Runfession: Reality, motivation, and virtual challenges

A fellow blogger who first introduced me to the term “runfession” recently posted a new runfession of her own after many months, which inspired me to follow suit. Thanks, Irma!

Fifteen months ago (I just looked it up), I runfessed that it looked like my running days were over.  I was hanging up my sneakers.  I spoke about the joy and privilege it had been to have been able to run, and that rather than despair that my various reluctant body parts were screaming at me, I’d celebrate the running experiences I’d been able to enjoy.

Fast forward 15 months and I am finding that adding a little running to the mix actually aids in the comfort level of going for a walk, so within the past few weeks I’ve started a ‘walk a bit – run a bit’ program. We’ll see how it goes.  And I’ve also stumbled onto an app that works as a great motivator for me to get out and do something, and, as we’re all spending an inordinate amount of time ‘staying home – staying safe’, I thought I’d share my find in case it helps motivate any of you as well.

From 2009 through 2014 or so, when I was training for long distance races,  my running routes along our trails looked something like this:

The blue line marks some of my favourite training routes 9 years ago.

Of course, we know those distances can’t last forever, but the interesting thing is that even drawing the routes on a map brings back the joy of moving along those beautiful trails. I find I can relive every step.

Now that I’ve started my new program, which might even include working up to running 5K (one lives in hope), my trail routes look more like this:

I’m working up to this one!

But still, they do include some running interspersed with walking, and it feels so good to move again.  There’s a time for marathon training and a time for just trying to keep moving.  After all, as it says in Ecclesiastes: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.  Surely that includes long distance running!

And now to motivation.  As an inveterate list-maker, writing down things I really want to make sure get done – along with the things that have to get done – usually works.  But not always.  For exercise, not when the weather’s bad, or when I just run out of time because I let other things (or doing nothing) get in the way.  Committing to a goal always works best for me.  That’s why registering for a race always ensured that I got out the door at the expense of other items, with no remorse. After all, I had a race to prepare for!  Of course, races are off the table for most people at the moment, except for virtual ones.  And that’s where this virtual challenge comes in.

I know there are plenty of traditional races that have gone virtual during the pandemic, and they do seem to be working fairly well, all things considered.  Definitely better than nothing.  But it turns out that there are also virtual challenges out there that allow the participants to complete the challenge in their own timeframe and to their own abilities (walk, run, cycle, motorized wheelchair, swim, indoor exercise equipment, etc.).  In other words, set your own challenge that works for you and then work hard to meet your challenge.  I like it.

One such collection of challenges can be found at the Conqueror Challenges site.  They offer 17 virtual challenges with a vast array of distances and locations around the world, along with the option of creating your own challenge along a route and time of your choosing.  The challenges start small,

and grow to be very ambitious, including the length of the UK (1743 kms/1083 mi) and Route 66 in the U.S. (3369 kms/2280 mi).

I’ve chosen the St Francis Way Challenge, which covers the 503 kms (312 miles) from Florence to Rome that St. Francis traveled.  I’ve also given myself until the end of the year to complete it, anticipating some injuries, but if I surprise myself I can always start a new challenge.  Maybe the Ring Road around Iceland!

They have an app that allows you to keep track of where you are, and uses google StreetView so you can see what it looks like where you are on your virtual route.  Kind of fun.

Here I am, 10% along the route.

I’m definitely a sucker for these things, but I find that I go out and move just so I can come home again and see how much further I got and what the street view looks like where I am now.  It may be silly, but it works for me!  It looks like it works for lots of other people as well.  The Facebook community comprised of participants working on their challenges suggests that people are signing on for every kind of reason.  The pride they express in their accomplishment when they finish is seriously heartwarming; for many it is the first time they have challenged their body, and they wear their finishers medal with understandable pride.

As for me, I’m pleased to have something that gives me that extra push to get out and move.  I’m delighted that I can move, at least for now.  And, thanks to social media, I’m enjoying being part of a large, diverse, and widely distributed community of people of all ages, meeting their own challenges.

What motivates you to do something that you know you’d enjoy but just don’t seem to get to?

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28 Responses to Runfession: Reality, motivation, and virtual challenges

  1. iidorun says:

    Hello Jane! I finally got to read this post! Yay for Runfessions! It’s great to hear you’ve added some running – it does break up the walking and you get done a tad bit sooner. I’ve always done intervals so running/walking are practically the same for me (and if you look at the pace – that’s practically the same too! 😂😂). I am a big fan of the virtual runs and all the cool stuff they have. I’m doing one called Amerithon which is virtually running across the USA. I love the street view and the other cool perks of your challenge though. Will you be giving up updates on where you are in Italy?

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Running across the U.S. That’s a LOT of miles, Irma!! I hadn’t thought of giving updates, but one never knows. 😊 So far I’ve completed 115 kms (far fewer miles) and seen lots of Tuscan countryside. I hope things are looking more positive in your life now that Americans are being vaccinated at impressive rates. As long as they understand that the virus is just waiting for people to let their guard down. 🙏

      • iidorun says:

        Well, Americans are optimistic to the point that they can be stupid. I, unfortunately, have witnessed several people who think getting vaccinated is a free pass to resume life unmasked and without other safety measures. Sigh. I would much rather hear about the Tuscan countryside than listen to the news here! How are vaccinations going in your neck of the woods?

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Yes, as a former American I watch in astonishment at how a “frontier” mindset seems to make so many Americans think rules aren’t for them. It’s hard to fathom. But then again, I live in an unusually rule-abiding part of the world. Here we have much further to go in our vaccination rollout because we have no domestic production (hopefully that will change for the future), so have had to wait for contracted supplies from Europe. However, it now seems that things are moving well. Healthcare workers, LTC workers and residents, 80+ are nearly done. 75-79, teachers, other essential workers being done now. But I think most people realize that getting the shot won’t change our lives in the short term. We’re all advised not to travel. On the other hand, in most parts of Canada most kids have been in school. That makes a huge difference. Re Tuscan travel, good point. Maybe I should write a post about where the first quarter of my virtual St Francis pilgrimage from Florence to Rome has taken me! 😊🏃🏼‍♀️

        • iidorun says:

          I’d love to hear about your run! I’ve always wondered if my rule following family had immigrated to Canada instead of the US, how our lives might have been different….

        • Jane Fritz says:

          There’s a meme I’ve seen of a classic pic of a young boy asking his Dad a serious question. The meme has the boy asking, “Dad, what’s a Canadian?” The father’s response is, “An unarmed North American with health insurance, son.” Of course, in most parts of Canada you’re better off liking a long winter!

        • iidorun says:

          LOL! Isn’t 40% of Canada north of the arctic circle?

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Smart lady. Yes, 40% of the land, but only 1% of the population. 90% of Canadians live within 150 miles of the U.S. border.

        • iidorun says:

          That latter fact I did not know!

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    Yay, the comeback is on – Go Jane! Yes those Conqueror Challenges are well put together and seem popular. I actually signed up for and did the Ring of Kerry a while back. It didn’t really do anything for me – I just recorded the miles I’d have run in any case. Neither was I fussed about all the good features like postcards, Street View etc. But it’s a worthwhile concept which has attracted many.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for the moral support, Roy. I have hopes that if I just don’t get (too) stupid and overdue that I can actually keep moving. Fingers crossed. I definitely find that seeing the kms get added onto my map of Italy when I cross the threshold with my Garmin is a motivator for going out in the cold this time of year. Of course, once you’re out it’s spectacular and life-affirming, but making the start takes motivation. I can understand why it wouldn’t have made a huge difference for you, but good to hear you give it a good review anyway. Take care.

  3. Kudos to you for taking on new challenges! I’ve never been a runner and much prefer walking, although my spouse has participated in half a dozen full and half marathons. Without the in-person marathons, he finds it harder to get motivated because he needs that goal to work toward, but he’s still managing one short run a week. I enjoy dancing and should be doing more walking, but maybe I’ll try the link challenge link you shared.

  4. Thanks and now I have to check this app! We started our own little challenge here in NS this Fall with another couple to walk the Harvest Moon Trail, literally not virtually. It covers 110km from Grand Pre to Annapolis Royal using the old train track that has been converted to a bike/hike trail. So we walk once or twice a week and intend to reward ourselves with a dinner and overnight in Annapolis Royal for the last leg. But now I must go and check out these virtual walks.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Hi Wayne. Yes, I’ve been very impressed by the trail you’ve been following. And that it’s been kept in walkable condition regardless of the snow you’ve been having. When you’ve completed the Harvest Moon Trail you can choose one of these virtual ones. Ironically, one option is the Cabot Trail!!

  5. Excellent! Adding a little virtual zip to your routine sounds like a grand plan. After all, we humans like folderol—at least I do!—and plenty of it. Keep us posted.

  6. LA says:

    I concentrate on how good I’ll feel afterwards…

  7. bernieLynne says:

    Owning a dog(s). They have to go out every day for a serious walk or they get into mischief. So we don the apparel and off we go – today the wind makes it feel -51 and the puppy and the old dog won’t last super long but we will be outside enjoying nature and the fresh air. Even on days when I don’t want to go I still go and always come back the better for it.
    Run walk is my summer normal. Never been a runner but do like to do triathlons so have learnt to do a slow 5 kms!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      You are REALLY having some cold weather out there, Bernie, even by Prairie standards. The dogs can’t be too impressed! Meanwhile, we’ve never had such a mild or dry winter. Very odd, but I’ll take it. You do triathlons, wow. We’re opposites, I only like the running part!

      • bernieLynne says:

        Yes it’s a bit nippy. It will pass. You’d better watch your words or you will get a huge dump of your wet snow!
        I have done sprint distance ones in the past – I love swimming and biking but have to push myself to do a 5 km run. Just have not found the joy in it. I’ve always wanted to do an Olympic distance tri but the one and only time I did 10 I thought I was gonna die!

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Lol. I did think about jinxing it by talking about our very unusual winter weather. I’m a diehard lover of winter, but I have to say that one year of cold but not brutal cold and snow but not head-high piles of it isn’t hard to take. Re swimming, cycling, walking, and running, happily there’s something for everyone. The main thing is for everyone to find something they enjoy, and then do it!

        • bernieLynne says:

          Absolutely the key is to keep moving. I do think of doing a couple more tri’s as I’ve moved up an age category. Alas last year’s didn’t happen and now I have not swam in over a year. So…. Who know’s?

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