I don’t remember exactly when it started.
On some New Year’s Day morning several years ago I woke up and decided to run. The distance happened to be 10 miles, which at the time was a stretch for my athletic endurance. Since that day, every year, on New Year’s Day I’m compelled to run 10 miles.
Some years the 10 miles has felt like 20 while other years (typically when I’m in the midst of training for a marathon or Ironman) the 10 miles was a cakewalk. I tend do some pretty deep thinking when I run (like most runners I suspect), so combining the stillness of a holiday morning plus the mindset of starting a new year – the contemplative thoughts get pretty active.
I’ve tried to figure out why I’m so compelled to run on New Year’s Day, even more than my normal desire to run. I think the reasons have changed over the years as my age brings new perspective and depending on what happens to be going on in my life. However, I think the underlying drive though is a desire to shock the system on a day that has such symbolic meaning for new beginnings.
Even if I’m not in a place where I feel like I need to have a “new beginning”, I find value in pushing my body out of it’s comfort zone for a while. Over the year’s I’ve had moments of such clarity while running that I’ve come to expect that if I head out for a run with some problem or challenge on my mind, that by the end of the run a solution will have made itself clear to me.
I’ve read or heard two people I admire very much tell stories of how a run, outside of their comfort zone, brought clarity to their lives in an otherwise challenging time. One was Tony Robbins at an event I heard him speak at, and the other was Dean Karnazes in his book Ultramarathon Man. Early on, this brought some validation to pushing myself on a New Year’s Day run. Now, it’s so ingrained in my annual routine that I don’t give it a second thought no matter what shape I’m in.
By running on New Year’s Day, maybe I’m expecting (or hoping) for that clarity of thought that Tony and Dean experienced as I contemplate how I want to craft the upcoming year of my life. Whatever the reason, I always feel better when I get back versus when I left; I’ve run off any extra calories I might have consumed the night before; and I feel ready to face the new year with optimism.
By the way, this year’s run will feel more like 20 miles than a cakewalk.