My barista wants to sign up for a marathon. He makes a good coffee but he just started running again after 10 years off. My running buddy made a New Year’s resolution to become a “streak” runner for a full 365 days – daring to commit to zero rest days. Some people want to run 2,000 miles in a year. Some people join the 50-state marathon quest with a goal that requires a huge dedication to mileage, money, logistics and the accomplishment of which consumes a major portion of their lives. Runners make a lot of big plans, some reasonable and based on years of training and with a structured approach; and others that are often blurted out without the least real consideration of the requirements or implications. Win an age group. Run a 5k without walking. Lose 10 pounds. Hang with a faster friend. Improve the running portion of a triathlon. Discover the runner’s high.

Sure there are lots of us runners that just go out and run early and often without a particular objective, but there is also a large contingent that needs a target, a mission, a goal, an end point or a yardstick to measure the accomplishment of their self-defined challenge. Often these plans are not incremental advances but what, at the time, appears to be a ridiculous idea or at the least not the best “first” idea. Certainly they could start with a smaller goal, a shorter race or an easier to reach moment or distance. Are they reaching for the stars or have they just lost all sense of reason?

Consultants and marketers have an acronym for such ideas: a BHAG  (pronounced Bee Hag) and it stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It is an idea that seems not accomplishable on the surface, a complete reach, a dream objective that might represent a seemingly unattainable even if optimal goal. A company might shoot for this goal even with the idea of never quite reaching the peak.

We runners need our own expression and acronym to describe the ludicrous and impossible ideas that we regularly dream up and then follow through on to complete and accomplish. Because, make no mistake, despite the impossible nature of the many ideas that bubble up, runners are regularly accomplishing them. We challenge ourselves: yes, but over and over again we throw our passion and time into our new goal.

Crazy Ass Running Plan #CARPe. That’s what I call them. Who else but a crazy person would set a goal requiring so much effort for a return that has intangible value? Runners. Carpe in Latin means “to seize” and is associated with Carpe Diem which  means “to seize the day”. That is precisely what lots of runners are doing. Yes, we have a Crazy Ass Running Plan, but we believe that we can do it. We, at least in the moment that we make that Crazy Ass Running Plan, believe that we have the mental and physical fortitude to change our destiny. We can do this. And even if we can’t or even if we fall short, we are better off for trying or even thinking that we can. Our mood improves. Our self-esteem grows. Our love of the sport deepens. We are runners!

So are we mentally unbalanced when we make these Crazy Ass Running Plans #CARPe? I would argue no, that we are seizing the moment. My barista can run a marathon if he trains. Millions run a marathon every year. Team-in-Training takes thousands of runners and shows them how to prepare and run the distance. Galloway’s method of walking and running has helped people enter races of all distances. Surely, with an unlimited supply of caffeine, an athletic barista can run a marathon.

So does this challenge the “crazy” nature of a Crazy Ass Running Plan #CARPe. Not in the least. It still is an audacious goal for a newby runner. Why not start at a 5k or a 10k? Probably a good idea. But maybe it doesn’t seem challenging or such a mundane goal wouldn't reflect the pent-up desire for a milestone achievement to validate our self-impressions of unmatched athletic ability.

Over the years and over the runs, Scott & I have had many conversations about others’ runs and wondering if we would be able to match just portions of the feats of others; could we run 35 miles 5 days in a row to match another person running across the country at a 35-40 mile per day pace? Could we even do it one day? What if we walked a bit every mile or split it into 3 runs? What we ran at half our normal pace? Or on a more humorous note, what if we had a support team that catered to our every need!

One of these conversations actually led to an idea to be considered: running 55 miles in 55 hours. When I first said this idea out loud, it was a fantasy. It was only after my running buddy Scott weeks later pounced on the idea as a commitment and forced me to run by saying he was committed to do it with me (to support me!) That is the moment that the conversion from be a big talker to having a Crazy Ass Running Plan  #CARPe - first happened to me. Oh, and yes we acted big and hairy and conquered that audacious goal. Or was the goal big & hairy & we were audacious?

So even a reasonable basically non-competitive runner such as myself could be seduced into the consideration of oversized goals, induced to pronounce to the world the intent to undertake that path, and in this case, produce the result that underlines runners’ abilities to rise to the occasion and to later deduce that the goal had not been that absurd. And as a consequence, to casually start thinking about my next Crazy Ass Running Plan #CARPe.

Most of my next ideas were internal: to run as many 40 mile weeks as I could, to include the dreaded fartlek or speed work into my schedule, to find some hills & make them mine, to get up early and beat the summer heat, to stretch, to build up my core and things like this. And quite honestly, most were not fully accomplished. I got out the door and ran, but less for any training benefit than just for enjoyment. And so by the end of the summer as the weather cooled down, I could run, but not any faster. I had no six-pack abs even hidden under a protective cover, and the hills were the ones that I found on my normal trails. But I still had an enthusiasm for and an enjoyment of running, so I considered the summer a success.

A few weeks later as we were traveling and passed a sign welcoming us to another state, I thought about the 50-state marathon club. Those guys train and run and travel for 10-40 years to finish their goal. That is not me. I don’t even enter that many races. That just doesn’t match my personality. But hey, what if I ran in every state? Or even better what if I ran across the border of every state? How many borders are there? How many would be easy to get to? What rules would there be? Had anyone else ever done this? Is this even a running goal? Did I want to start this and later be committed to continue just because I had started? How long would it take? Could it dictate my trips and vacations for the next 10 years? Would anyone care? Do I care?

The logistics would be complicated. The expenses would eventually mount up. The commitment of time would be considerable. The imposition on the schedules and planning of others would eventually become an issue. All of this all became apparent to me as I considered running all of the state borders. Oh my god, this would be a Crazy Ass Running Plan #CARPe wouldn’t it? And it is less a running plan than just demonstrating that I have incorporated running into the fabric of my everyday life. It is now just part of who I am.

And so I have wandered down the first part of this new trail, still reserving the option to take the loop back to the start, to see how far it goes. At this point, failing to add one state or all of the states would not constitute failure. But what do I need to do to succeed?

Well, first I need to know what is success. What is the goal? Simply stated, I would “run across each state border to the next state's”. Simple enough it would seem. But wait: what is a border and how many of them are there? So off to Google I go. Well, not surprisingly, there is little consensus on this issue. Do you count diagonal borders (think Four Corners)? What about International borders? What about states that touch the ocean or a lake or the Gulf? What about Hawaii & Alaska? Even sites that agree on what to include often disagree on the actual number of borders – and many of them have even listed all of the same borders and disagree on the number.

What is running? This seems obvious, but inevitably, there will be a situation that requires a decision on whether it should count or not, so better to pre-decide right? For streak runners, the daily minimum requirement is generally considered to be a mile. For the 50-state marathon group, the requirement is that you receive a marathon result from a marathon in that state. For an age group award, they call your name out after the race. All of these are fairly straight-forward. But what would be a run here?

What is a border? Some states put signs where they are convenient. Lots of state crossings are unmarked unless on a major road. Sometimes, particularly at international border crossings, the sign is not actually on the border but off to the side after passing Customs & Immigration.

Do I have to run both directions or is one-way sufficient? Is the Michigan – Wisconsin border the same as the Wisconsin - Michigan border if you only go one direction? If I have to run both directions, can I just turn around and come back or do I need to find a completely different location?

Wow, this seems to be much more complicated that I thought? This would not be physically challenging like many runs, but in my mind, it would still be a Crazy Ass Running Plan #CARPe.  Enough thought, how about just making the rules simple enough that I can start and that others could duplicate them if they wished. Also, the intent is to have fun, so the rules are flexible. Basically, make the call at the moment that you need to make it. Whatever I feel works is fine. This is not a competition and I am not going to cheat anyone. This is really just for me.

So first, a run would be whatever I called a run. As long as I was running when I crossed the border, it would count as a run: whether it was 10 feet or 10 miles. The border would be wherever a sign was or a marker or a GPS coordinate. In the event of multiple or conflicting signs, any of them would work – particularly for international borders. Crossing the border would be only for the direction I was running and only for the state being entered. So if I run across the Missouri River from Nebraska to Iowa, that only counts as NE-IA & not IA-NE and it only counts when I enter Iowa, not when I leave Nebraska. For IA-NE, I have to run the other direction. Running the same route in reverse works.

How many borders are there? So for me, and my count, diagonal borders count. Hawaii & Alaska require running any distance to the water. International borders are optional and basically, extra credit. Any state bordered by the ocean can get extra credit by running any distance to the water.

It seems simple but there are over 200 borders and they cover a lot of geography. But that means that running is interwoven into my future until I die, and to me, that seems like a pretty good Crazy Ass Running Plan #CARPe. See you on the borders.