A Goal Accomplished, a Lesson Learned
Words by Carl Maynard
Photography by James Majewski
On the 6th of January of 2020, I tweeted about my goal of running 1,000 miles before the year end. It stemmed from a conversation with a friend at the end of December after he had completed his goal of running 500 miles in 2019. To which I replied, 'Let's double it up and run 1,000!' He laughed and declined but I was hooked. I was in Paris at the time and was riding the high of an amazing run with my best friend. I for sure was making a decision drunk off a runner's high like no other. So fast forward a few days, on January 4th I got started. Throughout the year, there were ups and downs and even moments where I believed I would not finish. The bad days would mount faster than the good days. The weeks at the start turned into months already behind me and the mileage total never seemed to get smaller. In all actuality with every run it was but the end goal still felt out of reach as the year went on. By the end of April I was finding my stride when I took on the attempt to run during the month of Ramadan. Which meant running while fasting and having to change not only up my schedule but also how I fueled and how far or even for how long I could run. By the time Ramadan ended in May I realized that while I had slowed down in mileage completion, I was incredibly proud of the fact that I found the energy to run 50+ miles over the course of those 30 days. It was after that period that I really started to feel like I could accomplish running 1,000 miles. Then towards the middle of July, I started hearing from people all over the country and here in Washington DC about how my attempt at a thousand miles had inspired them to not only start running but to set a new goal for themself to finish by the end of the year. Once that happened, my goal took on a whole new meaning. I was no longer doing it for myself. Letting myself down started to mean less, because letting down those who were invested was something I wasn't comfortable with. Then before I realized it, I was doubling down on my runs, running in the morning, then again at night. I was losing track of the mileage; a week had gone by and another 30 miles with it. My pace was improving, my recovery was better and I was finally starting to feel like a runner instead of just someone who runs. This was huge for me and my confidence as an athlete. Seeing friends at 8:30am for coffee often came along with 'How many miles have already run so far today?' Being known for the amount of effort I was putting into my goal meant everything to me. When you set a goal, especially one that you're public about, there's two ways in my opinion people will react. And regardless of the goal, their reaction is a direct reflection of how seriously you take the goal you set. Those jokes were always encouraging to me. And gave me the confidence to reach back to those who took the time to reach out to me and tell me how I had inspired them, and ask how their goal was coming along. Around my birthday in October was the first time I said to myself 'You're gonna do this. You're really gonna make it.'
On November 1st, I was 82 miles away from completing. Could have called it in at that point and cruised through to the end of the year but I challenged myself to finish on Thanksgiving. A day that in Washington DC hosts a massive Turkey trot and a day that to me now is more about running than anything else. It may very well be one of, if not my favorite running day of the year. It's a day unlike any other than brings out the 'I don't really run' crowd unlike any other. And then you see how much fun everyone has and on a yearly basis I fall in love with running all over again. On a day of gratitude, I'm always reminded how much of a gift it is to be able to run. So when I realized I was so close, I knew Thanksgiving would be the day. The morning of, I was calm, not anxious and if I'm being honest, was feeling kind of let down because I didn't feel a thing. I thought I'd be more emotional. I thought it would mean more. We kicked off the run and I started with a small group. About a mile and a half in, I pull away to take some time to reflect. Conditions were perfect: roads wet from the rain before sunrise, a cool but mild temp. No one around except our running club. Then around the 2.5 mile mark, I rejoined a group for a few blocks. I passed 'em, picked up my pace to started my final push through to the end when my friend Mona shouted out to me, 'You got this Carl!' and then just like in that moment, a Nazaré size wave of emotion hit me and the tears started to fall. For what felt like the longest 800m of my life, the past 11 months ran through my brain. The 6am wake-ups in the dead of winter. The miles in the cold, icey rain. The two-a-days. The 10 mile days during the dog days of summer; the miles at night during Ramadan. The self doubt. The runners around the country cheering for me. Oh and not to mention, the fact I somehow did a majority of all of these miles during a global pandemic. Crossing the finish line and thus completing 1,000 miles is a moment I will never forget for as long as I live. But the impact of completing the miles wasn't really felt until the year came to an end.
After laying low about my goals for this new year, I made them public. The biggest goal, doubling down and going for 2,000. Since announcing this, I've heard from runners from all over the world, from Paris to San Francisco, to Milan and right here in DC. Some committing to 500, 750 and a lot of them, a thousand. Running 1,000 miles for me wasn't easy. There were more days than I'm proud to admit where I wanted to quit. Knowing what I know about the impact of sharing my goal, my struggles, my setbacks and my eventual completion, I'd do it all over again. In a world where we live by data and use numbers to quantify reach or impact, the biggest lesson I learned in 2020 was that there's just no analytics for measuring the impact you can have on someone when what you do comes from the heart. When you give all of yourself for a larger purpose, you'll just never be able to know the real impact of your efforts. It's knowing that now that's giving me the drive to give all of me twice over this year. My mind and my legs may not be with me or in the best place for every mile this time around, but I know for damn sure, that every ounce of my heart will.