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# One Perfect Saturday

📅 Sun, November 19th 2023
topics: #personal psychoses #experiments

Beau Miles is a wholesome inspiration. 5 years ago, he ran a marathon one mile per hour, filling the gaps with a whole host of practical tasks. He made this video about it.

I watched that video last Wednesday and thought “I should do that”. The running appealed to me, but getting stuff done REALLY appealed to me. I didn’t have the inclination, time or energy to run 26 miles though, so I halved it, running 13 miles over 13 hours, and getting tonnes done in between.

This is about that day.

The Plan

I decided I’d start at 8am, a reasonable time to be out the door on a Saturday. The first hour, I wanted to run 2 miles to get rolling, then 1 mile every hour until I hit 13 miles, scheduled at 7pm.

The night before I took an a4 pad, and on the left side wrote down the timeline, hour by hour, so I could schedule time-bound things, and tick off the hours & miles. On the right side, I wrote down the unrealistic list of everything I could think of, to get done on this one day. It contained more tasks than I had probably completed in the past several weeks cumulatively. It contained a mix of physical work, chores & digital admin.

Did you manage it?

I got the miles done. Thanks to my ad-hoc routes, most laps ended up longer than a mile. I topped out at 14.72 miles. I typically run further than that in just a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, yet I submit that doing it one mile at a time is harder. The on-and-off nature of the challenge combined with the sheer number of hours across which I was exercising meant a level of muscular & mental fatigue beyond what you’d experience in a typical long run.

You might only resonate with this next statement if you’re a keen exerciser but: It was the very best kind of tiredness. That sort of weariness that you feel in the heart like one of life’s checkboxes, of a day well ground. Imagine you’ve squeezed all the life you can from the lemon, and then imagine you’re the lemon: that’s the feeling.

Doing this in English November, the sun had well and truly set by the time I blew the final whistle, representing to my primordial brain one whole outdoor day.

Standard advice is not to run for 3 hours after you eat, to avoid digestive issues and stitches. That’s a little complicated when you never have more than 50 minutes to wait until your next run. I got by with some Huel drinks and plenty of blueberries, but I scoffed a pastry at 7:10pm without delay. Difficulty fuelling probably contributed quite a bit to the fatigue as well, and I might try eating small plain meals if I were to try this again.

Beau Miles runs around his beautiful Aussie ranch. I live on a top floor flat in London, which makes for less picturesque laps but also many more stairs. Going up and down like that all day costs a little time and energy but is more than worth it in confusion caused to neighbours.

But was it productive?

Oh, was it! Remember that unrealistic arm’s length of tasks & chores? I ticked off every single one. I had to add more throughout the day to remain at full capacity for the duration. There was an evolutionary rhythm to the day that made doing things feel like my life’s purpose, the way the Rock seems to feel about going to the gym in those motivational YouTube videos.

The productivity was a symptom of what felt like the most naturally arranged day of my life. If that’s dramatic sounding, well the effects of the day were dramatic.

How did you find it?

I expected this to be a game-show-style physical challenge, getting stuff done, and running around haphazardly. I certainly did not anticipate an awakening, pseudo-spiritual experience in get-things-done disguise. This day was one of the best days I have ever expended. Not because of its packed content but because of the feeling evoked by the structure of the day.

Most weekends, indeed most days, don’t have an organising structure. This is one of the reliefs of “knowledge work”. The application of structure to this day gave it a purpose, an idea that each moment was meant for something, that all the time mattered. The entire day, broken down unavoidably hour by hour, with an initiating task, the run, followed by a set of other things to get done. Rarely, in my experience, do days ever feel quite so ordained, and how pleasant the feeling.

Coupled with the structure is momentum. No matter what I’m doing, when the clock hits the sky you’re moving, and then when you’re eyes cast back over home you know you have little more than 50 minutes to make count, to do the best one can. In every sense you are always moving forward during this day, carried on the gift of your own steam, through mile after mile, and task after task. By day’s close, I felt like an unstoppable train, a cheerful change from what often feels like unalterable inertia, bogged down in life’s weeds.

Hours can’t run away with you here, for you must run away with them. An hourly reminder that you’re alive and better get moving. No zoning out, mental delegation or drowning of the senses is possible: I felt present at every moment. This contributed in large part to its joy. The life was pulled from every second because I was there with every tick of the clock.

The alert presence made the day feel much longer than a typical Saturday. By 3pm I was sure it ought to be well after dark. Somehow the momentous rushing around slowed time down. If I lived every day this way, perhaps time wouldn’t seem to fly so fast.

Modern life, even for the outdoorsy, usually contains bursts of the outside only. I’d consider myself an active outdoorsman, but that typically consists of a burst of an hour or two in the morning only. The rest of the day under non-resplendent luminescence. Breaking this up, getting outside every hour, all day long, continually re-connecting with the outside world: it felt better. The same is true of the exercise itself. Aren’t we made to be regularly moving, outside?! No wonder it felt so natural.

All of this, it may by now be redundant to say, compiled to one of the most full & fulfilling days on personal record. Jobs done, chores crossed, a day grasped with both hands and jam-packed with a simple & sweet form of life. Humble in its content, bizarre yet pleasing even to reimagine. Some prehistoric part of me calls out that this is the way to live.

I began the day with physical tasks, small DIY projects like hanging photos, re-pinning carpets, cleaning the hoover, unblocking a drain. By early afternoon I had exhausted the list of physical tasks and I moved on to admin & digital chores. This worked well with dropping energy levels unconducive to climbing a ladder. On the whole, though, it was the combination of manual work and running that gave the best endorphin hits and sense of achievement.

After 50 minutes of smashing through TODOs, the run became a period of thought. It created time for reflection that I wouldn’t get if I was just jumping from task to task. The break was like a context switch routine, that helped get things out of my brain so I was ready for the next thing. I had some good ideas on the run. For example, I planned out this post. Sometimes it amazes me what the brain can do when it’s given some time, and yet how little time we give it as we tear between this and that. Certainly, having no chance to check my phone during the day helped.


I’d like to try this again in the countryside. However much my brain enjoyed this challenge, swerving among the concrete is not the optimised natural solution. It would be cool to combine this with some kind of thinking or reading retreat. 50 minutes of reading, 10 minutes of reflection-on-foot. Given the brain activity I observed during the runs, this could be a powerful approach to study.

I came away from the day with such a heightened sense of well-being that the obvious question was: How can I do this more often? I think that the 13-mile version is not something that I could commit to, too frequently. It’s a little disruptive to marathon training, and fatiguing beyond what would be regularly recommended. But a shorter version, perhaps a “6-mile morning”, could provide an amazing stimulant for a productive & thoughtful day, leaving afternoons open with plenty of energy still in the tank. I’d like to find a way to fit this into my regular schedule.

The other immediate takeaway for me was that this is how we’re meant to experience days. Outdoors a lot. Moving a lot. With your head in now. Time didn’t fly. I was there for every minute. Making progress without ever killing time.

That’s one way to spend a Saturday.