Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!

  • Wherever you’re starting on your progression to running some irrational distance, whether it’s 6 miles or 26.2 miles, start with something rational. As Leo Babauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog, puts it, “Make it so easy you can’t say no.”

  • Half marathon strategy: Run for nine minutes at a time, followed by a two-minute walk break, then repeat that sequence for the entire race (except for the final 1.1 miles)

  • If you’re not currently running regularly, walking regularly is a good way to get started. It gets your body used to spending time on your feet (especially if you work many hours sitting at a desk), and walking a mile or two a few times a week can get you used to building exercise time into your schedule. When you decide to transition from regular walks three or four times a week to regular runs three or four times a week, the changeover will be easier and you’ll probably enjoy getting through the miles more quickly. Allowing yourself to walk makes running less daunting, less restrictive, less all-or-nothing. There are no rules, and no one’s keeping track but you, so figure out what works and use it to log some miles. A decade after I finished that first marathon and discovered the joy of walking, I started running ultramarathons. When it comes up in conversation that I have done a 50-mile race or a 100-mile race, and someone says, “Fifty miles? I could never run that far.” I always reply, “I can’t either. Almost nobody does. We walk. Some of us walk a lot.” Speed isn’t nearly as important as not stopping.

  • Follow this order: “Easy, light, smooth, and fast.”  

  • Competing against yourself is actually quite simple. The person you want to be would go for a run instead of sitting inside scrolling through their phone for another forty-five minutes. The person you want to be would not stop halfway through their run because they’re tired. The person you want to be would try hard and wouldn’t make excuses when things get tough. Whether you’re running 2 miles around your neighborhood or your first 10K, the only person you have to beat is the voice in your head that tells you you’re not a runner.

  • Running, especially outside, will not be fun in lots of ways. It’s hard to get out the door when it’s too hot or too cold, too snowy, too windy, or really, anything other than just the right conditions. But if you wait for the weather to be “just right” for running, you probably won’t run much. There’s an old saying: There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. You can’t change the conditions. All you can change is your clothing and attitude. And I’m not saying that you should have a great attitude about running when the wind chill is 15 degrees or when it’s 90 degrees and humid, or that you should have a smile on your face every step. I’m just saying you have to get out the door and get started. You don’t have to like it the whole time, or even pretend to enjoy it—although once you get a few minutes into it, you hopefully realize it’s not so bad. The only thing you have to do to be a runner is run. That’s right. You just do it, and eventually you’ll decide you’re not just running anymore—you’re a runner. 

  • If you run, you’re a runner. Some of us run slow, some of us run less slowly. Some of us run kind of far, some of us run really far. We’re all affected by gravity, wind, heat, and what we ate for breakfast. We’re all runners, and we’re all just out here, doing the same thing, but each of us does it a little bit differently.

  • When it comes to running, you have to become the person you don’t want to let down. You get a few minutes or an hour a few times a week when you put yourself first, and you don’t flake. You show up for yourself. If your goal is to run 4 miles on Tuesday, you run those 4 miles on Tuesday. You don’t skip it, the same as you wouldn’t leave your kids standing outside school wondering where you are when you told them you’d pick them up. “Accountability” isn’t nearly as dreamy of a word as “inspiration,” but I’d argue it’s far more important.

  • Running gives you freedom. You don’t have to report to your boss about how it’s going, you don’t get graded on your performance or results, you don’t have to tell anyone about it, and you don’t have to share anything about it on social media (but you can, if you want to). You get to decide how hard you want to push yourself and what running means to you. Running is different for everyone. If you’ve signed up for a turkey trot and your three-year-old child asks what you are going to do in the event, you would not pull up a video of Gail Devers winning the 100-meter race at the 1996 Summer Olympics and say, “See that? That’s running. That’s what I’m going to do today.” You might, though, remind your child of the running thing they’ve seen you doing, and say you’re going to do that but with a whole bunch of other people. Running means something unique to each of us. If you were tasked with giving a twenty-minute presentation at your job, would you think it was ridiculous to spend four and a half hours working on it before you delivered it in front of everyone? Probably not. The ratio of training to miles isn’t the point here, though. If you sign up for a race, you’ll probably spend a lot of time focusing on the actual race day—thinking about whether you’ll finish, what it will feel like, what you should wear, what new aches and pains will pop up, how you’ll mentally and physically deal with running farther than you ever have before. But. The race is not the point of all this training. The running is. You spend dozens of hours running around your neighborhood or local trails with the goal of preparing for a race. You push yourself and improve all that time—even if some days you feel like garbage and it feels like a chore and your heart isn’t in it (and your body barely is). Running is great if your goal is to get in shape or help burn off the nachos you ate yesterday. But it’s even better when it’s about something bigger or more meaningful. Maybe you use it to develop mental toughness that will carry over into the rest of your life. Maybe you want to prove someone wrong (or right). Maybe you want to set an example for your kids. Maybe you want to prove it to yourself that you can do it. Maybe you want to take on something big and scary with a friend and keep each other accountable to train for it. Maybe you’ve never experienced chafing until you bleed, and you’re curious about what that feels like or maybe not. Whatever reason you have, the point is: The race is not the point. The process of getting there is.

  • If you stick with it, you will likely have some negative side effects like stiff joints and muscles, some calluses, a new hatred for the alarm clock that wakes you up for your training runs. But you will have many more positive side effects, most of which you may not have imagined at the start of your training. You might notice you’re sleeping better at night, or that you feel less stressed, or that you have more patience, or that food tastes a little better after having run, or that you actually like the aches and pains you have the day after a long run because they tell you that you worked hard.

  • With running, if you put in effort over time, you generally get results. Sure, there are fast people and there are less-fast people, but everyone is working for it. For example, think about elite marathoners. They’re not coasting on their natural talent to win races; they’re running  80- to 100-mile training weeks. Compare that to a typical “beginner” marathon training plan, which usually maxes out at 40 miles per week (and that is still a hell of a lot of miles!). There are training plans for every race distance—some have high running mileage, some have low running mileage, but none of them has no running mileage. Becoming a runner isn’t like becoming a member of an airline’s loyalty program. You can’t just sit around for months eating chips and watching Netflix and then one day spend ninety seconds filling out an online form and, voilà, you’re in. Running takes ambition and attendance. You do it regularly so you can keep doing it regularly. We’ve gotten used to buying things that will help us do any task better, faster, and easier, from peeling garlic and mowing the lawn to cleaning our house and, especially, almost all forms of exercising. Running is no different. Lots of companies would be happy to sell you things that might help you run: shoes, apparel, water bottles, Bluetooth earbuds, massagers, foam rollers, and space-age foods and drink mixes. But we haven’t figured out a way to pay someone else to run all the training miles while we get all the benefits without putting in any of those miles ourselves. You can’t take the effort out of the equation. And the more you run, the more you’ll realize that putting in the effort actually is one of the benefits.

  • When I feel far too busy or overwhelmed with life to possibly consider going for a run, I go anyway, and I know two things will always happen:
    1. Five or ten minutes into the run, the feeling of being overwhelmed and too busy will be gone.
    2. I have more hope for the world fifteen minutes after I finish running than I did five minutes before I started. If that’s all I get out of a run, that’s still pretty good.
  • Your goals don’t always have to be big, though. Our lives change, things happen, and not every year is the best year to do it all and set running goals that require a lot of time. If you have way too much going on, maybe it’s your year to dial things back and do only enough consistent running to keep your baseline fitness, or perhaps it’s the year that you start from zero and gradually figure out how to work a small, consistent amount of running into your schedule. No matter what your goal is, if you make running a priority, you will find time to run. If you want to do it badly enough, you will steal the time to do it, in whatever increments possible within your schedule. You can look at your idea of being busy, give busy the middle finger, and get out there.

  • Picking up running is less falling in love and more, say, slogging into love. You start, it sucks, you feel good after you’re done, you repeat that process several times, and then it’s not so bad. You keep doing it through the not-so-bad phase, and then you actually start to like it a little bit. One day, you start to think you can’t live without it and, strangely, you might love running? Love is open to interpretation, which is obvious if you think about the thousands of songs that have been written about it. Running has a lot of similarities to loving another person—you can go head over heels for it, you can start too fast, you can unintentionally neglect it, you can be on-and-off for years, and it can be a constant companion in good times and bad. Running will never, however, lawyer up, take you to court, or one day leave you for a personal trainer who’s way too young for it. With running, your love story may not look like anyone else’s, and that’s okay, because you get to write it yourself, and the story can be whatever you want it to be.