Updated: Aug 15
Challenge yourself to 150 miles of running over 30 days
A colleague, quite casual-like, asked, ‘What challenge have you got lined up next?’ I said that I’d be running 5 miles every day for 30 days. After a moment’s pause he said, ‘What’s the point in that?’ There was an air of mockery mixed with contempt about his words. But maybe I’d just misinterpreted them. Anyway, my ego felt challenged and so in an instant I flipped from green to nihilistic to misanthropic answering with, ‘What’s the point in you bothering to take another breath? You’ve procreated; your progeny have reached that stage of maturation where they no longer need your financial and material support; now all you’re doing is wasting valuable oxygen and using up diminishing resources. You might as well do the honourable thing and jump off of a bridge!’
A conversation closer if ever there was one, I later felt, after reflecting on this verbal exchange, that my rebuttal was a touch, shall we say, tactless – maybe even offensive. But for some reason I was annoyed that he’d missed the glaringly obvious point of the challenges. Though in all honesty, I had not made this so called ‘point’ explicitly clear. In the sobering light of retrospection, I had to swallow the possibility that I may have overreacted and my colleague could be forgiven for his failing to see the purpose of the 30 Day Challenge initiative.
Sometime after our little tete-a-tete it occured to me that I myself was not fully aware of how beneficial these challenges actually can be. My colleague’s ‘What’s the point’ comment got the old cogs turning and I sat for a while in solitude deliberating over the 30 Day Challenge ethos. On emerging from the deep dark depths of deliberation I realised that the central theme of the challenge is not the primary concern. In actuality, it is the ability to maintain a change in habit for an extensive duration of time that, ultimately, is the challenge.
Allow me to elaborate. I am a fairly decent runner. Not only am I physiologically and anatomically suited to this particular exercise discipline, I very much enjoy running – for me it’s not a chore more a form of meditation. Now I’m not intentionally trying to inflate my arse with smoke here. What I’m trying to say is that, a five mile run is not so much the challenge as is – metaphorically speaking – the juggling of another ball.
When your life is over brimming with commitments, and you obsess over time utilisation, and pride of place on your bookcase stands Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life, accommodating an additional 45 minute training session into a day that is jam-packed with activities such as reading, meditating, guitar playing, a pre-existing exercise regime, writing, eating and, not forgetting, work, this then becomes a challenge in itself. One is literally forced to ‘make time’ – which can sometimes be extremely difficult to do.
Another side to these challenges is the necessity to cultivate the discipline and commitment required to see the full 30 Days through. Not the no-brainer this at first seems. If I’m honest here, there were some mornings when, on alighting from underneath warm comfortable bed covers at 5am in the dreary darkness only to be greeted with the prospect of jogging five miles in the wind and the rain, I really could quite easily have chucked the towel in. Yet, through the din of the rata-tat-tat of rain colliding with glass and the incessant wind whistling the only tune it knows, the indomitable spirit of the Challenges, cutting through it all, would whisper a word of encouragement into my incredulous ear.
“You can do it Adam – only nine days left. Can’t give up now.”
It was on one such morning when the power of the 30 Day Challenges really hit home: truly, would I have forced myself, as I had done on numerous previous occasions, out of the warm embrace of a comfortable bed into the inhospitable company of a cold November morning? Would any rational minded being? I’d say certainly No, not if there wasn’t the matter of seeing the challenge through to its completion at stake or, of course, a substantial pecuniary incentive. The thought of failing when I’ve set myself a goal hurts far more than anything the English weather has to throw at me.
Whilst breaking loose from the shackles of sleep, slowly picking up pace as the rust of seven sedentary hours crumbled away, I began to see the many positives of what originally started as a lifestyle alteration experiment. And what wasn’t obvious to my colleague at once became obvious to me. So, I ask, what is the point of running 5 miles every day for 30 days?
For the answers to this question I invite you to follow me on a 150 mile Odyssey. Where at the end I’m sure you’ll see what I did.
You must cover the distance of 5 miles – bipedal running – every day for 30 consecutive days. You can do this either in one continuous effort or 2 X 2.5mile stints. The reason as to why I’ve allowed for the option of spitting the distance is for the individual who may sometimes struggle to cram a 40-plus minute run into their daily routine.
You can intersperse treadmill runs with road runs.
You are not allowed to walk a single metre of the distance.
In the beginning I openly mocked the relative ease of this challenge – an act of folly if ever there was one. A short while after our getting acquainted, the second day to be precise, I thought it might be good practice to set a competitive 5 mile run time on the treadmill, thus providing me with the opportunity of gauging if any physiological developments took place. My rationale behind this decision was for the purposes of measuring personal performance and answering the question: Would 150 miles of running improve one’s performance or decrease it?
Intuition inclines us toward expecting cardio-respiratory adaptations as our cardiac muscle and diaphragm responded to the rigours of a fairly demanding regime; development in muscle specific zones – gluteus maximus, quadriceps and gastrocnemius to be precise – is bound to take place; fat would literally fall away as the body gorged itself on any reserves it was saving for that rainy day; and a general enhancement in muscular tonality (a consequence of the combined forces of the two previous physiological responses). But would the weight of all those miles take their toll causing the body to cannibalise muscle tissue leading to the lamentable decline of physical performance?
These questions I aimed to answer with the pre and post 5 mile treadmill run time test. I recorded an initial time which I would attempt to beat on the final run. However, in my haste to execute what I initially believed to be a brilliant idea, I neglected to take into consideration exactly how this might impact on my future performance. So, on the second day of the challenge, after a short warm-up, I very competitively covered the distance of 5 miles in 31:59. Consequently, from day three and beyond day eight, I was crippled with the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness). For an entire week getting on and off the toilet posed a challenge – 5 miles felt like a marathon in comparison.
If I’d engaged my brain I would have performed the initial test a week prior to starting the challenge. Irrespective of this quite costly schoolboy error, I had my time and my sights set on a sub 30 minute grand finale.
Once the DOMS dissipated and my legs felt free, things from then on out ran relatively smoothly. By this time I was a third of the way through the thirty days. Other than a couple of cold wet and windy mornings, a mild calf strain around day 26, and the inevitable ebb and flow of motivation, I encountered no further problems. In fact, as the days marched on, the marching got much easier and I began to enjoy enhanced physical performance – the sweet fruit reaped from the many laborious miles.
My final 5-miler took place on an unassuming Thursday morning in the college gym where I work. In anticipation of achieving the sub 30-minute time I’d set as a suitable end-of-challenge challenge, I recruited two competing teams of physically capable students. Both teams consisted of four members. Each participating member completed – as fast as they possibly could – the distance of 250 metres. Taking it in turns they proceeded to rotate through their team enjoying, after their 250m dash, 750m of rest. The only stipulation I enforced – as much for their safety as to provide me with a cat in hell's chance – was that, prior to dismounting the running machine, they had to reduce the speed to 10kph. The belt remained in motion and once the next in line was on and running they were free to increase the speed up to the machine’s maximum – 22.9kph.
The two teams and I worked through a mandatory 1000m progressive warm-up. With fingers poised over the start button and a look of deep concentration in our eyes, we were like grey hounds straining to break out of our slips. A five second countdown was initiated by an independent adjudicator.
And we were off!
My game plan was a simple one. Over the 8000m (the running machines were calibrated to kilometres as opposed to miles – which for a challenge of this nature is certainly preferable) I would aim to average out at 16kph which would see me cover the distance in precisely 30 minutes. If I could execute this strategy I would be successful in my endeavour. I’d purposely pitted myself against the two teams as means of maintaining momentum. This, on my part, was a master stroke.
By 2000m I’d reached cruising altitude – 16kph – and as I ventured into the final 3k I proceeded to push the pace. The team closest to me, by this time, was 400m in the red but the end team, whose distance I could only ascertain if I dared drop dangerously back to the edge of the belt, was 200m in the green. They’d maintained a competitive pace from the get-go to which they only ever seemed to augment. Their team dynamics and peer-to-peer motivation and encouragement were exemplary. Combined, these enviable characteristics made them a formidable adversary.
I entered the final thousand at a fair clip – 17kph. And though I was dancing precariously across the precipice of my lactate threshold, I continued to increase the speed by 0.5kph increments as each hundred metres elapsed. Over the remaining five hundred I maxed my mill out topping 22.9kph finishing in second place with a time of 28:48.
I felt as though I could have done better.
Post Challenge Outcomes
Improved cardiovascular and respiratory performance.
Substantial fat loss.
Increased muscular definition mainly in the legs but also over the entire body.
Improved 5 mile run time and 1.5 mile time (a week after the challenge, and well rested, I entered a 1.5m challenge against my students. To my amazement I breezed the distance whilst shattering my previous PB achieving an ego inflating 7:58 – I was quite confident after the run that I could shave at least another 20 seconds off the time).
This Concludes the Challenge: 30 X 5 Miles
Below are a three more 30 day challenges
this challenge will see you cover over 250,000 metres! On day 1 you'll row 500m but by day 30 you'll row 21,090.
Every day for 30 days you must be out of bed before 5am. No snooze button and no lazy long Sunday morning sleepins!
Is exactly that. For 30 days you must adopt a strict vegan diet: no meat! no dairy! no animal protein!