One of my so-called “resolutions” this year is to run more. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, based on the uptick in treadmill usage I’ve noticed at my local gym. (By the way, my fitness center friends, remember: it’s that time of year when we just have to wait out the newbies; come March, we regulars will be back in our comfort zone, talking and strutting and preening freely, kinda-working-out once again, after the strangers have moved on, God bless their well-intentioned, outsider hearts.)

I’ve dabbled with running for several years, but never really committed (actually, that’s the larger story arc of my fitness and health regimen in general. I’m a dabbler. But I digress). I run when I feel like it, but have never really set a goal or adhered to a plan. One year about a decade ago, I did run a series of progressively-longer races here in Louisville, but the acts of signing up and then showing up on race days were more or less the only prep I took part in. Consequently, I couldn’t walk 30 minutes after the last race. In addition to the nice t-shirts and free bagels, I still have a knee that flares up when I hear the words “mini” or “marathon” or “mommy, that man doesn’t look well,” all thanks to that series of races.

So, this year I decided to set a mileage goal. My wife (who is never wrong, in case she’s reading this) suggested setting a total mileage goal, which I really like (in principle). Essentially, I plan to run X total miles in 2019. (The value of “X” is unimportant here, largely in case it turns out to be laughably low to you, dear reader.) I think it will be a good way to run more consistently, and, hopefully, get to point when I don’t get winded when I bend over to pick up the remote.

Still, having set this as a major goal for my year makes me question how we got here as a society, assuming that I’m not alone in this type of thing.  I realize there are health benefits to running, and I want to reap as many of those as possible. But, it feels like a luxury that only contemporary westerners can afford (much like the incredible blessing we have in vowing to eat less or to quit watching cable news.) I’m pretty sure, for instance, my grandfather never looked at the year ahead and said, “I’ll consider 1946 good if by this time next year I have run in place for 600 miles and have the ability to lift 200 pounds of metal over my head.”

No, my grandfather’s main goal, as far as I know, was to provide for the survival of his family. Sure, he had muscular arms and a heart that lasted him until his 90’s, but it was because he actually did things, things that had a purpose. Before he retired, he worked a factory job by day, walked his property in the evenings and weekends, tending to his crops and his animals and his fences. He lifted hay bales, bent and lunged picking beans and strawberries in the garden, and got plenty of cardio chasing the cows when they escaped their pens. After retirement, he did the latter things exclusively.

As I reflect anew on 2019, as I think with fondness about how people like my grandfather must have approached the new year, I cannot help but feel the call to revise my goals, to live life with a greater purpose. I feel the solemn need to make sure my goals serve something greater than to simply run nowhere.

To that end – and I hope this does not sound too ambitious – this year, I will not only run in pursuit of “X” miles logged, but I will NOT watch cable news nor will I eat while doing it.

(And if I should happen to see a cow that has broken free of its field, I will run, just as fast as I can, to safety.)

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