Physical Challenges

Adventure Report: 24 Hour Max Steps Attempt

Every October, some Google employees host a walking competition for other employees called Walktober. The idea is to set a walking goal and see if you can hit it. It predates me by a decade or more and as of 2020, over twenty thousand Googlers participate. It is so popular, in fact that some of us joke that our CEO, Sundar, initiated the acquisition of Fitbit last October to try and get a leg up on other walkers in this competition.

For most of the 20k Googlers that participate, it is a chance to try and get 10k or 20k steps per day. To achieve that goal that your fitbit or Apple Watch is always telling you to strive for. At some point, someone made a leaderboard though, so inevitably there are a handful of people that walk 10, 20 or 30 miles per day on average, logging 2 Million+ steps over the course of 31 days.

I didn’t think I had the free time to compete with them, but I knew I could sustain one really tough day (see precedent: 1, 2, 3), even with little to no training. So I set my sights on the single-day record. The leaderboard shows each employee’s total steps and also their total for each day. I wanted to put up one glorious day to redefine expectations of what was possible.

Someone was going to take this Walktober thing too, and it might as well be me.

Strava Here

Goals

  1. Get other Googlers excited about this record – ACCOMPLISHED
  2. Have some coworkers and friends follow along online or in person – ACCOMPLISHED
  3. Walk/jog/run for 24 hours straight – ACCOMPLISHED
  4. Break the Google employee record of 136k steps – ACCOMPLISHED!
  5. Cover >100 miles in 24 hours – FAILED
  6. 200k steps – FAILED
  7. 250k steps – FAILED

Successes

What am I proud of from adventure day?

  • Most miles I have ever covered in a single day
  • Most miles I’ve ever covered on foot without sleeping 89.3 miles
  • Had a lot of people following along with my live updates in a Google Doc

Failures

What areas could I improve for future adventures?

  • Didn’t wear sunscreen on anything to protect against windburn
  • Should have gotten some nordic walking poles for the concrete
  • Went too fast in the first 12 hours – shouldn’t have logged anything faster than 140bpm
  • Had shin splints going into this from doing too much walking leading up to it (~30 miles a day for most of the month)

Thankfuls

What that was out of my control am I thankful for?

  • Brian, Jon, John and Kwaku – coworkers from my team at Google – for coming out to run alongside me and bring me food
  • Dozens (more?) of people following along in the Google doc and posting words of encouragement
  • Not a single drop of rain – which is rare for October 25th in Seattle

Frustrations

What that was out of my control do I wish had happened differently?

  • So cold – 32-45*F during the day and biting winds in the morning and afternoon
  • Bad (drunk?) drivers from 1am-3am

24 Hour Max Steps

Preparation

After doing some research I found that in 2014, one particularly inspired Googler walked basically all day along the Charleston River in Boston and logged 136k steps. That was the record to beat.

I did a test day where I ran and walked in 15 minute increments I found I could walk at ~7k steps per hour and run at ~10k steps per hour. So even if all I did was walk for 24 hours, that would put me on target for 168k steps. That gave me a 20% buffer on the existing record for rest. I was pretty confident I could do that so I wanted to also set a stretch goal. I figured I could run for at least half the day and so 200k steps was probably possible if my breaks were kept short.

Live Feed

Below is the live feed of updates I posted during my run.

Sat @ 6pm

Only the best fuel for a challenge like this

 

Usually I do this sort of thing in the wilderness. Not sure if being able to resupply every 2 hours is going to hurt or help me.

Sat @ 11:23pm

Ready to drive down to the start. Bright colors and lights on for the first nighttime leg

Sat @ 11:50 pm

Almost go time. Still lots of drunk folks out at Alki

Sun @ 12am 

Let’s do this!

Starting with a brisk 14minute per mile walk. Plenty of light

 

2am – 8 miles and 14k steps.

Gonna run for a bit. Beautiful night, stars out 

 

1am – 7,200 steps and 4 miles done.

Shin splints already hurting, this is going to get painful in 20 hours

3am 23k steps and 13 miles

Right shin in hurting from a prior injury. Got it wrapped and gonna find out how much grit I have

3:45

Best part of the day. Party crowd gone home, early birds not up. Just me and the night

4am 18 miles and 32k steps

Got in a nice groove. Running in the grass and using my poles to take weight off my leg. Pain is manageable this way. Will probably just keep running in this stretch.

Found the right layers to be not cold but not overheating. Food is going down and staying down. Just had some warm apple cider

The record I’m trying to break  is 136k and I’m on pace for 192k. I want to try and get 200k though

Feels like I could do this all day…. let’s find out!

6am 47k steps and a marathon done

Applied a lot more KT tape and my shin is feeling ok. A gram of ibuprofen might have helped too

8am

sun is out, so are the other runners. The hardest part is now getting passed by 70 year olds. I am tempted to yell “I’m doing 100!”

9:30am 42 miles and 74k steps

Brian dragged me through an hour of sub 10s. Walking it out and eating now. Feeling like that record is getting broken

Noon – half way 53 miles and 95k steps

Stomach is having issues, but it’s nice to have the worst thing not be my shins 

Jon paced me for a bit. I could use help/company on the second half, this is getting brutal

Fresh socks and changed shoes. Time for the back 9 (or 53)

2pm 107k steps and 58 miles

Walking. Not fast but keeping steady. Very cold wind. 

At this rate I should beat the existing record at 6pm and then I’ll be playing with house money for the final 6 hours. I want to raise the bar as high as I can to fend off a few runners who are trying later this week.

Could go for a fast food burger if you see this John. Eating cold pizza 

4pm 65 miles and 120k steps

Just walking, maybe Brian will coax some jogging out of me. 

6pm 135k steps and 72 miles

Slowing down but will basically be on a 6 hour victory lap

My smiles in photos disguise the suffering. This is tough

 

6:10 136,300 steps

The record that has stood for 6 years inside Google has fallen (unless someone else already beat it yesterday or earlier today)

7:20 144k steps a kilogross 

8:00 79 miles 150k steps

9:30 83 miles 162k steps

I have the strongest desire to just lay down on the ground and sleep. 

Midnight – complete – 89 miles 187,738 steps

I am going to go sleep, after I take the trash out.

Just slightly low of my 200k stretch goal. I guess that gives me something to shoot for next year.

Thanks Kwaku for putting up with my very slow shuffling at the end

What is Next?

I really liked this challenge. There is something cool about going big where you live. Sure, it isn’t quite as pretty as some of the places I run, but there is plenty to look at around here. The hardest part was probably passing my car dozens of times and realizing I could just go home. Nothing helps you finish a long trail like not having any other option. Here I could call it quits at any time, so the motivation had to come from deep down.

I also loved that I could be connected for this challenge. Usually I’m off in the wilderness with no cell signal. This time I could call my wife, kids and mom. I could see friends along the way. The rest of my family was visiting their grandparents that day so they didn’t join me, but next year they could, which would be really fun.

With all of that in mind, I think I’m going to need to make another go at this next year. I feel like the smarter way to do it is to train up for it before October starts and then do it on the first nice day of the month. That will a) mean I can taper and rest before it without impacting my Walktober stats b) the day will be longer and warmer and c) it will make me run scared knowing other runners have a whole month to attempt to break my max for that year, or all time.

Stretch goal for next year – calling it now to inspire myself – 250k+ steps in a day. I am going to have to work to get that, will need to find a way to shorten my stride so I can get 11k steps an hour and complete the day at 95% efficiency. Should be a really difficult. I can’t wait.

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