As you may have read already, I struggled in the early weeks of Shelter-In-Place, both overcoming my own anxiety as well as getting out running and establishing routines. I was swimming in the uneasiness that most runners were feeling, with races canceled and goals for the year being swiftly erased. I had regained some of my footing by the beginning of April however, and so when my buddy Sam told me about the “Mile an Hour Challenge” that he and his son were going to attempt on Saturday April 18th, I was intrigued. I had been looking for a short-term goal to wrap my mind around, and I was successfully resisting signing up for the myriad of “virtual runs” that everyone else seemed to be hopping on board for. I wasn’t ready to commit to anything large, and I was enjoying the experience of running pressure-free for perhaps the first time in my short running career.
The Mile an Hour Challenge was simple – you ran a one mile loop from your house at the top of every hour. Pace didn’t matter, the important part was that you spent the remainder of that hour working around your house, ideally crossing things off your “To-do” list that you hadn’t been able to get to recently. At first I thought this was terrible timing – after having been Sheltered in Place for one month, surely I didn’t have anything left on my todo list, right? Wrong. It turned out I had lots of little projects and tasks that I hadn’t actually completed despite having a seemingly surplus of home time on my hands. If we needed more inspiration, we could turn to Beau Mile’s “A Mile an Hour” video on Youtube, where he originally came up with the idea. Sam and his son were going for the full 24 hours starting at 4 AM. I wanted to sleep in a bit, and decided to rise for the 7AM lap.
Lap 1 – 07:00 (9:18 pace)
I sprung out of bed for the first lap and quickly slipped on my shoes, letting the rest of my family sleep (even though my oldest son had begged me to wake up him “whenever I got up”). One of the Silver Linings of the shelter in place has been the empty city streets, particularly in the early morning on the weekends. For the first time ever I could literally run down the center of the road and not worry about social distancing because there was no one else there. I hadn’t really scouted a loop or anything, so I just started running up my street until I got to the first main artery, MLK Jr Blvd. I took a left there, turned left on the next block, and ran back slightly downhill to my house, looping down to Sacramento Street with a very short connection on the Ohlone Greenway. 1.0 miles exactly – perfect!
The other goal of this event was of course to spend the remainder of your hour in a productive fashion once you got done with your mile. I was still a little groggy, however, and I didn’t want to jump into it too fast, so I took it easy on the task list for that first hour.
Lap 1 Task List: Made and drank coffee, meditated, woke the family up
Lap 2 – 08:00 (10:16 pace)
The family started stirring after the first lap, and my oldest son Sage was a bit peeved that I actually didn’t wake him up for the true start. My little guy and my wife both rallied for lap 2, and we took a leisurely family jog around the loop. I was a bit shocked at how excited everyone was for the lap, as my oldest son usually refuses to run at all unless it involves chasing and kicking a soccer ball. I enjoyed running with my little guy, and I pointed out new things I had noticed since my last lap around the neighborhood. We vowed to try to spot new things every lap we ran together, and I can say that we easily did this throughout the entire day!
The tasks when we returned were centered around food and getting the family fed – a recurring motif as the day would unwind. We cooked, ate, and cleaned breakfast, and I spent some time rolling and stretching trying to limber up for the day.
Lap 2 Task List: Cooked, ate, and cleaned Breakfast. Stretched and rolled! Texted people on the block to get them out running too!
Lap 3 – 09:00 (9:49 pace)
The coffee and breakfast was starting to kick in and the day felt like it was starting around the neighborhood. My wife had to hop on a Zoom call with friends, so me and the boys headed out for a #BoysLoop and a slightly quicker pace for Lap 3. The rhythm of the day was beginning to set in, and I felt like I was participating in a running version of a Monet study of light. Even looking at the same landmarks, houses, and intersections took on a different feel each hour, with the angle and quality of sunlight being different enough to notice. A full CSA box of vegetables and eggs sat waiting on the sidewalk on MLK, and various neighbors had begun to wake up and stroll around.
The mile was over relatively quickly which left about 50 minutes of project time until the start of the next lap! I had done my warm-up tasks and now was ready for the first significant task of the day – finishing a wooden gate I had built across our alley by installing a support wheel to keep the gate from sagging over time. I wanted to involved the kids as well, as projects like this had become a staple in our home-schooling repertoire, and we set out to measure, collect the tools, and start cutting the wood. As with any project it wasn’t super simple, as we had to put a cross board on a diagonal into the gate so we had a surface in which to bolt the caster wheel onto. We were lacking focus and I was blindsided by how fast the time passed until we had to get out on the street for the next lap. The “getting things done” part of this challenge was going to be legit – it demanded laser-like focus on your projects, and no real wasted time, as you had to either complete your task or get to a good stopping point by the time you headed out for the next lap. We left our work unfinished and headed out to the street for the next mile.
Lap 3 Task List: Started mounting the support wheel on the alley gate
Lap 4 – 10:00 (8:40 pace)
Lap 4 was another #BoysLoop as we left our gate project frozen in time and hit the streets again. In a true testament to how much could change in a mere hour, we rounded our last corner onto Sacramento Street and ran right into a sidewalk construction project! Somehow in the last 50 minutes a full team of workers and jackhammers had shown up and demolished the sidewalk and the last 0.2 miles of our route. Oops! We retreated back up to California Street and back to the house, realizing that we would have to tweak the route a bit next time to get back to our exact mile.
The pace was brisk this lap at 8:40 as we were eager to get back to the gate project and finish it up before the next lap. We mounted the diagonal brace, got the wheel fixed on, and even managed to clean up our tools and space. Crushing it!
Lap 4 Task List: Finished the gate project, cleaned up all the tools
Lap 5 – 11:00 (8:56 pace)
I had been texting neighbors all morning, but it wasn’t until the 11:00 lap that folks came out on the street to join us! Neighbors Mia, A, and V came out for the lap as they had been looking for a little bit of motivation to get out and get moving that day. Mia was going to push the stroller, but A was a natural born runner – we literally had to work to keep up with him as he cruised effortlessly around the blocks. We stayed socially distanced, with one family running on the sidewalk and the other in the street.
Once we piled back into the house it became evident that everyone was getting hungry, and that my task for this next portion of the hour would be cooking lunch! Thank goodness we love to cook, because we have been cooking 3-4 meals a day since the SIP order started in March. The Instant Pot is our best friend, and between our stock piled grains and legumes and our delicious CSA veggie boxes from Riverdog Farm we have been eating like Plant-Based Royalty for months now.
Lap 5 Task List: Started Instant Pot Cuban style Pinto Beans
Lap 6 – 12:00 (7:22 pace)
My older guy Sage had been itching for a “fast lap” one of these times, and I figured by high noon we were plenty warmed up to open it up a bit. He’s a great athlete and an amazing soccer player, but wasn’t used to running in sustained efforts like a mile, so I wasn’t really sure how fast he would be able to push it. We tried to pace ourselves on the gentle uphill leading up to MLK and then began to lengthen the strides a bit on the downhill coming home. He had told me he wanted to hit a pace of 7:30, and we pushed it enough the last little bit to bring it down to 7:22. Not bad, although his allergies and asthma immediately kicked up afterwards and he said he was done with the fast laps for the day (but wasn’t ready to let go of his goal for a total of 12 laps). Mom and Dev joined as well for #5 and #4, respectively.
The beans were still cooking in the Instant Pot, and I wanted a bit of a break from chores but still wanted to do something that was on my list. Thus, I challenged my boy to a game of darts. Part of my early excitement with being forced to stay at home was that I would actually get to spend quality time with my family. I quickly realized that this quality time doesn’t necessarily come naturally – you still have to be intentional with your actions and what you do. So while it wasn’t crossing something off my “Todo” list, playing darts with my kid was something that I wanted to do and felt like a great use of 45 minutes. It felt like a slightly worse use of 45 minutes after he quickly dispatched me in 3 games of cricket, however. At least I could still beat him in a lap if I really needed to.
Lap 6 Task List: Lost three games of darts to my 10 year old son
Lap 7 – 13:00 (7:54 pace, segment CR!)
Lap 7 and my body was still feeling good. It took a bit of motivation to get out there every hour, especially after a few relaxing games of darts, but overall the legs felt strong and the body rested. During our semi-fast lap the previous hour I realized that there was a Strava Segment on Delaware Street that encompassed the first third of a mile of our route. I had wanted to try a bit of speedwork if my legs felt up to it, so I thought it was as good of a time as any to go for the segment.
I haven’t done any road speed work for a while and I had forgotten everything I had once known about properly pacing an effort. I took off way too fast, mentally calibrating in my head that the segment stopped one block sooner than it actually did. The segment name was somewhat accurate, as the 40 foot elevation difference felt significant as I clawed my way up to the finish on Grant Street. Honestly, I didn’t think I had it, but when I got back to the house and uploaded my run Strava gave me the crown – 1:49 total time for a pace of 5:26 min / mile. Not bad for an old man!
The task at hand for the remainder of the hour was obvious, of course. Those pinto beans weren’t going to eat themselves! We decided to spice it up even more and make our own homemade tortillas – a task that had been on the list of potential activities since the SIP began, but we hadn’t yet found the time. Fresh tortillas, pinto beans, and homemade kimchi filled our bellies and powered us out for the next lap.
Lap 7 Task List: Made Tortillas from scratch, ate our awesome lunch
Lap 8 – 14:00 (10:04 pace)
Everybody was rolling right along at this point, and the afternoon was heating up for the first time. Mia and A had been out for every lap since they started at 11:00, with A really enjoying the ability to be able to run with some people other than his Mom (no offense Mom). My legs were definitely feeling a bit tight for the first time after the segment effort, and I knew I wasn’t going to be doing anything silly like that again for the rest of the day. Sage made good on his 7th lap and Dev was showing no sign of slowing down either.
The hour was filled with cleaning up our delicious lunch, and then finally sitting down to do something I had been putting off – rewriting the lease for our rental unit in the front of our house. I got stymied with some PDF issues, however, as I tried to print a low resolution phone picture that the tenant had sent us. I didn’t have sufficient time to solve it before needing to head out for the next lap.
Lap 8 Task List: Cleaned up lunch, started lease project
Lap 9 – 15:00 (8:56 pace)
Word of the crazy ultra-runners running laps around their neighborhood at the start of every hour must have been spreading, because we picked up two newbies for lap #9. One of them hadn’t been out for a run since she had her second daughter! We stayed sufficiently distant from each other and I was stoked that people were being motivated to get some fresh air and exercise!
I had been at it since 7:00 AM at that point, and I was really getting an appreciation for what a neat way this was to see the neighborhood in which you lived. Despite running (almost) the exact same lap every time, the scenery varied widely from lap to lap. I even noticed that I was checking in on other people’s projects every hour – the guy mowing his lawn, the woman staining the furniture in her driveway. Some people even started to wave to me, not really knowing what I was doing, but realizing that I was doing something that involved running by their house multiple times throughout the day. And I saw my friends in the neighborhood many more times than I would see them in a normal day!
I came in after the lap and went straight to work on the lease, knowing that I needed to hammer this thing out before the start of the next lap. It turned out that DocuSign was perfect for what I was trying to make happen (getting multiple people to sign a document from many different locations), so once I figured that out, and realized it was free, it was smooth sailing!
Lap 9 Task List: Finished the rental lease and sent it out for signing!
Lap 10 – 16:00 (9:19 Pace)
Lap 10 was another #BoysLoop and my kids were crushing it, although they admitted that the running was harder than the running in soccer. The vegetable box that had been sitting up on MLK was still there, but was slowly getting picked through each lap we went by. First the eggs were taken, then the asparagus, and then the next tier of vegetables like the carrots. Who was taking these vegetables? Were they being taken by the same people or by multiple hungry walkers?
It was starting to take a bit more motivation to get myself out there each lap at this point, but Dev had declared that this would be his last lap, so I knew I had to be positive for him. I mixed up a batch of sour dough in the remainder of the hour (another one of my new quarantine hobbies) and I am ashamed to admit that I got beat two more times in darts by Sage.
Lap 10 Task List: Mixed up sour dough, got beat two more times in darts by Sage
Lap 11 – 17:00 (8:37 pace)
Despite declaring that he was done after lap number 9, Dev was frantically scrambling for his socks with 2 minutes until the gun for lap 10, mumbling something about how he had to get into double digits. He was looking tough each lap but I could tell that his legs were getting tired, and he was getting a bit grumpy and hungry in the down time. But then I realized – who am I to tell a man when to stop running?!?!? So we all lined up for another loop around the blocks.
I had been putting off mowing the lawn for a few days now, and I knew that it had to get crossed off during this adventure, even though my legs were honestly a bit tired and I wanted to lay down on the couch for a bit. So I fired up the electric mower and pushed on through, neglecting to record my path on Strava unfortunately. Dev was finally done after his lap number ten, but was super proud of himself for throwing down 10 miles – the longest he had ever run in a single day.
Lap 11 Task List – Mowed and weed-whacked the front and back lawns
Lap 12 – 18:00 (9:51 pace)
The story of this lap was the strong finish of our neighbors Mia and A, who completed 8 laps – possibly the most A had run in a single day. He’s a natural though, and what started as a silly activity to fill some time at 11:00 AM quickly became an all-day obsession. Welcome to ultra-running, folks! Be careful! It’s a slippery slope. 🙂
I was happy with my lap #12 but Sage really wanted to get to twelve for himself, so I knew that this would not be my last, but rather my penultimate lap. The day was cooling off at this point and the neighbors were winding down their own days, putting the finishing touches on their yard work and firing up their grills for dinner. When I returned from the lap I realized that dinner wasn’t going to cook itself, so I got to chopping veggies and getting a nice curry going on the stove.
Lap 12 Task List: Cooked dinner!
Lap 13 – 19:00 (9:55 pace)
Sage was set on getting 12 miles in 12 hours done, and I sure wasn’t going to let him hanging (plus I liked the aesthetic of going all of the daylight hours for nearly a half marathon). It was just me and him for the final lap, and we took it easy, reflecting a bit on the day as we rounded the corners of MLK for the last time.
To be honest, I enjoyed this silly event much more than I thought I would. It perfectly filled the niche of a low-pressure goal that kept my mind occupied and gave me an excuse to get out and run. It felt like an actual ultra in more ways than one – I was in my sweaty running clothes all day long, and my legs and feet hurt a bit at the end of the day. I roped in a bunch of people to make it a social endeavor, and I ate a lot of food along the way. There were good laps and there were bad laps – fast times and slow times – but at the end of the day the endorphins took over and we were left with a real feeling of accomplishment and elation. 13 miles in 13 hours, and a whole lot of tasks around the house crossed off. I’d be lying to say that I wasn’t thinking of doing it again at some point – the 24 hour version, of course. 🙂