By Suman Silwal First published at BTC Newsletter
According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book Outliers, it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in any given field. Since I read that book, I’ve always wondered: if I cross 10,000 running miles, will I be an expert on running?
Running never stuck to me as a sport until I was reintroduced to it in October 2007; as I think of it, a late start in my life. Growing up, I remember running with my brother and friends. It never went anywhere. I suppose there was no proper environment to run. As I started to run years later, I did not know how long it was going last this time around. Still, I wanted to do it correctly, so that it would be a lifelong journey. I started to read books, articles and running blogs. I found the Runners’ World logging site. Even though it is a manual process, up to this day, I still log every one of my miles.
As years passed, the miles kept adding up. After a little more than 1720 hours of running, I’d crossed over 10,000 lifetime miles! It has been about 7 years of journeying from 0 miles to over 10,000, from being a non-runner to a Boston 2015 marathoner, and being a non-racer up to a 100 mile race finisher. Yes, it has been a long journey!
Where did it start?
My first training run started around my neighborhood. As a non-runner, starting was hard. I started to run block by block and mile by mile. I still remember Halloween 2007, when I went for a 1.5 mile run before going trick-or-treating with my kids. As I was walking around with them after my run, my legs were shaking. I do not get that feeling even after running 100 mile races anymore.
Where did I log those miles?
As I discovered freedom in running, I started to go further to new places. Even though I had been living around the Birmingham area for more than 7 years prior to running, I did not know many parts of the city. Even today, I still do not claim to know it all. But running has taken me to those streets locally. I can proudly say that “running has taken me to places that I would never go otherwise.”
I have visited countless places while running, from the flatlands of Florida to the foothills of Mt. Everest and anything in between. I ran the Royal Mile at Scotland and on the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal. I ran around the Victoria Peak at Hong Kong and on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard, and more.
Road To Trail Transition
As the years progressed, I transitioned into trail and ultra-running in 2012. I realized how quickly miles could add up on trails. Those long trail runs of over 30 miles are not as painful as those 22 miles on the road. I started putting my times on trails as well. Lately, I feel like I log more trail miles than road miles. I have logged my miles on the trails of Oak Mt, Cheaha Mt., and trails around Toronto, Canada. Recently, I had an opportunity to run some trails around the Great Smokey Mountains.
My first ever distance race was a 5K in November 2007. I was new to the racing world. I found myself at a totally new place, with a new group of people that I had never met before in my life. Now, after 7 years of racing, I have lost count of how many total races I have done, though I do keep up with my marathon and ultra marathon count. Since November 2008, I have completed 45 of those races. As I am getting ready for my 2014-2015 marathon/ultra marathon season to start, my highlight will be the Boston Marathon 2015.
Since I started to run, I’ve raced on the streets of various cities such as New York City, Chicago, Tokyo, Toronto and more. Every race has brought me added miles and a sense of accomplishment. I enjoy visiting new cities and meeting new people. Even though I may not be able to live in those cities, I am happy to run there.
Am I An Expert Now?
Over the years, through the PR, BQ, pain, injuries, up hills, down hills, rain, snow, hot, humid, cold and more runs, I have learned a lot about running. I no longer feel that every bit of pain is an injury. It is just part of the running cycle: “run, pain, recover – do over”. I used to follow the traditional method of logging miles by following a training plan. But lately, I was told by others that I have broken those rules as well. I log my miles when I can, where I can. My miles are getting logged faster than ever. I have gone from 1000, to 1200, to 1500, to over 2013 miles a year. There is no limit to where my passion for running is taking me, but does that make me an expert after 10,000 miles? What do you think?
In my humble opinion my answer is no. I am a better runner and I know lot more, but I do not consider myself an expert. I am still a student of the running sport and a coach, motivator, teacher, helper (etc.), directly or indirectly whether via conversations, running together, social media, blog posts and more. I have a lot to learn with this sport. I may consider myself a lifelong learner.
In conclusion, even after 10,000 miles and more than 1720 hours of journeying, I am still learning to be a better runner every day. Even now, some days are better than others, but I keep moving forward and seeing what is ahead. I have learned to enjoy the journey.
See you all at the 20,000 mile mark. Till then, “Happy Running”!