2021: Putting one foot in front of another.

Twenty-twenty-one was another raging dumpster fire of a year has come and gone.  Even though I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’m a runner now (see The Serendipitous Runner for details on the beginning of this journey), even after running literally thousands of kilometres,  I don’t feel like a “real runner”.  

I know that’s a ridiculous thing to type, honest. I’m not really sure what would make me feel like a “real runner” either.  

It’s possibly because I run in somewhat of a vacuum – no real conversations with other regular runners to help provide any context.  I’m not particularly interested in joining the various large-scale run events – I do not like crowds, and the idea of being surrounded by tonnes of people all breathing heavily close to me while I’m doing the same is not particularly appealing.  And small-scale running groups are nearly as hard as I suddenly have to interact with “new people” which for me is very difficult.

Perhaps my “not a real runner” is because my mental image of “real runners” has been poisoned by various running accounts I follow on social media where nearly every post is someone who looks “perfect”.  Body image is a strange creature I’ve waged an ongoing battle with most of my life – I can sometimes still see who I refer to as “Fat Tom” when I look in the mirror – back when I was nearly 122 KG (270 pounds for the Americans reading this).  Again, I know that’s not me now, but the brain is a wacky glob of jello-noodles. 

When I mentioned this to Tracey earlier, she said the obvious; it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like a runner; just keep being you.   I can do that.  I sure married the right person.

I can be me.

All of that aside, I learned a lot about running and myself in 2021, even if I didn’t manage to crack one of my goals; a sub-two hour half-marathon – I got so frustratingly close (~2:04).  So many things had to be right to be able to get that close; my energy level, weather, and a bunch of other factors. 

I fell twice, the second time seriously after tripping on something and landing so hard on my ribs that I was sore for weeks afterwards, which was an excellent reminder to pay closer attention when running on uneven ground.

There’s a serenity to running long distances (by which I mean 15km or more), to the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over.  “Just keep running” has been a mantra whenever I was struggling with pain/exhaustion/heat/etc. 

Conditions on a run can have huge effects too; in 2021, I ran in temperatures ranging from +34°C to -31°C (averaging out to +3.3°C), including humidex and wind chill (both of which are *really* relevant when you’re running for long periods) .  

There is a degree amount of self-satisfaction I feel for  running no matter what the conditions are like and to date, I haven’t had to skip running due to weather.  

Some of the more challenging conditions are are after a few CMs of snow – enough to make ice hard to spot with the added difficulty of being similar to running on dry sand.  

The worst, I think, is cold rain (~4°C / 39°F) which can be really miserable to run in, followed by high-temperature days are most likely to make that happen as I really start to suffer after 25°C (~77 °F).

That said, temperatures between -10°C (14°F) and +10°C (50°F) seem to be my preferred range.

In April I hatched the idea that I could try running a 50+ KM every two weeks – which I managed for six times before scheduling and injury prevented me from trying to keep it up – and then it got hot out.  

I’ve been tracking weight/fluid loss on runs for a while now, and once I have enough data points (closing in on 600 runs) I’ll see about posting that once I figure out some of the statistical analysis bits I will want to run on that.

Another thing I’ve been working on, thanks to some of the podcasts and articles I’ve been come across to is increasing the amount and consistency of sleep I get.  

Most of my life I’ve been a night owl; regularly going to bed between 3 AM and 6 AM, and waking up around 10 AM., no matter when I went to bed.  Clearly, not enough sleep, even before factoring the high level of daily activity I do.

Since roughly mid-2020, I started to shift my sleep habit around. Now, most nights I’m in bed by a bit after 10PM and wake up at 5:45 AM, with very little variability, even on weekends.  My watch and phone give me a reminder to “wind things down” about 30 minutes beforehand, and I start the process of getting ready for bed.  It’s worked wonders, to be honest.  

One of the harder things I learned is that it turns out that the notion of sleeping in on weekends ends up causing you jet-lag on Monday, depending how much you do it, so I typically keep it to an hour or less of extra slumber.

Lastly, the numbers that I know you all came here for:

2021 Runs:

174 × 10-20 KM
146 x 21-29 KM
6 x 30-35 KM
5 x 50 KM
1 x 66 KM
976 hours of recorded activity,
9.8 million steps,
3,367 fights of stairs


6,119 KM run
2,237 KM walked
8,356 KM Total

8 thoughts on “2021: Putting one foot in front of another.”

  1. Self-identity is a weird thing too. Sure some people identify as runners. If that doesn’t quite fit you, you can be Tom, who often goes for a run.

    I definitely wouldn’t call myself a knitter, but sometimes I knit. I definitely call myself a reader, though I rarely make time to read anymore. And I probably weigh around 250 now, but I’m not Fat Kat. I’m Kat who has the same intrinsic value in life no matter what size of pants I’m buying.

  2. Looking forward to more stats and love your note about shifting the sleep schedule. Your timing mirrors mine pretty closely with a 6 am wake up instead. That time to wind down is key, absolutely. I may not be a runner at all but like your map updates. What a great change for an otherwise (seemingly) unchanged year!

    1. The shift of sleep has been huge. I feel like I’ve gone from being the poster boy for sleeping three hours a day to a rabid advocate of getting as much sleep as needed. I promise more stats as long as you keep cranking out podcast episodes for me to listen to while running. …and someday, Koven, right?

  3. I love how your watch tells you it’s time to “wind down” before bed. I’m curious what winding down looks like for you. For me, even if I work until 1am, and don’t get home til 2am (thanks, hour long commute), I can’t just hop in bed and fall straight to sleep. Even if I have to be up for another shift at 7am. Lol. My wind down comes in the form of watching a YouTube video or two until my brain says, “ok, we can sleep now”.

    Also, I love the fact that you’re keeping tabs on all of the stats so you can share a comprehensive data analysis with your readers. How very clever and nerdy of you.

    And as your beautiful wife said, be Tom. Cause just Tom is just fine.

    1. Winding down (the notification shows up on all my devices) is basically screens *off* (no computer, tablet, or phone) once it starts. I putter around our home, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth etc, then go to bed. I don’t use my phone in bed. Close my eyes, focus on my breathing until I fall asleep.

      I’ve become a big fan of the concept of the “quantified self”, so gathering data on myself helps.

  4. I’m constantly blown away by how phenomenal your attention to detail is, and when you set your mind to something, your tenacity is inspiring. Love all the Versions of Tom I’ve been lucky enough to get to see over these many years!

  5. Since using the “sleep time” on my phone (which removes all notifications between 10pm and 8am) I’ve had much better sleep. I also think that working from home has done wonders for my sleep schedule. I now fall asleep at around 11:30pm (after reading for an hour) and wake up naturally between 7am and 8am. Not hearing an alarm has been so nice for my mental health.
    I love hearing about your running journey and am interested to hear about the “weight/fluid loss on run” data that you are tracking.

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