In my life, the year 2006 was a year of running. In March I made a life-changing purchase. I bought a new pair of running shoes. My first proper running shoes. In the following months I made good use of the shoes and went running fairly regularly. With some minor exceptions, I went running three times a week, gradually increasing the distance I could cover in a continuous trot. In the autumn of the same year I went as far as running my first half-marathon.
Since the autumn of 2006 I have gone jogging several times. I have run four half-marathons and several shorter races. There is however one aspect of the year 2006 that I have never managed to repeat, despite many attempts. In the past few years I have never managed to maintain as regular a running rhythm over a significant period.
My running sprees for the past six years have usually been short. They have been measured in weeks, rather than months. A month or so in advance, I spot a race that I fancy participating in. I use the month to get myself in shape, but after the race my running rhythm gets disturbed again and several months go by without any running.
Every time I decide to try to maintain a regular running schedule I ask myself the same questions. What was so special about 2006? What was the key factor that made it possible for me to maintain a regular running rhythm?
The year 2006 was my last year as a PhD student of the University of Amsterdam. I was busy writing my PhD thesis. Three times a week I started the day running in the fresh morning air through the flat streets of the low lands. I used the runs to plan the days’ thesis writing. Finally, after each jog I faithfully recorded the distance in a spreadsheet.
At the start of 2007 the tides turned. I had moved from the fresh flatness in Amsterdam to the hot hills of Barcelona. The PhD thesis had been written, defended and boxed. The spreadsheet had been saved and closed. The regular running rhythm had been disturbed.
Frequently I have wondered how I can recreate the conditions that allowed me to maintain the regular running rhythm of 2006. Most of the contributing factors are however hard to recreate. I cannot flatten the hilly landscape in Barcelona. It is hard to turn down the heat by the Mediterranean. Theoretically, I could write another PhD thesis, but I am doubtful it was the key to a regular running rhythm.
A few months ago I tried one of the last remaining factors. I decided to make a final attempt to get a regular running rhythm going. I opened a new spreadsheet document. I put 5k in cell E2 and calculated myself forward to a half-marathon in cell M22.
Now, I am at cell C17 and still going strong. I have managed to maintain a fairly regular running rhythm for 15 consecutive weeks and I am somewhat on track with my half-marathon training. I am thus tempted to conclude that the key success factor in the running year of 2006 was to record my progress in a spreadsheet.