Feb 12, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Kristen Richards | Illustration by Bibi Powers

24 hours. 24 runs. One marathon. On your mark, get set, go.

This past summer, amid the first stages of the pandemic, running through the green canopy of New England trails gave me hope, refuge, and a sense of adventure in an otherwise collapsing world. Without the excitement of upcoming races, however, I began to search the deep depths of the internet for something – anything – to keep running interesting.

In late spring I came across a video that inspired me. It reminded me of the ways in which we can take our current circumstances and create something new as a way to learn, discover, and experience.

In 2018, Beau Miles, a filmmaker from Australia, uploaded a video to YouTube called “A Mile an Hour: Running a different kind of marathon.” In the video, Miles ran a single mile around his block every hour, completing as many tasks between runs as he could. By the end of the 24 hours, he had run an entire marathon and checked all the boxes off of his to-do list. His video, which attracted the attention of many runners, gained over 3 million views and kickstarted a variety of so-called “crazy” running challenges.

After sharing this idea with one of my closest high school friends and cross-country teammates, we decided to run 1.1 miles every hour for 24 hours around the trails, track, and roads where we attended boarding school. We met up at 8 a.m. one Saturday morning to run the first of what would become our 24-hour marathon.

It was a sticky August day. Not necessarily hot, but humid. Between runs, my friend and I sat in the shade of elm trees and sometimes in the back of my mom’s red Outback for cover from the sun. The 50 minutes between runs went surprisingly fast, and my friend and I spent a fair amount of time reminiscing and running on the same trails that we had raced on during cross country season in high school.

As the sun began to set, we found ourselves almost halfway through the challenge, and embarked on a quick trip to Aroma Joe’s, a local coffee shop. There, we refueled with caffeine and sugar before heading back to our high school track to run our 7 p.m. mile. This mile, fresh off some strong coffee, was our fastest mile by far. We clocked in at 6:51 after four laps sprinting, barefoot, around the track in the fading daylight, jamming to “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.”

Needless to say, our sunset, barefoot, coffee mile was one of the best.

As the daylight faded and the humidity rose, we spread our sleeping bags out on the track’s straightaway, playing with the idea of napping in between runs. The miles passed like minutes, and almost as soon as we had started, my friend and I were finishing our final mile, ending the 26.2 exactly 24 hours later. Exhausted, we parted ways, 26.2 miles in our legs, and so many new memories in our minds.

The 24 miles in 24 hours challenge does not require you to be an Olympic level runner. You do not even have to be able to run five miles. All you have to do is take it one mile at a time. I would argue that it is the perfect challenge for long distance runners, short distance runners, and even people who wouldn’t consider themselves runners at all. It is a mental test of endurance, rather than a physical test of speed or strength.

So, when the inspiration wanes, sometimes all you need to bring yourselves back into a state of loving running is a crazy challenge that reminds you the ways in which we can move to learn, and learn through our movement.

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