“I run because it’s cheaper than therapy.” I read this on the back of a T-shirt during a recent half-marathon, and although I was out of breath, I laughed out loud. (It was mile 10, and I was a little punch-drunk.)
I laughed because I could relate. I run because it makes me feel better, physically and psychologically. When I’m on a regular running schedule, I take better care of myself. I sleep better and feel less anxious. The problem is that I’m not always on a regular running schedule. If I don’t have a race looming, I let my running slip. Perhaps this makes me a bit pathetic—but it also makes me human. It’s also why I am training for my first-ever marathon.
This endeavor, in the words of my esteemed colleague Daniel Engber, is “imbecilic.” I politely disagree. He’s right that the length of a marathon is arbitrary. But I’m not running the marathon because I want to run 26.2 miles in one go. I’m doing it because the challenge will make me more committed to running than I would be otherwise.
I am very bad at working out regularly. I didn’t make it to the gym once in my college career, even though it was free and every machine had a private television. But when a friend suggested we run a half marathon, I found that having such a goal made me much more likely to stick to a running schedule.
So rather than knock the marathon as an arbitrary accomplishment, let’s use it as a model for other forms of self-improvement. Why should runners have all the fun (and all the pain)? That’s why Slate Plus is launching the Slate Anti-Marathon.
I’m inviting my fellow Slatesters, and Slate readers, to train alongside me—at anything you like. You’ll spend the same amount of time training each week as I spend training for the marathon, and the intensity of your training will build over several months. Ideally, you’ll have something you want to be able to do on marathon day (Nov. 6) that you can’t do today. You’ll have a goal and a deadline to motivate you, just like I do.
A few specifics: My training will take place over 22 weeks, starting on Sunday and culminating on Nov. 6. At the start, it will require around three hours a week, but by late summer we’re looking at at least four hours a week. Come fall, weekly training will be in the four-to-six-hour realm. (I’ll post my full training schedule on Sunday when we launch, but feel free to divide your time as you like during the week.)
Along the way, I’ll be chatting in Slate Plus with the Slatesters participating in the Anti-Marathon to check in on how it’s going for them. I’ll also be interviewing some experts about how goal-setting, habit-forming, and any other questions that come up as we go through this process together. And we’ll have a private Facebook group where we can all check in about our progress. (If you’re not a Slate Plus member, sign up now to participate!)
So pick a goal: Acquire a new language, learn to code, become a better cook, master swing dancing, finish a draft of that novel. We’ll talk about our progress together, share training tips, and keep one another motivated. And then we’ll cross the finish line together—on foot or otherwise.