Shortly after Thanksgiving, my friend Pete posted a challenge via the dailymile. Could each of us run 120 miles in the month of December? If 10 of us could, he would donate a decent chunk of change to charity. Truth is, whether 10 of us make it or not, he’ll probably give to his charity anyway, but I loved the idea of a group challenge.
Several day later, my friend Michelle sent out a cry for help via Twitter. She had set a goal back in December of last year to try to run 1000 miles in 2009. She was 105 miles short and was looking at trying to cover that distance in 25 days. She asked if we could help by running with her.
She is in New York. The rest of us are scattered all over the country, so she knows that we will not be able to literally run with her. However, the idea that each day, many of us will be running to accomplish 105 miles in 25 days is giving her the incentive and strength to accomplish her goal.
“We” are a group of runners loosely tied together through our associations with the daily mile, runkeeper street teams, Twitter and other social networks. Do I know these people? Not really. I have met Pete once (at the Manchester Marathon) and have never met Michelle. We’ve found each other through these networks looking for advice, information and motivation. We have found a bond in running and all (and I mean ALL) are welcome. I love that these social networks are using the emerging technology of today to bring together people who love the most ancient of all sports.
I hear over and over again that our dependence on technology has made us a nation of couch potatoes – a nation of obese, lazy people. We no longer have to get up to change the channel on the TV. With smartphone technology we don’t even have to go to our home offices to check email. We can do it right from the couch with the TV remote in the other hand. Dinner? A phone call away. Video games have taken our young and not so young off the playgrounds and streets and sucked them right back to the couch.
Well I’m here to tell you it’s time to re-frame it. Technology is what you make of it and the emergence of social networks can make us a fit nation again. Both Pete and Michelle are using technology to get people to run; to do some serious running. 120 miles in a month or 105 in 25 days is nothing to sneeze at. Before you non-runners tune out and say, “you speedsters don’t get it!” I would like to point out that “we” are runners of all speeds, shapes and sizes, ranging from the beginner who runs a 20-25 minute mile (most of you can walk at that pace) to the racer who is in the mid-5′s. We all cheer each other on. Your challenge doesn’t have to be 120 miles. How about 7 miles this week. Go walk a mile a day. Start where you can and then build on it. But don’t do it alone. Join a network and get motivated!
The point is that all of these people are here and they are together, using technology to improve their health.
In addition to the social networks, there are other technologies that are helping me and others run and stay fit. Runkeeper Pro is an app for the iPhone that I have been using since July 1st. It uses the GPS in your iPhone and helps track your route, pace, elevation and calories burned. You can program it to give you audio cues as you run so you can zone out and just enjoy your adventure. After your run it automatically sends your data to your web profile so you can review it later. One of the things I like most about Runkeeper is that the designer of the program is always looking to improve the app, which he has done time and time again. And, he has incorporated the social network concept into the web side of it. He gets it. The convergence of these technologies can make us strong again. But you don’t have to have an iPhone or a Garmin “watch” to map and keep track of your run/walks. Google has a perfectly good mapping program that allows you to input your routes yourself.
In this day and age, when most of us are trying to negotiate our way through tough economic times and the Congress debates the pro’s and con’s of health reform, running could be considered a patriotic thing to do. Raise the health index of our nation – lower the cost of care. And depending on your running style (barefoot anyone?), it doesn’t cost a lot.
Come join the party!