A Runner Reimagined

I recent­ly wrote my near­ly oblig­a­tory “some per­son­al news” post relat­ed to leav­ing my job in March. I’ve been work­ing in dig­i­tal and social since you need­ed to code the page you want­ed to pub­lish. That’s a not insignif­i­cant time spent in front of screens. From desk­tops and lap­tops to tablets and phones, I have been hit­ting refresh on feeds and streams my entire career. Being able to step back from them, even just a lit­tle bit, has been trans­for­ma­tive.

So what have I been doing with myself when I’m not jump­ing on calls?

I’ve been retrain­ing my brain. I’ve been con­sum­ing actu­al cul­ture in a way I haven’t since I was a music crit­ic. And, I’ve been run­ning.

Now, I’ve writ­ten about run­ning in the past. In fact, when I start­ed writ­ing this this morn­ing, I had to edit — and ulti­mate­ly delete — a post I start­ed writ­ing about run­ning last Octo­ber. Why? Because I began the post the way I always do, say­ing that I’d learned from the last time I suf­fered an overuse injury and how this time would be dif­fer­ent.

Well — spoil­er — it wasn’t. I prob­a­bly had my short­est stint of active run­ning yet. I was hob­bled with a weird and painful ankle injury that side­lined me all win­ter.

So what’s dif­fer­ent this time? For one, I’ve actu­al­ly stuck to my stat­ed prin­ci­ples each time I’ve writ­ten one of these posts. I start­ed run­ning 6 slow miles a day in March, then bumped to 10 per day in May and am now flirt­ing with 12 a day in July.

Best of all I’ve dis­cov­ered trail run­ning. I watch an absurd amount of ultra­run­ner YouTube now, notably stuff from Gin­ger Run­ner, but also stuff from out­door and sports brands like REI, Red Bull, Hoka One One and more. Watch How to Run 100 Miles and tell me it’s not dif­fer­ent from every piece of brand­ed con­tent you’ve ever seen. It inspired me. It cap­tures so much of what I’ve been chas­ing in life: the abil­i­ty to dis­con­nect and, well, #OptOut­side in a way that too few of us make time to do.

Because I can’t shut off the part of my brain that thinks about how con­tent can con­nect us to mean­ing, I’ve gone deep on out­door brands because I think that since REI went big with #OptOut­side they’ve real­ly cap­tured an ethos that many Amer­i­cans I know yearn for: the abil­i­ty to escape and push the bound­aries of what’s pos­si­ble. I think it’s what Stra­va got half right in its #GiveKu­dos cam­paign when they tried to con­nect inter­ac­tion on their app to some­thing dif­fer­ent from the hell­stream of polit­i­cal memes we see every time open our phones in the morn­ing. It’s a noble effort and one that I hope these brands con­tin­ue to pur­sue.

I know what you’re think­ing. This is where I announce my next race. You’re not wrong. I’m hop­ing to run my first ultra­ma­rathon — a mere 50K — in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber. I’ve got this!