Of all the crazy shit I get myself into, today is the day I got myself OUT of the craziest thing I’ve yet to voluntarily do. And that’s #3For31. A little challenge I learned of about a year ago in which the goal is to run at least 3 miles a day, EVERY DAY, for 31 Days. Sounds easy, right? Well, probably not to most people, but to me it did.
3 miles isn’t even a warm up for me nowadays. In fact it’s a tease. In a 6 week span in November and December I ran both the NYC and Chiang Mai, Thailand Marathons. Training for those was nothing less than intense, and as soon as I crossed the finish line in Chiang Mai I was already wondering “What’s Next?” I’m not the kind of guy who runs for fun. Sure, I have FUN when I run, but I need a challenge to keep me motivated. Which is why I’m always entered in these crazy races. So when the marathons were over, I was like “I need a new fix!”
I had thought about the #3For31 challenge plenty of times before, but always had convenient reasons to avoid it. “I gotta travel this month…” “Ive got a few big shows where Im probably gonna get loaded with the band afterwards and will be too hungover to run those days…” Or even the old time honoured excuses like “Eh, another month it will make more sense…be EASIER.” Ha.
But this time it made perfect sense, even though it didn’t. I ran the Chiang Mai marathon on December 20th and then ran 6 miles on the 24th. I was trying to avoid falling back out of shape after a long and gruelling training regimen. So I said “Fuck it. January 1 is a new year, and a good time to do the #3For31.” I knew I was in for an uphill battle, not least because I was in Thailand, but because I still had to hit a couple more countries in Asia, fly back to London, head to a music biz conference in Holland (lots of potential hangovers) and end the month with a pre-planned ski holiday in Switzerland. But then I thought, “This is the PERFECT time to do it! Man up and GET IT DONE, Jakes!”
So I decided to go for it. And go for it I did. It started off with a New Year’s Day run in Mae Sariam Thailand. NEW. YEAR’S DAY. In THAILAND. As in the morning after a night spent singing karaoke with a bunch of Thai strangers. The run that morning was brutal. I was dehydrated and the air was hotter and thicker than Tom Yum soup. But I powered through. As I did the next day in Mae Chaem where I was openly mocked by thee villagers for actually exercising. And the next day after that as well after a flight to the equatorial city-state of Singapore. In fact it never got easy. Through the ancient temples of Ankgor Wat to the 3 miles I laid down after a 12 hour flight to London. Or the 3 miles the next day after soundcheck and before gig time where I sang two songs at Brooklyn Bowl London as part of the Elvis Presley 81st birthday tribute. Or the 3 miles in a snowstorm in Gronigen, Northern Holland.
And that’s when a new wrench was thrown into my plan. While I was in Holland I got a call that my best friend of the past 21 years had died suddenly in his sleep, and I had to get back to NYC for his funeral. In fact that might have given me some focus. As easy as it would have been to go out and drink the pain away, I knew that, no matter what, I had to get up the next morning and crank out those 3 miles. One foot in front of the other. So I did. And I continued to do it.
The runs took me back to NYC and into the “storm of the century” Yup, I was the crazy guy out running in the blizzard. And then doing a sunrise run the next day before the streets had even been plowed. And then I flew overnight to Switzerland to meet up with my homie Adrees Ali for a long-planned ski trip. He picked me up at the Geneva airport and we rental-car snaked our way around Lake Geneva where I shook off the cobwebs by diving into the lake right in front of the Freddy Mercury Statue. Where the air temperature was just above freezing. And then we drove two more hours to Champex where I gutted out 3 more miles at 5,700 feet above sea level on winding mountain roads. And then I woke up the next morning and busted out 3 more miles on the compacted snow that was blanketing a frozen lake. And I ran over that lake for 6 more days in a row. Which is serving as amazing training for my eventual entry into the Antarctica Marathon (not kidding!).
But this morning is when I actually finished. One last run. 3 more miles. Or more specifically 3.16 miles. Because last night I added up the exact distance of all my runs and realised I had gone 96.4 miles in January so I needed 3.16 more miles to make it an even hundred. And because God likes to laugh at me, I woke to 6 inches of accumulated snow that was being drenched with rain in sub-zero temperatures. Not a pretty sight. But I suited up and tied my shoes and headed outside to get the miles in. Running on hilly mountain roads in slush and ice is no formula for avoiding a broken ankle, but somehow I made it. And it felt sublime.
The physicality of running 3 miles a day, every day, for 31 days in a row isn’t the hard part. The hard part is the mental hurdles. The resistance. 3 Miles isn’t enough to really get me going. When I do my long runs, or even my 6 miles base training runs, 3 miles is about the point where I stop regretting being out there running, and start to accept the fact that at the finish I’m gonna feel a lot better for having done it. So stopping after 3 miles is counter intuitive. But something I needed to do if my legs were gonna hold up for the whole month.
So now it’s done. And it feels good. Maybe not great though. Because I think it’s more about the means than the end. About the hunt more than the kill. There was no ticker tape parade at the end. There was no jubilant celebration. Just the silent satisfaction of knowing that I did what I set out to do. That I challenged myself to a task that seemed unattainable and that I made it happen, every day, no matter how little I wanted to in the moment. Because each day was just one run, but I knew that each run was just a small piece in the puzzle of a greater good. “But a greater good for WHAT?” I thought a bunch… I’m still not sure what the point of it was, or is. Other than just proving to myself, yet again, that the mind is stronger than the body. That PMA and dogged determination can slap the shit out of that inner demon known as resistance.
I’ve often heard it said that developing a new good habit takes 21 days. Do something for 21 days, they say, day in and day out, and it will become part of your routine. And I learned that there is truth in that this month. It didn’t even take 21 days. Within a week I knew I was committed and that I wouldn’t fail. But then at the end, the last day, TODAY, I didn’t want to get up and go out. Laying in bed this morning, I thought to myself that what was stopping me was the rain and snow. But really it was because I had reached the end. And I didn’t want it to end. Why would I? I had clawed and scratched and jogged my way into a new habit. It would be foolish to stop now… wouldn’t it? Yeah man, it sure would. So I’m not gonna stop. #3for31 just became #3For53 to honour the 53 years that My BFF Rodney Speed spent on this earth. So tomorrow, even if I don’t feel like it, I’m gonna lace up my shoes and go and pound out 3 more miles in London. Because the overwhelming majority of important things that get done in this world are done by people who “don’t feel like it.” And that’s never a good enough excuse. So I’m gonna keep on going.
What are YOU gonna start doing today?
PS Here are some stats from the month:
# of Runs: 31
# of Continents: 3 (Asia, Europe, North America)
# of Countries: 7 (Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, UK, Holland, USA, Switzerland)
# of Plane Rides: 9
Minimum Mileage Goal: 3 miles
Total Miles: 100 on the nose
Avg Miles per day: 3.225 miles
Longest Run: 5.13 miles
Shortest Run: 3.04 miles
Hottest Run: 96 Degrees Fahrenheit
Coldest Run: -2 Degrees Celsius
Lowest Run: Sea Level (London, NYC, Singapore)
Highest Run: 5,700 feet above sea level
Northernmost Run: Groningen Holland
Southernmost Run: Singapore
Earliest Run: 5:55AM
Latest Run: 11:14PM