The beginning of a story is essential. It’s where everything starts. In science, you can’t have Δx unless you have x. In literature, you can’t have a climax unless you have an exposition. You can’t have a chicken without an egg… but that’s a bit circular. Forget about the chicken. Without a beginning that is catchy or engaging, we’d never get far enough into a story to care about its end. This story is no different.
Realistically, the dramatic arc is very predictable. Either I will run 1,000 miles or I will not run 1,000 miles. Along the way, I will be disheartened and encounter difficulty. I will probably have some quirky experiences that provide lessons about life. I will have days of triumph and days of failure, and in 11 months and 21 days, I will know whether this story has a happy ending.
We all know happy endings are never that clear.
The yes/no dichotomy of “ran 1,000 miles” is simple. I have at least two apps on my phone that will do the math for me. I have a fancy new watch that not only measures how far I run but how many footsteps I take per minute and how fast my heart is beating. All I have to do is press some buttons — not to mention the actual running part.
But, let’s be honest for a second. If I run 1,000 miles this year, and end up with the same 5k race time, the same dress size, and the same level of confidence, then I’ve done something really wrong. It might put a checkmark in a box, but would I have fulfilled my happy ending? This is the part of the story where you learn the main character’s motivation. You probably already know it.
My happy ending is getting in shape – becoming fitter. When I say I want to be “fit,” I mean that I want to feel better, and feel better about myself. I want to be able to say I ran 1,000 miles and I want to look the part. I want to beat myself in races, improving both my speed and my stamina. I want to not die when I run my half marathon in June. I want to feel poised and elegant, not like a giant slob. I want to go from a two-digit pant size to a one-digit pant size. Measuring “fitness” is almost as hard as the working out part. There are about a million tools and calculators and opinions on the matter.
Some of these things can be quantified: my starting weight is 215 lbs. My BMI is an ‘obese’ 34. My bust is 45.75 inches, my waist is 38 inches, and my hip is 48 inches. I wear either a size 14 or 16, depending on the brand. I average a running pace of 13ish minutes a mile, and I’m lucky to finish a 5K under 37 minutes. According to the internet, my body type is potato. There isn’t a meaningful way to measure self-esteem without professional interpretation, but given that I just described myself as a potato, we can assume it’s not great. I’ve also been assured that having “before” pictures is a useful way to help visualize progress:
I also have an overabundance of excuses. We’re ten days into the New Year, and I’m only ten miles into my thousand mile goal. I should be at 33 miles already, but I’ve skipped four of my six scheduled runs… whomp whomp.
Most days I justify not running because it’s freaking cold outside and all I want to do is be warm. It doesn’t help that both my apartment and office are freezing and I might be slowly dying of hypothermia. Otherwise, I feel so tired that I just can’t bear the thought of running. I promise myself that I’ll go running tomorrow instead, which almost invariably never happens.
So here in my commitment: I will run 1,000 miles. I don’t give myself permission not to. As I come up with new and creative excuses for today or tomorrow, I don’t give myself permission to excuse away 2017. This is the part of the story where the change starts to happen. This change is internal just as much as it is external. Wish me luck.