Let's all run a 5K a day for the next 6 days, shall we?
A final lesson from Scott Douglas's "Running Is My Therapy," plus in-person races you can run in Florida, Texas + Utah
One of my favorite nonfiction writers of all time is a man named David Grann. A staff writer for The New Yorker, he’s also the author of books like Killers of the Flower Moon and his absolutely amazing The Lost City of Z, which retraces the 1925 journey into the Amazon jungle by Percy Fawcett, a British explorer whose adventures would later serve as an inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones.
As a writer, I look up to Grann today in the same way I looked up to Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy when I was a teenager back in the eighties — by which I mean, a lot.
So when I see him post things on social media like this, I don’t feel so guilty about my own inability to tear myself away from the news:
Given the circumstances, who could blame him? Or me? Or you?
Right now feels a little like things felt at the beginning of the pandemic, back in the spring. We didn’t know what to expect, we couldn’t know what lay ahead in the future for us. All we could do was simply get up, get through the day, and then hope the next would bring better news.
My own running had been intermittent in the months leading up to March, so I decided to renew my dedication. I began a running streak, finding myself running a 5K every day for 31 days in a row, my longest running streak ever.
I’m not sure I can overstate how much that running streak helped me mentally process our new normal, as it gave me a chance to practice mindfulness in a way I hadn’t before.
Scott Douglas, in his 2018 book Running Is My Therapy — which we talked about back in June and again in September — explores exactly what is going on when we allow ourselves the chance to experience our own lives without judging them moment by moment.
Running, he points out, gives us a way to turn on that part of our brains that lets us access that:
“... one of the great appeals of running is that we don’t consciously enact these cognitive processes; they just sort of happen. Within a mile of moderate running, our breathing naturally becomes rhythmic. The pleasantly repetitive cadence of our foot strikes can be felt in our head. As we settle in, we tend to exhale on a predictable per-foot strike schedule. Increased neural activity helps induce a free-flowing thought process. Running usually get us part of the way toward mindfulness with little effort on our part.”
You’ve probably experienced this too, maybe quite a few times. (Probably lots of times, in fact!)
You may even have experienced the kind of sensation psychologists call “flow,” the state of being in which you’re completely engaged in an activity to the degree that all distracting thoughts disappear, and your attention is focused solely on what you’re doing.
Running those five kilometers every day gave me that experience and helped set the tone for the remainder of each day, and one of the most fun things about it was that I got to share that with you via our Instagram feed, as we checked in with one another over the first days and weeks of the pandemic.
Would you guys be up for doing that again? It’s a great way to encourage one another as some of us kick-start our running, and others finish the training that our members are doing toward our virtual half marathon in November.
Interested? Just tap this button:
Races you might love running
Syracuse, Utah | Saturday, November 14, 2020
A gorgeous run along the trails of Utah’s Antelope Island State Park, a 42-square-mile park near the southern end of the Great Salt Lake that’s home to bighorn sheep, antelope, free-ranging bison and other desert animals. The point-to-point route for the race begins at the park’s Fielding Garr ranch and then follow along the hills of the Mountain View Trail, until you make the turn toward the lake and finish at the White Rock Bay trailhead.
$65.77 and up | Sign up here
San Antonio, Texas | Sunday, November 8, 2020
A run along the roads of the JW Marriott resort here in the Texas Hill Country, where you’ll get to run among its 600 acres and its TPC golf course on what organizers say will be “a crisp fall morning.” This year’s race is its first-ever running so it’s likely to be a small one, but if you can get away, it will no doubt make for a well-deserved getaway weekend building up to the race on Sunday morning.
$105 and up | Sign up here
Cocoa Beach, Fla. | Sunday, November 22, 2020
Run entirely on the sands of Cocoa Beach in the region known as “Florida’s Space Coast” — it’s located just south of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center, where you can see old rockets and space artifacts that once were launched into orbit from here — this half marathon starts exactly at sunrise (6:37 a.m.) and is timed to coincide with low tide, so you’ll have the biggest beach possible during the race. Shoes are optional, as there’s a “barefoot division” you can enter.
$83 and up | Sign up here
Lehi, Utah | Thursday, November 26, 2020
Eight miles of paved running, walking and biking trails that are closed to car traffic await at this race that features a mostly flat course, with only 74 feet of elevation change over the entire route, perfect for first-time half marathoners, walkers and anyone who doesn’t want to challenge themselves too much on Turkey Day. The race takes runners largely along the Jordan River in the small Utah city of Lehi, and much of it unfolds along the Jordan River Parkway Trail, the paved trails that stretch among the 40 miles of urban parks between Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake to the north.
$74.95 and up | Sign up here
Lithia, Fla. | Sunday, November 29, 2020
With more than 6,200 acres of hardwood forests, pine flatwood trees and dozens of trials for back-country mountain biking as well as walking, running, hiking and horseback riding, central Florida’s Alafia River State Park provides the perfect environment for this post-Thanksgiving race. Organizers say the experience of running here is akin to running the hills of the Kentucky bluegrass country, with ample views of the park’s sweeping grass plains as well as plenty of hills along its more than 20 miles of trails.
$53 and up | Sign up here
Great running reads
The Most Effective Cardio Workout, According to Science. There’s only so long you can push yourself to do something that, deep down, you don’t really want to do. That’s why it’s so important to find a way to be active that you intrinsically enjoy, and not something you do because you think you should.
“You’ve got to frame whatever you’re doing as an everyday activity, not as something that seems like a chore.”
Your Brain Makes You a Different Person Every Day. Not running-related, but absolutely fascinating. A conversation with neuroscientist David Eagleman about the ways in which our brains rewire themselves every moment of every day (even right now, as you read this).
“The only silver lining to the lockdown is the fact we’re getting a lot of brain plasticity out of it... We get to challenge ourselves with novelty. Which is the most important thing for the brain.”
To Strength Train Right, Trust Your Feelings. A kind of counterpoint to the article above about cardio — sense a theme? — about the shift in thinking around strength training, from doing pre-determined (and rigid) workout routines to ones that are tailored for you.
“Just lift whatever is comfortable or at hand, do it until you can’t anymore, and you’ll be maxing out your gains (or at least close enough to max for the vast majority of non-pro athletes).”
A song to run to today
Listen to our full playlist on Spotify, with 8 hours, 50 minutes of music to run to.
Words to run by
“Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.”
“Don't try to rush progress. Remember — a step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Keep believing.”
— Kara Goucher