Understanding the Whys

On the last day of 2020 I was scrambling to review what I have accomplished for the year that has not been like any other. Just a year ago nobody would have guessed that a pandemic would hit and changed the way we study, work, and live.

Covid-19 had taken everyone around the world by surprise. Schools were closed (and remains close in some countries), work shifted home-based, international travels grounded, and not to mention the myriad of disruptions across businesses and lives everywhere.

Looking Back at the Mileage

Year 2020, despite the multiple ‘movement control order’ full and partial lockdown periods, I was able to consistently put in the running mileage on a weekly basis. Most of the runs during the full lock-down month of March and April were done indoor or around the house compound. In was kind of insane running indoor without the treadmill, shuffling from the kitchen to the living room, and back to the kitchen repeatedly. But it was also necessary to allow the body to stay active and the mind to maintain sanity.

From June to September I was able to hit the trails at least once a week during the weekends. The outings were certainly godsend. Usually with my brother and other times, friends, we were able to explore new trails, tread rivers and discover waterfalls. There is always something special about spending time in the forest. It refreshes the tired body and rejuvenates the weary soul.

Looking at my Garmin watch records, I ran a total of 3,061km in 2020, an average of 58.9km per week. This is not considered very high by any standard of ultra-runners, but it is the highest running mileage in a year for me since I started running seriously in 2017 (I ran my very first ultra in Dec 2017. It was a 55km run on mixture of trails and roads.).

Just for the sake of comparison and to ‘pat my own back’ on the progression, my yearly mileage from 2016 on-wards are 2016: 363.0km; 2017: 1,374.0km; 2018: 1,622.0km; 2019: 2,370.5km and 2020: 3,061.1km.

I surprised myself in maintaining the relatively consistent mileage despite Covid-19 lock-downs.

Understanding the Why

Running a trail ultra (50km, 100km, 100miles or beyond) is not an easy feat. It is not easy in the sense that it is not just about that one day or two in completing the race. There are a tonne of trainings that comes with it before one could or should attempt an ultra. Preparing for an ultra takes months of focused running and cross-training, if you hope to complete the race well. Trainings have to be inculcated into your daily life and running has to be a habit, almost a second nature, just like eating and sleeping.

You will have to really love running if you hope for any success in making running such a big part of your life. Even if by chance you love running, you may only love running to a certain degree, not to the demands of ultra-distances.

I have mentioned before that running was never my thing in my growing up years. I loathed running events in school, especially the mandatory once a year cross country race. In my last year of high school, I shamefully feint stomach ache at the starting line just to avoid starting! Thinking back, that event was only a 7km run, for crying out loud.

Now, well into my forties, I often wonder what has changed and what is my motivation for running these crazy distances over trails, rivers and hills. Running does not come naturally for me. My body frame is on the large side and my movements aren’t exactly smooth. I can’t say that I love running, even now.

But I like what running can do for me.

Still, you will have to understand your whys if you want to be able to consistently train and run on a daily basis. At the top of my head, I find myself coming back to three reasons why I stayed on running and pushed myself to keep at it:

  1. I want to stay very fit and healthy as I age so that I have the ability to venture into beautiful places that are sometimes only accessible by hikes. What is the point of retiring with time and money but not the physical ability to travel, eat and experience the world right?

  2. I want to set a good example and be a role model for my growing boys. I hope to not only teach, but to demonstrate to them that determination and hard work is necessary to achieve anything worthy.

  3. I want to maintain my values of discipline and determination, knowing that I can achieve anything I desire in life if I work at it deliberately (with a plan and receiving feedback) and diligently (giving my best and not giving up).

Just three whys for now. I suspect more will surface later as I progress in my journey of conquering my first 100km trail ultra. Until then, I plan to step up my training effort in 2021 in anticipation of trail races finally happening (perhaps) in the second half of the year. Still Covid-19 lockdown or not, I best stay trained and be prepared to go.   

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