This story is not about a particularly amazing feat, physically or emotionally. But it is my story of achieving something big by doing many small things. We want to “travel the world” which starts with one country. We want to “get in shape” which is the result of healthy, mindful habits. We want a “meaningful career” which for most people comes after a lot of trial and error. It doesn’t arrive to you one day. You arrive at it after years of showing up and trying a little harder than you did the day before.
I had the idea for this project sitting on my couch watching a documentary I rented from the library. That should tell you that you can begin to achieve great things by sitting on your couch. Dean Karnazes’ “Ultra Marathon Man” was the documentary. I followed Karnazes as he ran 50 marathons in all 50 states in 50 consecutive days. When I tell people the subject of the documentary I always pause before the “50 consecutive days” part. Sometimes adding “wait for it.” The film follows Karnazes across the country with his family and team of icers, massage practitioners, cooks, and various other logistics peoples I cannot begin to comprehend. I don’t have this team of support nor do I have the physiological superpowers required to match his achievement. What I do have is time, interest, the will to always want to be able to run a 5K, and friends across the country.
I also wanted a way to intentionally travel, to keep the momentum going. And, there is something about touching the earth through running that connects you to a place in a way that other types of travel don’t. When you run you’re not walking through a museum, strolling the River Walk, or waiting at a Manhattan crosswalk, you’re experiencing the place in a different way because what you’re doing is a little bit hard. Or, sometimes, very difficult. Because you’re running your needs are more similar to the needs of a local than those of a tourist: how’s the weather, am I hungry, how does my body feel today, is this a safe area? Tourists think these things too but there’s a bigger agenda of pleasure. In 5k in 50 states the agenda was not pleasure, it was distance. Pleasure was the result of the distance.
The first ten states were unintentional, meaning that I know I have run in them and I can recall one or multiple times I ran a 5K distance or further but they were before I embarked on this project. For the first ten states I will describe the most memorable run or runs and what running in that state means to me.
Here’s the story of how I did something big by doing many small things.