I’ve always wanted to be an athlete. I had never—until 2018—considered myself athletic.
What happened in 2018? Some combination of aging and stress and restlessness showed me that my intellectual work improved when my physical activity increased. I took up indoor rowing, completed a number of Concept2 challenges, rowed a few half marathons, and participated in many classes and workouts. I wasn’t an athlete, but I did, finally, feel athletic.
In 2022 I, perhaps foolishly, decided to take up running. I’ve always had a passing proficiency with running: I ran the mile in high school (the only sport that didn’t have tryouts or cuts) and I’ve completed many Couch to 5Ks. But none of those experiences created a habit. However, after a few recent years of indoor rowing (and growing bored with the indoor part of the sport), I shifted to running. I ran my first race (a very very slow 10K) in August of 2022 and have stuck with it since.
That makes make 2023 my first full calendar year of running, and the end of 2023 feels like a good time to reflect on how things went.
I ran 416.6 miles in 2023, or approximately 8 miles per week. However, I lost most of March & April to covid moving sequentially through my family. I also spent the summer with an injury (more on that below), so I think 10.5 mi/week is the more accurate number when accounting for only active weeks. Still, there’s room for improvement here. I hope to exceed 600 annual miles in 2024.
In the first half of the year, I worked from the FIRST 10K Training Program, which was great—until I injured my peroneal tendon. I’m not sure where I went wrong: maybe pushing the speed work, maybe exerting myself too much on cross training days, maybe focusing on external metrics rather than listening to my body. Regardless, in June the tendon pain caused me to abandon a long run and walk home. Dr. Kristin Titko promptly diagnosed the tendinitis, saw me through weeks of laser treatment, and had me back to full training volume in August. (I highly recommend Dr. Titko if you’re in the Cincinnati area.)
After the injury I switched my training plan to Hanson’s Beginner Half Marathon, which has kept me injury free. In Q4 of 2023 I’ve been able to average two 5Ks and a long run each week, along with a day or two of cross-training.
Here’s what I used in 2023:
- Shoes: New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v12. I buy these whenever Joe’s New Balance Outlet has a sale, and the foam tends to hold up for 350–400 miles. They’re great for the casual running I do.
- Watch: Apple Watch Ultra Series 2. I nearly purchased a Garmin Forerunner this year, but I want a watch with cellular service. Although I envy Garmin’s Body Battery measurements, the Athlytic watch app gets me close enough.
- Socks: injinji’s lightweight running socks have been a revelation. Mine are showing a fair bit of wear after less than a year, but I’ll happily replace them. They make a tremendous difference in foot comfort and blister prevention.
- Headphones: Shokz OpenRun Pro. I started the year with Beats Fit Pro (which I still use for cross training), but moved to an open headphone this fall when my long runs started to exceed 9 miles. The Shokz sound terrible, but it’s an acceptable trade-off for safety.
- Vests: Salomon Adv Skin 12 (for hydration) and NoxGear Tracer2 (for early morning runs). Both are great.
- Headband: Halo. I sweat a lot. The Halo is the only headband that has kept the sweat out of my eyes during long summer runs.
- Summer running clothes: Patagonia Strider Pros and a technical shirt.
- Winter running clothes: Tracksmith Harriers for mild days and a Tracksmith Downeaster/Brighton combo for colder days. The Tracksmith stuff is absurdly expensive, but it’s great for cold weather. I still haven’t found winter pants that I like and am relying on an old pair of Nike Joggers that are pretty lackluster.
- Gels: UnTapped maple syrup gels.
Aside from the FIRST & Hanson’s training plan books, I also read Tom Foreman’s My Year of Running Dangerously, which was heartwarming and full of dad jokes (for better and worse), and Bernd Heinrich’s Racing the Clock, which was an excellent meditation on science and nature and exercise and aging.
Goals for 2024
I’d like to run the Flying Pig Half Marathon, but I would also like to run it at a respectable pace. That kind of training isn’t viable with a toddler in the house, so I’m shelving the half marathon race goal for a year. Instead, I’m planning to accrue at least 600 miles this year and improve my 5K time (currently 27:12; I’d like to drop it to 26:30 this year). I find distance running more enjoyable than racing, but 5K training is a better fit for my life & responsibilities right now. And improving my overall speeds and fitness will help me log more miles.
More importantly, running has taught me that the experience matters more than the data. It’s reminded me to look up and watch the horizon, to enjoy running in the snow, and to get on the road or trail as the sun rises. If I can stay healthy and consistent in 2024, it will be another good year.