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Short Strides & Odd Thoughts Series: Mile An Hour Recap

New Series!  Mike Smith has been so generous sharing his thoughts over the years, we are tardy with categorizing his contributions as “blogworthy”!

By Mike Smith

With all the gorgeous weather of the preceding weekend, I was looking forward to a pleasant weather window for my 24 hours specific to running (at least) one mile an hour.  Following the weather all week like a hawk, I was a little anxious as Friday morning broke similar to the day before, that saw cool rainy skies with temperatures in the mid 30s with rain for Thursday’s practice.  But by mid day the clouds gave way to sunny skies and by 3pm the day had reached it’s high temperature of 58 and the Mile an Hour experience was on.  

The genius plan started with two laps of the cross country course in the company of our PE teacher and my buddy looking to get both 3 miles out of the way right off the bat and a few miles NOT in the school parking lot where I’ve already logged countless repetitive miles over the last ten years.  And while I still believe this was the right choice, the wetness of the course (due to the rains from the day before) and my desire to avoid the major puddles meant I came off this run with some tightness in my damaged hamstring that I feared might haunt me over the upcoming hours.  But to be honest, the effort felt good and I was pretty happy with the outcome of this first circuit of many.

I was joined by my assistant coach, and good friend (and soon to become my partner in crime in this mis-adventure) and janitor Steve for the second hour’s run, circumnavigating a 1.04 mile loop that was soon to become ingrained in the gray matter that occupies the lonely space between my ears.  This was to be the pattern that dominated the foreseeable future, me and Steve, making an hourly visit to the same track of pavement, simply to end up at the same damn place we started.

While I’m tempted to recall each and every hour I feel that would be as tedious to write as it would be tedious to read.  I’m tempted as I do not wish to leave anyone who aided my success in this odd endeavor not to get their due, but I think I’ll leave that to thank yous at the end of this prose.

I was inspired by Beau Miles to do this challenge.  Not that he asked me to, or he cares that he did.  In watching his Mile and Hour YouTube video on it, it seemed a challenge right up my alley, considering I was watching it during pandemic lockdown, at a time I was reevaluating what I was doing in life recognizing while I am an industrious person by nature, what was my end goal in all this industriousness.  With all this investment in time, what was I looking to get out of it, to fulfill my life with the time I was spending at it.

So over those self reflecting months I vowed to do more things that held meaning to me and less things that didn’t.  I wanted to take on more challenges that either built my character or at least revealed it.  In days past that would have happened by training like a mad man and going after PRs over different distances or take on unexplored race distances or venues.  But now at a place where doing more in training only leads to breakdown or time away from the sport, I needed to have a paradigm shift if I was going to continue “making advances” in my running experience.  Finishing was to become more of the goal than “better.”

Leading up to this latest challenge I was asked many times as my endeavor was being revealed, what was I looking to accomplish, and what was the meaning behind it.  I didn’t and still don’t have a good explanation of what I was exactly looking for other than simply the experience of it.  To see what the challenge would bring, and try to embrace it on the hour.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I knew there would be times I might think I couldn’t do it, and I knew there would be times I’d be wondering myself what I was looking for.  I knew it’d be an experience, one I hadn’t had before, and that by doing so I’d find meaning somehow.

To be honest, the struggle wasn’t that big, the difficulty not that hard, and incidentally the feeling of accomplishment not that overwhelming.  I’m not sure why I expected there might be more meaning than I thought.  Past accomplishments, like finishing marathons, PRs in racing and other endurance endeavors have never brought on the feeling of euphoria in me, so why would this?

I don’t know.  I think I expected to hobble away with some sense of meaning, and I guess that would come with some sense of wonderment and enlightenment.  But truth be told, there was never a truly dark moment, the kind that might drive some clarity into what this endeavor or accomplishment might mean.

Don’t get me wrong.  This was not easy.  My hamstring would dog me for the remaining 23 hours.  I’d make adjustments many times within the mile circuit in an effort to relieve the tensioning going on in my left leg as the tendon connecting the hamstring with the calf would swell over the evening and into the morning hours, making each successive mile a question mark in whether I’d have to revert to walking to close out the challenge.

But there was never a time that I was desperate.  The darkest hours were when I looked to get some sleep after our loop at midnight and 1am, getting woken up by Steve when I hadn’t even realized I had fallen asleep.  I’m not sure why, but those first few steps, the first 200 meters or so, was the only time I even questioned what I was doing.  Those two laps, accompanied by Steve on the bike, were the only laps I’d even remotely consider desperate.  But there was never a thought that I wouldn’t believe I’d finish under my own power.  

It was in the 5am run I thought I might have to change my goal to simply finishing, meaning I might have to walk in the last few laps.  About half way through this lap the tendon under my left knee was really tightening, affecting my stride, and beginning to give me knee pain.  As a precaution, along with the fact that Steve had been with me the whole way even though he had never really intended to, I decided to walk the 6am mile. Walking with one of my favorite coworkers, who has been supporting me, as the sun came up and the birds were waking and greeting the morning was a great experience I would have missed had I been running, nose to the grindstone at that point.  The change in motion of walking versus running also seemed to loosen that left leg up, and after my 7am run I knew the rest of the miles would happen in some sort of a running cadence.

The last lap finished up, pretty non-ceremoniously, as I was hoping.  I had some good friends around me, cheering me on, though I would have to admit, it kind of created a bad taste in my mouth.  Not because they were cheering my accomplishment.  No, I’m very thankful for the group of friends I have.  I guess I was having a hard time reconciling the big accomplishment they were feeling for me and the lack of specific achievement I was feeling.  I guess I never felt that I wouldn’t get this done.  And with no specific goal other than seeing this through, it’s hard to get too excited over something you already knew you would do.  I am satisfied with how things played out, but the simple feeling of being done seems enough.

Last night, enhanced by a few adult beverages, I slept like the dead.  After a well needed shower, I fell asleep around 5:30 on the couch checking my emails, and woke and put myself to sleep at 8:30.  I awoke this morning at 4am, an hour after my usual early morning rise.  The underside of my left knee is tender and my little toe on the same foot a little beat up from hitting the front of its shoe many times over the previous 24 hours.  The little bit of chafe never manifested into anything of concern.  I’m a little bone weary but other than that I feel pretty good.

So what did I learn?  Well, first I guess is you can accomplish foolish things if you put your mind to it.  Not dumb things, but truly foolish things and unlike dumb things, foolish things can bring purpose.  I certainly appreciate my body can live up to the expectation of my brain from time to time.

I also learned that we miss a lot of really cool things while we’re asleep or not looking.  Out on one of the night time loops, we saw a crescent moon, blood orange low on the horizon, well after midnight.  We saw a tremendous hawk, searching for his last meal of the day as it became twilight.  We heard the crescendo of birds, waking and greeting the morning sun.  We played cornhole in the early morning light while the temperature hovered just above the freezing mark.  And we learned that watching the sun come up, at least when you’re doing something as foolish as this, carries a feeling of hope and strength.  Running got a bit easier once the sun was up.

Also, once you’ve completed your lap, grab some refueling and sit down to take a load off, you’re only half an hour from your next run.  No matter when you look at your watch for the first time post loop, there’s 30 minutes give or take until you go again.  I’m calling it the 30 minute rule.

And finally I learned what I already knew.  I have a really good network of friends.  Friends that not only believe in the foolishness I concoct, but revel in the complex simplicity of what running a mile an hour holds.  Friends that embrace that foolishness to the point they want to immerse themselves, even if it’s only a bit, just to be a part of the experience. 

As Beau Miles would say, good on ya’ mate.

By the numbers – for the Mile an Hour Run

4 hours, 47 minutes, 37 seconds of movement, for 27.05 total miles, average pace

4 hours, 5 minutes, 24 seconds of running, for 24.94 miles, average pace – 9:50

Garmin’s collective recovery time suggested – 9 days, 7.5 hours

69,853 steps

6850 calories burned

20 minutes sleep – estimated

3 t shirts, 2 pr shorts, 2 pair shoes, 2 pair socks, 3 quarter zips, 2 pr gloves

High temperature – 58 degrees at the start, low – 35 degrees at 7am

$300 and counting – funds raised for the Mascenic Athletic Booster Club

Shout out of thanks, to all of those that came out and embraced the foolishness I get myself into.  (in order)  My buddy Brandon for running the three first hour miles on the cross country course.  My co coach Becka Lyons for turning the second lap with me.  My mother in law Karen, and my friends Bobby, Amy and Lily for coming out to walk the 6pm lap with me.  Ryan, Nicole, Zion, Bodey, and Sorel for some good fireside conversation between laps and coming back for the final one.  Emily and Jamie for hooking up for the 8pm run with Jamie coming back for 10am and 11am runs.  Nicole and Lauren for the 10pm mile and pulling me on the last mile.  Lance for the 11pm mile.  Gretchen for the midnight and 9am mile.  Big thanks to Jim for coming out at 2am and staying through 4am to run those three deep night runs.  And finally to Steve, my companion throughout the 23 hours, who only intended to play a small role in this whole experience however certainly made the time in between runs much more memorable.


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