A Mile An Hour

27 June 2020 | 15 mins
productivity & running

A while back now, I stumbled upon a video online of a guy in Australia who spent twenty-four hours running a mile an hour around his block, in between doing odd jobs and being generally productive. I remember watching it and thinking: “I could do that”. So last weekend, I did.

I’ve been running fairly consistently for a few years, and I’ve fortunately been injury-free for about six months or so now, probably the longest streak since I started running. I typically run about 40-45km a week, about the length of a marathon, so trying to do a full marathon in one day, outwith the normal training cycle for a marathon, was probably going to be a bit of a challenge. That said, after my first marathon in 2018 I had planned on doing at least one a year, and with the current pandemic it doesn’t look likely that any marathons will be running before the end of the year anyway. So, this will have to do.

The rationale for doing this last weekend was to coincide with the summer solstice, meaning I would have the most daylight to do my running. Originally, I had planned to run a parkrun as my first three miles, and then a mile every hour after that, but since parkrun is cancelled too just now, I figured I’d just head out at the top of the hour after I woke up, which happened to be about 0630 (I usually wake up around this time naturally anyway, especially in summer when the mornings are light). I mapped out a route around the neighbourhood of slightly over a mile (to allow for GPS inconsistencies), and headed out with Charlie at 7am to do the first three laps.

I assumed before I started that I would probably start to slow down after 10 miles or so, and that the final six miles through the night to the finish would probably involve a little walking. But I wasn’t really looking to set any records here; I decided from the very start to have no time goals for this, and to run entirely to feel. The day started out quite warm, and the first three laps with Charlie went by fairly quickly. The route isn’t particularly hilly, but it’s not pancake-flat either, and I knew I’d start to feel those miles as the day progressed.

The idea of the day was to keep moving and keep productive, something that I’m generally not good at on a day-to-day basis. I tend to struggle to map out time to get the little things done, even though I do have the time and just procrastinate it away. By splitting the day into chunks between runs, I hoped that I’d be able to get a bunch of things done that “are needing done at some point”.

Diary

0700 - 0800 - Miles 1-3 (with Charlie)

Having already told people I was going to do this, and being too proud to back out of a commitment or challenge like this, I assumed I would wake up with at least a little apprehension or dread for the 24 hours ahead, but I actually felt quite positive from the start. After I got back with Charlie, I took Sid out, and then brewed myself a pot of coffee and sat down to write out the list of productive things I planned to do. The biggest takeaway from this first hour was that there really wasn’t going to be much time between runs!

Mile times: 08:00 (1), 07:52 (2), 07:58 (3)

0800 - 0900 - Mile 4

I ran my 4th mile solo, so that when I got back I could feed the dogs after they’d had a little time to rest. I made myself breakfast (scrambled eggs with onion as usual), diced more onion for my breakfasts for the rest of the week, and then started sketching out this blog post. But 9am came around quickly - there really isn’t much time to stop and breathe.

Mile time: 07:41

0900 - 1000 - Mile 5

I hate running after eating, but today I don’t really have a choice - at least I ate as far away as possible from this run, but 45 minutes still isn’t enough for me. After I got back, I sat down to do some focused German practice (which I have really neglected the last six months or so), put in a first load of laundry, and then ordered some birthday presents that I’ve been meaning to do all week.

Mile time: 07:38

1000 - 1100 - Mile 6 (with Sid and Charlie)

I took both dogs with me for this run, because the sun is starting to heat up and I don’t know how many runs I’ll be able to take them out on later. Strava actually said it was already 16C and 81% humidity, which is above the limit that I will usually run with them (temp * humidity below 1000), but as it was only a mile I figured they’d be fine. As soon as we got back, we walked over to Craighouse with Danny to collect a steam cleaner from Gumtree, which took up pretty much the rest of the hour.

Mile time: 07:23

1100 - 1200 - Mile 7

I’m enjoying this faster-than-marathon-pace marathon so far, but I don’t think it’s going to last me the whole day, especially not in this heat. After I got back, I stayed indoors where it is cool, and sorted out our board games cupboard. There’s still no system, but at least they all fit now.

Mile time: 07:38

1200 - 1300 - Mile 8

I had lunch as soon as I got back after this run, a small bowl of soup which I’m hoping doesn’t sit too heavy. Only 8 miles in and I’ve had two meals and four cups of coffee already, pretty sure I don’t normally do that in a marathon. After lunch, I hung out the laundry from earlier and started a second load, then did a little D&D preparation for the coming week. These are actually things I would be doing normally anyway, so this hour is kind of an hour off. I will need more of those as the day goes on I suspect.

Mile time: 07:31

1300 - 1400 - Mile 9

My hammock in the garden is finally in the shade, so I took my book down (eventually getting around to reading To Kill A Mockingbird) and lazed in my hammock for this whole hour. I also filled up a big jug of iced water to take down with me - I haven’t been drinking enough fluids so far today and it’s already 20C, so I need to catch up.

Mile time: 07:31

1400 - 1500 - Mile 10

I bought a 2-man summer tent late last year with the idea of taking Charlie camping up north in Scotland as we collect our parkruns around the country, but with the pandemic we haven’t actually been able to use it yet. Since I’m going to be up every hour tonight, to spare Danny’s sleep I will be camping in the garden rather than going back to the flat - and I know I won’t want to try to do it at midnight, so I pitched the tent this hour so it’s ready for later. I also swept out the stairwell of our block of flats; it’s mainly filled with dust and Charlie fur.

Mile time: 08:47

1500 - 1600 - Mile 11

The route I’m doing on Strava has two segments contained in it. I ran the last mile slow so I’d have a little energy to be a Strava wanker and go for the crowns this mile. Which I failed to do, but I did manage to get to 4th place on Shandon Sprint - I’ll put it down to being 11 miles into a marathon when I tried. After this attempt, Danny and I took the dogs to the park to meet our friends for some summer lockdown beers (the park has been slowly filling with people all day; it’s been interesting to watch it develop).

Mile time: 07:00

1600 - 1700 - Mile 12 (with Beinn)

Who said that you can’t have a beer during a marathon? Well, whoever it was, they were probably right. Felt a little gassy on this run - I took Beinn (our friends’ collie) with me for this lap because he was bouncing around all full of beans. He’s hard to keep up with; he’s a lot fitter than Charlie and I that’s for sure.

Mile time: 07:16

1700 - 1800 - Mile 13 (with Sid and Beinn)

Halfway through the marathon! But not halfway through the time yet. We spent this hour in the park again, drinking more beers. The willpower it takes to get up and run a mile between lazily drinking beers in the sunny park with your friends is… well, about as much as you’d expect. I took both Sid and Beinn with me this time, because Sid was starting to get a little restless sitting in the park while Beinn and I kept getting up to run and play.

Mile time: 07:52

1800 - 1900 - Mile 14 (with Charlie and Beinn)

Charlie got back from a date with one of his BorrowMyDoggy borrowers last hour, so I took him and Beinn with me for this mile. It’s still pretty hot, but at least with the collies I always have them free running, so they can go at their own pace. These few beers are starting to hit now - I probably need to get some food in me soon.

Mile time: 07:23

1900 - 2000 - Mile 15 (with Beinn)

One last run with Beinn before we headed home from the park. Tried again for the other segment (I know, I know - Strava wanker) but still only managed 18th place - but 2 seconds quicker than my earlier attempt at least. And this one is uphill. I hate hills. After we got home, I tried to relax, but I’ve caught the sun and I have my usual post-sun-sleepiness. Tonight will be hard!

Mile time: 07:15

2000 - 2100 - Mile 16

Danny and I ordered pizza after we got home from the park, and I had really hoped it would arrive early this hour so I could eat before my 9pm mile, but no such luck. Danny somehow had the energy to clean the flat after the park (she puts me to shame even on days when I am explicitly trying to be productive), so as is our usual deal, I followed her round hoovering and cleaning the floors.

Mile time: 07:38

2100 - 2200 - Mile 17

Pizza finally arrived! I am definitely all out of productivity now, I just want to lie down and nap. Danny and I have been working our way through Lost recently - amazingly neither of us watched it 15 years ago when it first came out, and also neither of us knew anything about it or any spoilers. We watched another episode during pizza. Man, am I getting tired. Only nine miles to go…

Mile time: 07:47

2200 - 2300 - Mile 18

One of the last things on my list from the first hour was “play board games with Danny”, so after I got back we had a nice relaxed game of Odin’s Ravens (I won). We have a whole bunch of board games that we really like, but never seem to make the time to play. My mile this hour dropped below 8 minutes for the first time since my easy pre-Strava-wanker mile earlier in the day. My legs are feeling the fatigue now; times are probably just going to keep increasing until I’m done now.

Mile time: 08:13

2300 - 0000 - Mile 19

It is definitely taking longer for my legs to wake up and warm up for each lap now. Danny and I managed to just about squeeze in another episode of Lost before mile 20 this hour. I took my sleeping bag down with me after this run so Danny could go to bed. I had originally wanted to keep Charlie with me, but he’s already done five miles with me today, plus his BorrowMyDoggy walk; I think another five miles might be too much for his bad hips.

Mile time: 08:50

0000 - 0100 - Mile 20

No sleep this hour; I’m still too hot after my run to really relax for about 20 minutes. Also, there is a lot of solstice celebrations still going on; the park is still busy despite being gone midnight. I wonder if I’ll see an hour with an empty park at all in these 24 hours.

Mile time: 08:48

0100 - 0200 - Mile 21

It’s at the stage of just counting down the miles now. It’s also started to rain, which is really nice while I’m running, but when I get back I’m just soggy and cold and getting my muscles to relax seems to be impossible. The park still has not fully emptied, a couple dozen folk still hanging around partying. It’s kinda nice to not be alone for this.

Mile time: 08:42

0200 - 0300 - Mile 22

I think I might have drifted off to sleep here. I don’t know, it’s hard to tell; I was already awake when the alarm went off though. Still some stragglers in the park! Come on guys, I only have a few hours to go! The rain doesn’t seem to be letting up, but it’s quite calming hearing the pitter-patter on the roof of the tent.

Mile time: 08:52

0300 - 0400 - Mile 23

My legs are amazingly not that achey when I get up to run, but my neck, shoulders, and back are in agony. After a quarter-mile they settle down and stretch out, but it’s not making it easier to get up and run. Nobody left in the park - this last bit will be a solo effort.

Mile time: 08:50

0400 - 0500 - Mile 24

Definitely slept after this run; the alarm woke me up for sure for the 5am run. Major issue though; my anterior tibialis (the tendon on my shin) is inflamed and swollen. So close to the end though. I want to push on.

Mile time: 08:37

0500 - 0600 - Mile 25

Yeah, that is definitely the last mile I will “run” tonight. I don’t want to risk a serious injury; while shuffling along mile 25 was not too painful, flexing my calf or stretching my ankles is very sore. Rather than go back to the tent, I went back upstairs and had a long hot shower (which helped a lot), and iced my shins for a little bit. I don’t want to quit now though, so the last 1.2 miles will be a nice relaxing walk with the dogs.

Mile time: 09:38

0600 - 0700 - Mile 26 (with Sid and Charlie)

A gentle walk with the dogs to round off the marathon distance. I think the rain may have been the major cause here; I couldn’t switch off my muscles in the tent, they were still taut and engaged with the exaggerated temperature changes due to being soaked through after running. The walk was nice and calming, and I saw a few of the usual dog-walkers out that Charlie and I saw 24 hours ago. It’s been a long day, but I’m pleased I managed to make it all the way through. And I am very pleased that Danny changed the sheets yesterday, so I can go sleep the sleep of the dead.

Mile (plus .2) time: 24:01

Total time: 03:44:41

Reflections

If I was to run an actual marathon where I crossed the 25 mile mark in 3hr20m in the condition I’m in just now, I’d be pretty happy. I said from the start that I didn’t care about time (and I don’t), but this still ended up being quicker than I expected it to be, considering I haven’t ran more than 20km in one day since early April, and I’ve done zero targeted training for anything resembling this, or a marathon. I probably wouldn’t do it again, given how much effort it took to get myself out for some of these miles, but as an occasional 12-hour or half marathon day to reset some productivity? I think that would end up doing me a lot of good. I didn’t quite get through all the tasks I’d written out for myself during the first day, but I got through about as many as is reasonable considering the impromptu 4+ hours of park beers in the afternoon.

Tasks


Completed

  • Write a diary for the blog
  • D&D preparation
  • German practice
  • Pitch a tent in the garden
  • Laundry
  • Order birthday presents
  • Sweep stairwell
  • Read my book
  • Sort the board games cupboard
  • Play board games with Danny
  • Collect Danny’s Gumtree purchase
  • Hoover the flat
  • Change all the burned-out light bulbs
  • Not die

Not Completed

  • Practice yoga
  • Wash and clean the car
  • Collect thistles for the garden
  • Sort out banking paperwork

For reference, the original video that inspired this bout of idiocy is Beau Miles’ “A Mile an Hour” which I would highly recommend watching regardless of if you would ever even think about doing something like this yourself.

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