By: Matt Setlack
I have run more per day in the past month than I have ever run in my entire life.
To be exact, my Strava profile tells me that I ran 867 km between 01 and 31 May 2018, which is an average distance of about 28 km per day, everyday (while working a full time job). It took about 74 hours of running to cover this distance, which is about 2 hours 23 minutes of running each day. This article will shed some light on how and, maybe more importantly, why I did this. Running and completing the AETE Step Challenge are intertwined so they will be both discussed in this article.
Q & A
Why did I run this much?
Firstly, I wanted to win the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) Step Challenge and earn two days off work. Secondly, I want to build a solid base of training in preparation for the upcoming summer racing season. I also saw it as a challenge and I wanted to see if I could break 1 million steps in the month of May. I did so by doing 1,060,623 steps between 01 and 31 May 2018. That's an average of just over 30,000 steps per day.
How did our team do?
I was on Team Charlie with Capt Scott Blakie, MCpl John Visser and Cpl JC Bouchard-Frigon. We placed 1st overall with a total step count of 4,086,963 for the month. Individually, I walked the 6th most steps. Perhaps what amazes me the most is the fact that I ran 867 km and yet, still placed 6th overall. If I ran this far, I cannot imagine how many km the five people ahead of me walked/jog/ran. I have an incredible amount of respect for them, especially considering that many of them have children at home.
How did I run so much?
- I made running a priority in my life
- I remembered that "you become what you think about" (so be careful what you think about) - having a positive attitude is like a chain reaction.
- It is A LOT easier to do many short runs rather than one long run (i.e. it's much easier to run 3 x 40 mins rather than 120 minutes (2 hrs) straight). It also gives your body time to rest/recover/rehydrate/renourish (eat food)
- Time - running this much takes a huge amount of time. However, one thing I realized was how much time I wasted staring at a screen (often on social media) outside of working hours. Running this much really reduced the amount of time I spend in front of an electronic device.
- Setting goals is incredibly important - Without goals, you have nothing. It's what drives me and gives me direction. In running, I often register for races and set time or place goals for myself. This keeps my working towards something tangible.
- I was accountable to my team - during the step challenge, I texted my team the number of steps I had done the day before. This really motivated me to try and get as many steps as possible. In running, it's really important to have a coach who you can report back to, otherwise, it's way too easy to skip a workout/run or run less than planned. Being a member of a team really helped. I did not want to let my teammates down.
- I did not become a slave to Strava or my GPS watch - I rarely look at my GPS watch; I just start it at the beginning and stop it at the end. I usually don't even stop it when I bend down to tie up my shoes. 99% of my training is done by effort.
- I don't tie my shoes...ever - I just slip my feet and out. This saves me at least 5-7 mins per day.
- Routine - having a set routine with the same timings everyday made it a lot easier. When things change like during travel, that's when it becomes a lot more challenging to train.
- I rarely drove the car anywhere - Instead, I ran. On my run commute home, I pass right by the grocery store so can easily pick up food for dinner.
What was my typical day like?
- 0600 - wake up
- 0645 - run commute to work (5 miles in 40 minutes)
- 0725 - arrive at work, shower, change into work clothes, walk 1.1km (15 mins) to French class
- 0800-1200 - French class
- 1200-1300 - "lunch" break (run 5 miles/40 minutes on the treadmill 1% incline)
- 1300-1630 - work at AETE
- 1645 - leave work to run commute home (short way is 5 miles/40 mins, long way is 23km/1:45)
- 2000 - go for a short walk with Emily
- 2130 to 2200 - go to bed
Note: AETE normally has PT (gym) class on Tues and Thurs mornings. However, since I was in French class the entire month of May, I was unable to participate in morning PT and had to do the stepping outside of working hours.
What did I eat?
In the morning, I bring a bag of food on my back (5-10 lbs worth). I run with a Ronhill Commuter Xero 10L + 5L pack and it works very well (over 2,000 miles on it so far and it is still going strong). I eat constantly during the day instead of eating a bunch of food at once. I like REAL food (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, carrots, bananas, celery, cucumbers, peanut butter sandwiches on grainy bread, cheese, yogurt and sometimes Clif bars). I drink water constantly and have a 1L water bottle on my desk all the time. I make sure my urine rarely, if ever, looks like apple juice (it should be clear like water).
How did I not get injured (esp. after running 250 km in last week)?
There are a number of reasons I did not get injured and did not get sick:
- I think my body was fairly used to the distance. I paid very close attention to how I was feeling and ran slower or less distance if I did not feel 100%.
- Gradual buildup of weekly distance. The weekly distance leading up to May was: 29/67/102/108/127/180 km so I would say that I gradually (for the most part) increased the weekly distance). Before I did the 250 km week, I had already run around 180 km per week for the previous three weeks.
- I switched running shoes everyday - I never wore the same pair of shoes two days in a row and the shoes that I did wear were relatively new.
- Road surface - because the roads are cambered, I ran on alternating sides. On busier roads or roads with less of a shoulder, I ran facing traffic and on wider/slower roads, I ran with traffic.
- Pace - the pace for almost all my training is quite slow.
- Soft surface - For my lunch runs, I ran on the treadmill at 1% incline or on the Lynx Trail, which is mostly sand. I avoid concrete sidewalks like the plague.
What did I wear?
For shoes, I mostly wore the Hoka Clifton 4 and 5, Nike Pegasus 35 (orange shoes in photos below), Adidas Solar Glide ST and Salomon Sense Ride. I usually wear a white hat with a black under beak, polarized Zizu TRX sunglasses, lightweight Ronhill Stride S/S crew t-shirt (or a bright yellow or orange t-shirt), Ronhill Everyday Split shorts (really good proper running shorts), lightweight hilly mono skin socks or Wigwam Running Room polyester socks, a Garmin 230 GPS watch, Ronhill Stride Windspeed jacket and Ronhill Commuter Xero 10L + 5L pack for run commuting. Last but certainly not least, I carry two iPod Shuffles with electronic dance music and sometimes famous speeches or motivational music.
AETE Step Challenge
It all started with the inaugural AETE Step Challenge, which was the creation of CWO Howell. AETE members voluntarily broke themselves up into teams of four and then walked..and walked...and walked. The team who accumulated the most number of steps in the month of May would be granted two days off work and the 2nd place team would receive one day off work. The purpose of the Step Challenge was to promote an active lifestyle at and outside of work.
At the start of the Step Challenge, the PSP came to AETE and offered a body composition test for anyone interested. They also returned at the end of the Step Challenge to do another body composition test (the results of this test did not factor into the scores). Steps were reported each morning to designated individuals within the unit.
Step Challenge Progression
Our team followed a Blitzkrieg strategy from the beginning hoping that by getting so far ahead of everyone else from the very beginning that others would become so demoralized that they would not pursue. I believe this partially worked. The only thing was, it wasn't just pushing hard from the beginning and then slowing down, we pushed hard from the beginning and kept pushing hard the entire month. I thought everyone would go out super hard and then fizzle out. However, I was really surprised when people went out hard and kept going.
The first thing I noticed was everyone seemed to be walking a lot more at work. I saw more people walking and in general exercising than I have ever seen before. At the start, the PSP gave us helpful recommendations for building in more exercise into your daily routine such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking in the far corner of the parking lot so you have to walk a little farther. AETE members took this advice to the extreme...
Before the Step Challenge started, I was running about 20 to 25km per day but quickly realized that this meagre amount would not be enough. I soon increased by daily distance to three runs and closer to 30km per day with two to three longer runs per week after work. A typical long run of about 30 km would give me about 20,000 steps.
On day 1, I ran past my friend, Jeeva who was walking to work. However, instead of parking in the AETE parking lot, he had parked at the Tri City Mall parking lot 5 miles away and was walking to work. It took him 1 hour and 20 minutes each way! One of my friends used the elliptical machine for 4 hours each day! John and JC even started going to the gym at 4 am and walking on the treadmill for 2 hours before work.
Towards the end of the Step Challenge, John and JC set a goal to break the daily max steps. They started walking on the treadmill at 12 midnight and walked until 6 am, walked all morning and then came back in the evening and walked even more. John ended up doing 105,000 and JC did 107,500 steps, which is incredible. That is A LOT of steps!
We are capable of so much more than we think. One of the biggest things that changed during May was that initially, if you were to tell me that I was going to run around 180km per week for 4 weeks straight, I'm not sure I would have believed you (the most I had ever done in my life before this was about 170 km per month). However, breaking it down into small chunks (goals), makes it a lot easier to accomplish. Like Jacob Puzey says, when the going gets tough, sometimes you just have to set your sights on running to the next lamppost.
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.