So it’s the new year and everybody is keenly adding new resolutions which reminded me I wanted to write this down. And because this is long and important to me, I don’t want it to get lost in some social media. So I decided to put it here. It is personal and has nothing to do with GNOME, so feel free to skip it if that’s what you came for.

I decided to start running some time in 2013 and I consider it one of my most impressive achievements of last year. I originally did it to have a release for the anger after my breakup, but it quickly moved into a case of I didn’t know working out would do that to me. Let’s see what happens next. The way I went about it wasn’t very clear to me at the beginning but I reflected on it quite a lot and a bunch of rules became apparent in the process. They worked really well for me, but would probably involve serious challenges for differently structured people (ie. maybe you :))

  1. Make sure I run tomorrow
    I decided early on that I wanted to get into a daily routine so I didn’t have an excuse to not run on any day. With twice-a-week routines or similar I always end up with “I don’t have to do it today” and putting it off until forever. But by caring about tomorrow I had to make sure that I was having fun today. If I didn’t enjoy myself or if I overpowered myself I knew I wouldn’t want to go tomorrow. And I’ve learned recently that the most important thing is spending time on it, so that’s what this is about.
  2. Don’t set any goals
    I didn’t want to set any measurable goals because both reaching the goal and not reaching it would be problematic. If I did not reach a goal I would be demotivated and think of myself as a loser. It would force me to overcome that feeling. If I did reach the goal, I would get a feeling of accomplishment, of being done. And that might stop me from going out tomorrow. After all, I’m done.
  3. Try to improve
    This is as generic as it gets. But it was important. I always wanted to do better than yesterday. Or last week. Or whatever I felt I could improve on. Not slacking, improving.

I started in earnest after the temperature remained above the freezing point, which was in the mid of March. I picked the dumbest route I could find, which was a 1.4km lap around the block. In retrospect that was a good choice because there is absolutely no traffic I need to think about and I can shut off my brain and just run. The other great thing was that by running a lap I can decide after each lap if I want to run another one. As I never knew in advance how well I feel, this has probably made me run quite a distance more than I would have otherwise.

The first few days I was running 200m, walking 300m, and repeat that. Luckily, nobody would see me when I did it at close to freezing temperatures at 2:00am. But luckily, improvements came quickly and after 2-3 weeks I was already doing that for 2 laps and the running distances started to become longer than the walking part. By June (after 3 months), I upped that to 3 laps in sunshine and quickly after that I ran 4 laps (that is 5.6km) for the first time. Though it would take until October for me to make 4 laps my default distance. And while at the beginning my time for 4 laps was around 35min, it’s now at below 31min. I don’t think I cracked the 30min yet, but I don’t measure myself exactly. This goes back to what I said above about not wanting to have anything concrete, as that usually leads to me starting to compare seconds and then being disappointed when I miss some goals. So all I do is count the songs that played on my mp3 player while I was out and then roughly summing up their lengths.

So how did my body like the fact that I was straining it so much? On the one hand, he seemed to be okay with it. I didn’t lose any weight – probably because I’m not overweight, if rather close – but my body form readjusted in a way that made me require new pants. My quarterly Diabetes measurements also improved noticeably. On the other hand, my body didn’t like to be exercised. I got to learn about a lot of leg muscles I didn’t know existed. My knees were not happy the first two months. But because I could stop running after every lap I was able to quickly adjust to growing pains and just run less if muscles were cramping too much or some tendons complained. However, it took until November until I was not having any issues anymore and enjoyed running up escalators two steps at once again.

What helped me a lot was that I had a bunch of friends around me that run themselves and could give me good insights into their own experiences. And even if they still run a 5k faster than I do, I run way more than them so it’s only a question of time until I catch up. What also helped was that I got the right equipment for running and had no issues with blisters on my feet or having clothing that felt light without being cold in winter temperatures. So there never was any outside temptation that I could use as an excuse to be weak and stop running.

So in summary I ran somewhere between 750 and 1000km in 2013. I got myself into a workout where I average 5.6km each day in slightly more than 30 minutes. My dreams for the future are to get that time to below 28min so the average speed goes above 12km/h, to run 10km for the first time and to get rid of the walking I still do in between. But most of all, I wish to enjoy running tomorrow.


#1 Luka on 01.17.14 at 05:00


I started running in late October last year. I’ve never runned for recreation in my 26-year life and I’m not a sports guy (average geek) but running turned out to be fun and the reward afterwards (dopamine explosion) is just great :) I hope I’ll have more time for such activities this year, been a bit lazy the last months.

#2 DDD on 01.17.14 at 09:31

Sadly exercise doesn’t lose much weight – a good diet is still required. Being fit is very important (looks at unused running shoes) for other reasons. In my case I go running to build stamina for other sports I enjoy.

#3 Ross Burton on 01.17.14 at 09:49

This might sound odd, but I think you’ll find doing 10K surprisingly easy. I was rather unfit and incredibly bad at running in ~June of 2013 when I started a couch-to-5k 8 week program (week 1 of run for 60 seconds/walk 90 seconds felt like it was killing me) and finished that doing 5k in 29 minutes without any walking. I find that short laps are both repetitive and let you give up so prefer to do single loops: to reach 8k and then 10k I altered the loops so that unless I was seriously suffering (and bailed by turning around) there wasn’t a temptation to say “this will do” and stop early.

Anyway, my point was that in my experience once I could do over 5k without walking or feeling exhausted, pushing it on to 10k was “just” an investment in incremental gains week by week. My 10k pace is slower than my 5k pace, but I’m fine with that.

#4 Jan Schmidt on 01.17.14 at 12:53

Awesome! Well done – keep it up! :)

#5 Tushar Kumar on 01.17.14 at 14:35

That’s good thinking. I started running in November 2013. I started by running just 2 minutes and gradually increased to 30 minutes. After that, I used running Apps like Nike+ and Google’s My Tracks to track my performance. Right now, I can run for 2 hours in which I cover 13 to 15 kilometers. I don’t plan on running more than that though. :) Hope your running goes well :)

#6 Sriram Ramkrishna on 01.18.14 at 01:26

Great post! I’m glad you’ve found a way to make yourself feel better by running. I run myself, and it’s a great feeling. I don’t do it every day, partially because I am getting old and it’s hard to do it sometimes because your legs ache past 6 miles :/

#7 Chris / Habit on 01.18.14 at 09:38

deftly done! imho your greatest achievement is that you stuck to the everyday schedule. i (re)started swimming bout half a year ago and can totally agree on your 3 points. unfortunately i can’t swim on a daily basis but swimming frequently, keeping out goals while still trying to improve also works for me.

#8 Robert Smol on 01.18.14 at 10:04

Hi Benjamin, this is a reader from planet gnome .) I just would like to point out, it is probably better to keep running at a pace 9-10km/h instead of 12km/h+ as the later one is really more for muscle training while the former one is for good physical condition. Just skip the walking passages .)

#9 Gianluca on 01.19.14 at 09:28

Well done!

#10 mikhas on 01.21.14 at 16:07

Yep, makes a ton of sense. Kudos on recognizing it as a big achievement. And thanks for writing it down.

I did the same, not exact measurements but just good guesstimates. Never wrote down lap times and that killed the pressure to always succeed, which was a good thing.

But then something unexpected happened that kicked me out of my routine and now I just need to get back, which is slower than the first time. Interestingly, I simply accept that instead of being frustrated.