top of page
  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Incrementally Yours

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

When I tell people the running and exploring I do, among the top responses are…

You went how far?

It took how long?

It was how high?

I could never do that!

Which is funny, because once upon a time I would have said the same thing!

What’s the secret? Incrementalism.

It is probably glaringly obvious that one doesn’t just wake up one morning and successfully race 50 miles. And aiming for 185? Clearly, it takes practice.

What's important is knowing: It all starts small!

Let it add up and compile.

In 2013...yes, about six years ago...I began talking walks. They were about 15 minutes, covering only about half a mile. Neither far, nor fast! And who can’t find 15 minutes in the day? There is surely something you can give up and instead do 15 physical minutes.

I was mostly doing walking to get out into the fresh air after many years in polluted Asia. It also helped clear my mind of reverse culture shock, heavy workload in an entrepreneurial setting, and the difficult distance from family as I worked away from home. Letting myself enjoy it was part of the process, to be sure.

I found that after about six step-by-step months, I was covering more ground. Seemingly effortlessly. I mean, in the same strolling, enjoyable fashion, I was now covering a mile...and in only 20 minutes. But then, because of a series of deadlines, the 20 minutes felt too long. So, I began to jog and finished a slow mile in about 15 minutes. By the end of a steadily ramping up year, I was able to reach two miles in about that same 15 minutes!

Then, the deadlines ended, and I decided to see how far I could go with a couple Saturday morning hours. 10 miles, strolling, turned out to feel easy. The rewards were amazing. Spectacular views, places that few were getting to, and a feeling of adventure. Not to mention simply covering ground and feeling strong for doing it!

So, by the end of two years...slowly, steadily building up for 24 months... I was mixing hiking for distance and running for pace. I could regularly cover three miles in 30 minutes a few times a week, and hike 10-15 miles to more remote places in a few hours.

This felt just fine, and that plateau held for quite some time. I spent the time getting more in tune with my performance. Yes, I applied technology like GPS tracking watches and heart rate monitors. The tech was added slowly too. As my curiosity about my performance was piqued, I wanted a focus on different areas to improve...and let’s say it all together: incrementally. For example, I was able to run for heart rate, or for pace. I could hike and track distance vs. elevation.

Of course, from here, each increment seemed easier. Of course it takes effort. There is no getting around that. Motivation can be hard to come by, and for me the most ready source is turning around and looking how far I’ve come. There is a clear record of success and each improvement felt under control and achievable.

So it was that after 6 years (that’s 72 months!) I had stepped up the game at the Secret Beach 50 Mile and finished on time. As Michael and I now joke, we feel disappointed when “all” we do is something like a marathon, for example our recent recce of the MacLehose trail. The real joke is that each distance, whether a step, a meter, a mile or a marathon, just incrementally adds up. The more you let them compile, the further and faster you’ll become.

Indeed, on a very practical level, I’ve come to think about several different factors that drive my increments these days.

  • Time

  • Distance

  • Speed

Obviously these are all factors of each other. What I mean is, I look at my training and think…

  • Is this a time-framed workout? How much time do I have?

  • Is this a distance-framed workout? How far do I want to go?

  • Is this a speed-framed workout? How fast am I trying to go?

Most regularly, I have time-frames. It’s morning, and I have to get to work. So, a 30 minute run it is! How far? How fast? Less important!

On the weekends, I still spend a few hours out and not time-framed. Instead, I think “how far to go?” Of course, if I want to go really far, I can’t go slow. Still, it’s more about simply being out there. (Hopefully in the woods!)

As I start to reach for higher standards, I have had to add speed. I mean, to face challenges or run races, there are cut offs. You must finish a certain distance in a certain time. So! I work to hit a pace and stick to it.

Of course, all this is incrementally handled. I attempt to improve the speed so that I can go further in that time-framed workout. I attempt to improve the distance because it improves my speed. They all loop back into each other. Incrementally.

How far can it take you? Well, there was that one time I ran the entire cosmos!

I hope you’ll join me and share your increments. Follow along on Twitter: @GoProFun or Instagram: ChinaGamerGuy. For sure you’ll see my increments...good or bad!

68 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page