by Mike Smith
One mile in one hour. Pretty simple. How about one mile in one hour for the entirety of a whole day (24 hours?)
So last year on my birthday weekend I challenged myself by planning and running exactly that, a mile an hour. Well not exactly. I ran three miles in the first hour (to get up to a marathon) and walked two miles with my mother in law, but essentially a mile of running an hour for 24 hours.
You may wonder why. Well, a year later that remains a reasonable question. I admit to being inspired by Beau Miles, an Australian YouTuber who takes on some interesting tasks that are very doable but not that easy to do. Among his Mile and Hour, he’s Run the Line, connecting an old marathon length rail line that hasn’t seen a train or another traveler for more than 60 years. He’s walked to work, something I do on a regular basis, but he lives more than 50 miles away and I live less than five minutes on foot. He also kayaked to work, navigating small ditches, canals, and marshes that probably meant a lot more than 50 miles and almost as much walking. Again, in each of these “adventures” it’s not that it is terribly hard, but it’s not likely terribly comfortable. And if you ask me, we all need more experiences like this.
Growth comes not from comfort, but from the opposite. In order for us to grow, mature and to truly flourish we need to experience uncomfortable situations, learning through the experience that we are pretty damn flexible and adaptable, which in turn means we’re pretty damn tough as well. You don’t develop toughness through comfort. You don’t find out what you’re made of sitting on the couch.
So last year, I made 24 circuits of the school parking lot in order to complete my challenge. I’m not sure what lessons were learned through the process, and to be honest, while not exactly an easy task, it wasn’t a hard one either. Matter of fact I believe pretty much anyone could do it. I mean, come on, one mile inside of 60 minutes is not really that hard of a thing to do. The real question might be why would anyone want to?
This is a question I can only half answer. After more than two decades of coaching and teaching high schoolers it’s safe to say I’ve “lost” some me time by being busy, not being contemplative and focusing on what it is that really makes me tick. But thanks to the covid interruption I got that time, and with it I realized that I needed to add more things to my life that challenge myself and not just my athletes, that might lead to self fulfillment. With my running no longer about PRs I need to focus on other types of success.
So while there was no great epiphany or the answer to the meaning of life, it was a good challenge, meant something at the time, and certainly took me out of my comfort zone, something I think most of us need a little bit more of. Not only that the Booster Club was able to get pledges for each mile and raised more than $700 for Mascenic Athletics. Not bad for only one mile every hour.
So I’m going to do it again. This year things will be a little different. I won’t be finishing on my birthday like last year. I won’t have the unexpected company of one of my coworkers for the entirety of the event as he has informed me that this year’s stupidity is my own. Never intending to “go the distance” he hung around simply to see the thing through. Not this time. I do anticipate some people will stop in to see what state I’m in, how I’m doing and potentially to run a few laps with me. But I feel this one is destined to be a bit lonelier, and that might be good.
Why do it again if I’ve already done it once? I’m not really sure. Why do anything we’ve already done once? I guess we anticipate the potential for a different experience. Without a constant companion I suspect the dark times will be a little darker. But it will also allow for a bit more self reflection, something else we all could use a little more of. And I suppose there’s the potentiality of raising a bit more money for the cause.
Much like last year, I’ll begin my running at 3pm on Friday, March 24th. I have a one mile loop mapped out in the school parking lot and over a twenty four hour time period I plan to run one mile, on the hour every hour. And once the twenty third hour is over, I’ll drive my car back home, walk gingerly back through the woods to finish my last mile at 2pm on Saturday with a run back to the house and the opportunity to be done.
Once there, with nothing else on the agenda, not even to go and pick up my car, I fully intend to settle into a camp chair, remove my shoes, and relax and reflect on the purpose of this endeavor. Will I do it again? Probably not. Not unless I find some meaning to it all, which I must admit is unlikely. What is likely is that I have accumulated 24 miles in 24 hours, somewhere around 70,000 steps and a better appreciation for the few consecutive hours I usually sleep compared to what I had over the last 24 hours.
Will it be worth it? Hard to say but then again, that’s about how I stare down my intent to run on a regular basis these days. The challenge no longer lies in the training, hard workouts or lung busting repeats. No, it’s in the act of the run. Will this next run be fulfilling? Not sure. But I can say it’s worth it.
by Mike Smith