Apart from the fact that 1,000km is quite a long way to run…
Earlier this month — on January 7th 2022 to be precise — I passed a personal milestone.
Not so much in work terms (my writing anniversary is in February) or in Wedding terms, or even in terms of a birthday.
Instead, it marked the day that I ran 5km. Not so impressive by itself, but in additive terms, I could add it to an existing distance of some 995km that I’d run, jogged and walked since the 31st of March 2021.
995+5 is, unless you’re in government or Hollywood accounting, 1,000km.
1,000km. It’s a lovely round number.
Why did I do that? What did I learn? Well, you clicked on a link somewhere to end up here, so I guess you already know that I’m about to tell you. Here we go, in no particular order.
- I’m quite competitive (and not just with myself): A number of years ago, I tried the Couch to 5K routine to get fit. It… didn’t go well at first, a process that I wrote up over at Lifehacker at the time. Eventually I did prevail, hitting a sub-30 minute time for a 5K street run in my area.
Hurrah, and all that, but it left me with little else to conquer, so I more or less stopped running.Fast forward to 2021, and my Vertical Hold co-host Adam Turner undergoes quite the transformation. I don’t think he’ll mind me saying that he shed a lot of weight, got a lot fitter and improved his health markedly, which was great for him… and coincidentally great for me.
Yes, I’d rather keep the hardest working man in podcasting around for a whole lot longer for podcast reasons, but also because it got me thinking about my own fitness, or lack thereof. So I declared on one episode that I was going to get back on the 5km running track in an effort to at least match his efforts.
Or in other words, if I wasn’t so competitive, I’d still be sat on my couch, much fatter and less fit. Thanks, Adam!
- It doesn’t have to all be running: OK, so the headline isn’t 100% accurate. I didn’t in fact sprint every single centimetre in my 1,000+km journey. But that’s OK, because it would be unwise to try to run every single day.
At my age, I’d tear something at best, and break something at worst. Your body needs rest days, so there have been days where I’ve done light jogs, and others where I’ve simply walked my 5km.
Due to other pressures of the world, there have been days where I haven’t done a 5km entry at all.
Again, this all OK, because a healthy fitness regime should include recovery time. Equally speaking, while I try to run to hit a speed target, it’s OK to fail — because even when I fail, I’m still getting some good exercise in.
Sometimes I’m like this… but often I’m not.
- It’s as much mental as physical: Sure, clocking up that 5km daily does involve putting one foot in front of the other on a regular basis, and that’s a physical matter for sure.
At the same time, the actual impetus to exercise is mental, and especially so when the weather is pounding down on my head and my legs feel like jelly. It’s easier to walk, my brain tells me, as I hit the runner’s wall.
This is where I fall back on my competitive nature, and hitting my time marks as best as I can. For a man of my age, a healthy running time for 5km should be around 35 minutes, and I’m pretty happy to say I can hit that on a regular basis now. I sure as hell couldn’t back in March or April 2021.
- It’s (generally) good for my mental state: 2021 was… a challenging one, but I’m not telling you anything there you don’t already know if you were there. If you weren’t, hello future robot overlords!
Anyway, making the time for my daily run also gave me a fair old chunk of at least 35 minutes — and sometimes more to let my brain go rather more freeform. The adrenaline hit you get from pounding the pavement can genuinely help beat back the blues, deal with work stress… and give me a suitably tired frame to sleep at night. Well, most of the time, anyway.
The leg cramp pain is real.
- I need different stimuli at different times: Back when I did the couch to 5k thing, I genuinely crossed the globe to do so, notching up runs across most Australian states, in Spain, the UK, Japan, the USA and more, because I was travelling pretty frequently back then.
Just that visual stimuli was enough, but of course in 2021 my horizons were rather more limited. Most of my runs were in my home suburb, with just a few forays in Wagga Wagga and Iluka to break up the scenery.
So to keep things fresh, I mixed up my listening habits, with everything from cheesy 80s pop to rap, metal to funk and plenty more besides. I found classical music quite tricky to run to, and the same was true for most movie scores.
Also, my music recommendations are utterly obsessed with playing Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero. Great beat to run to, by the way. No, I don’t care about your music opinion here. You run to what makes you run, OK?
- You’re not always going to get some amazing body transformation: Have I lost weight and become more fit as a result of my 1,000km (and climbing) of exercise? For sure, I’m a little lighter in the frame, and my endurance is way better for general aerobic work than it was before.
At the same time, I’m not going to be entering any Mr Olympia contests any time soon, because that wasn’t the goal I had in mind in the first place.
Plus, if you’ve ever seen me, you’ll know what I had to work with in the first place.
- It doesn’t have to be expensive: I’m not much of a fan of gyms (if you are, fine, you do you and all that) and especially those ongoing gym fees, which was a big part of the reason I started running.
You don’t need much more than a pair of sneakers to get started. OK, and some clothes — nobody needs to see me running the streets naked, not even me — but the point is that it’s free to do most of the time as long as the weather’s good.
I did get somewhat lucky here during my run process, reviewing a treadmill that (eventually) didn’t need to go back, which opened up possibilities for running in bad weather or at night, but it isn’t a needed part of the routine.
Indeed, I could have clocked up the kilometres indoors in a smaller space just going back and forth. That’s not so exciting — but it would work, and it’s free.
- I don’t like enthusiastic fitness instructors: This might just be personally me, but you know those “WHOOO FEEL THE BURN KEEP ON PUMPING YEAH YOU GOT THIS WHOOOOO!” type fitness instructors? I find them really off-putting, and the treadmill I ended up with has a video system that’s packed with them.
“Are you ready to get PUUUUUUMPED?”
“Depends. Are you ready to get PUUUUUUUUUUUUNCHED IN THE FACE?”
Again, you do do if that works for you, but I quickly switched to placing a tablet in front of the screen and streaming TV and movies instead to help pass the time. One tip here: The Matrix sequels are almost watchable when you break them down into 35-40 minute running chunks. Almost…
- I can… inspire others? This one took me by absolute surprise. To keep myself honest (and to keep it interesting) I started collating my run stats on my (private) Instagram feed, with a different picture or short clip of where I was running on that day.
That was mostly so I could track it all, and I sort of figured that the small list of friends and colleagues I have on that Instagram account were probably sick of hearing me honking on about running all the time.
Then something unexpected happened. A friend of mine noted that she was “starting to run, because Alex Kidman was”.
Then another one.
By my count there’s at least a half dozen people who have very kindly informed me that my ongoing run counter has encouraged them to also look at doing some kind of regular exercise. None of us are fitness freaks, and that’s not the point, but it’s a genuine pleasure to get feedback in the positive on the Internet. Logically, the Internet is for arguing, cat pictures and porn, isn’t it? This would seem to fly in the face of all of that.
- 1,000km is a long way (but the journey doesn’t stop here): One of the nice things about being slightly maths obsessed is that I got actual pleasure from just totting up the running kilometres, but it’s only now when I look at them in a rear view way that I appreciate just how far it is.
From where I live in Sydney, 1000km (in a straight line) would more or less get me to Little Swanport in Tasmania heading south.
Although I’d drown jogging across the Bass Strait, so maybe not that.
Still, the benefit with doing a 5km accumulative run is that I don’t have to (or want to) stop at 1,000km in the same way that I stopped once I’d done the couch to 5k back in 2015.
Indeed, I’m writing this just after finishing a run that brings my total to an even healthier 1,055km to date. That gets me all the way to Marion Bay, which means Hobart is close by. Onwards! (once my legs recover, and stop feeling quite so much like jelly).