-wife and pants with elastic waistbands.
And while running is certainly a healthier activity than gorging oneself on sports and pastries, I still need to keep myself in check and not overdo it.
By ignoring my devotion to moderation, I became the running equivalent of Monty Brewster, the protagonist in one of my favorite ‘80s comedies, Brewster’s Millions. When the lowly Hackensack Bulls pitcher was forced to burn through $30 million in 30 days as a condition of receiving his inheritance, he quickly developed a hatred for the money he so very much wished to acquire.
Like Monty Brewster, each day found me growing more and more weary of the thing I’d once loved. Running became exhausting and its appeal almost completely disappeared. I no longer looked forward to lacing on my Asics and logging mileage, I loathed it. Running had transformed from a fun, healthy activity that was physically and mentally exhilarating into an obligatory albatross that weighed me down and made me irritable.
The obvious question you probably have is, “If all of this was so awful, why not just quit?” The simple answer is because I’m stubborn as hell. If I commit to something, I commit to it. This can be a very admirable or a very annoying trait, depending on the context. My headstrong commitment has ensured my loyalty to past employers but also caused me to endure the entire second season of True Detective.
President Kennedy once said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Maybe he’s right. Running every day for a month was hard. Not as hard as putting a man on the moon, but hard nevertheless. And maybe that difficulty is why I ultimately decided to do it. Someday I might even look back on August 2015 and bask in the glory of completing a rigorous, physical challenge that a couple of years ago I never would’ve attempted.
Though I doubt it.