Back in 2019, a group of co-workers and I decided to start an unofficial run club at work. We met once a week after work, ran a few miles locally, and just encouraged each other to keep running on our own. I have dabbled with running when I was younger, and loved it. However, my body was in the middle of a huge growth spurt and it HURT to run. I gave it up, tried a few times over many years, but it never stuck.
Flash forward to the beginning of 2020, and we were regularly together decent miles multiple times a week on our own or after work. COVID-19 comes around full swing, and our typical running routine went straight to solo runs. I knew it was going to suck without the guys, but I knew it was for the better. Since we could not be together, we started a running club in Strava, which would help us keep each other accountable and encourage one another to run. Some of the group fell off the wayside, no harm no foul. Thankfully, I had two co-workers stick to it and we certainly made it a competition throughout the year to keep running.
I am super grateful that I started running because it came in as a clutch stress reliever during times we have all experienced. This year alone, I learned how to overcome various running injuries, found my recovery pace, discovered how hard it was to not run, and understood WHY everyone recommends not to go all out on the first mile on your first race. In my first race ever (COVID-Style), I blew my energy on my first mile of a 5k and regretted EVERY second of it in my second and third mile. While I ran my fastest mile ever in my life that day (6:07min), I ended up aggravating an injury I experienced earlier that year (Plantar Fasciitis) which set me back a week or so.
The last and final part of this journey actually started with a community I wish I would have jumped into at the first leg of my 2020 running year. One of the co-workers in the run group introduced me to Kofuzi and The Ginger Runner, two YouTubers from the YouTube running community. I originally watched their videos for the reviews on the many shoes, apparel, and accessories for running to see what was worth buying. One after another, I watched their videos and became integrated into the community. They are part of my inspiration, and motivation, to keep on taking it one step at a time. Both are heavily involved in their community and really care about their followers. It is really refreshing, especially now, to see how much they give back to their community and engage their followers in their efforts. Absolutely fantastic!
So where this long winded post is coming to is my recap of the year of running but ALSO my 2021 running “themes”.
2021 Running Themes
Half Marathon Attitude with Marathon Dreams– Focus on increasing weekly mileage to train my body to complete half marathons
COMFORTABLY– Find my target pace and get comfortable with it-Avoid injury by constantly working on recovery
Run Healthier– Buy the proper apparel -Rotate shoes more often, pending I have pairs to rotate in-Diversify my running workouts
Trail-Hunter– Get out on a trail and run-Rotate trail running into the work schedule-Don’t get ticks
500 Mile Club– This is to hit a minimum of 500 miles. I know I can hit this based off 2020’s stats, but I think increasing to 500 is a healthy, and safe goal. However, I know if I increase my weekly mileage from the 17 miles I am currently doing now to 30 miles , stay healthy, and stay motivated I will make that goal.
So, if you are interested, follow me on Strava- and join me in tackling the next run.
I have been wanting to do this for a long time and initially thought the process of narrowing down a “top ten” list for my favorite video games of all time would be easy. Fun fact, it was not. I had plenty of runner ups, and internal discussions on why something should make the list. At the end of the exercise, this is the list that I came up with and I am pretty proud of it to be honest. However, I specifically wanted to avoid rating them 1-10, 1 being the best game I have ever played. Each of these games equally is “the best game” I have ever played because each of the games is associated with partially a memory of the good times I had and the fun I experienced when playing the game. With that being said, here is my list!
For me, this was an easy pick to add to my top 10 list. When Stardew Valley first released in February 26, 2016, I was not really sold. A great deal of my friends picked the game up and were instantly hooked, but I was still focused on playing Battlefield 4 and other more “mature” games than this. Farming? I did this in like, Harvest Moon on the Gamecube when I was a child! This is silly.
Flash forward to the year my wife and I found out we were expecting and I was heavily playing my switch. Stardew went on sale on the eshop, I bought it, and the rest is history. The game provides so many levels of a RPG that I long for in many games, but adds a career based element that is rewarding (yet challenging!) With the varying elements of a dating sim, a dungeon crawler, and a collectors dream haven-I was set. To this day, I have put in countess hours of this game and will continue to do so as more patches come out. I own this on almost every medium to provide myself with ultimate coverage. If you want to learn about how wholesome and humble the developer is-Eric Barone, you should check out the chapter in Blood, Sweat, PIxels: The Triumphant, Trublen Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made by Jason Schreier. If you thought you loved the game before, you will certainly gain the utmost respect for him after reading the chapter.
Kingdom Hearts II
You might be asking yourself, “Why not the first Kingdom Hearts?” Well, I would have put this on my list but once you introduce the ability to dual wield key blades, the rest is history. This series was my real introduction, as a child, to Square Enix and their world of RPGS (JRPGS to be specific, but I guess this could be a one off if you look at it the right way). I had no experience with Cloud from FF7 or know the silly and lovable characters of Dragon Quest. When it was introduced to me, I was instantly hooked on the fact that we had Disney characters involved in a JRPG style story filled with random elements of ship building and the constant battle of who to add into your party.
While this game (and series) have some pretty telling flaws, like a story line running away in multiple directions, the game still grips me in every time I play it. I recently purchased a PS4 (yes trolls, in 2020) and bought the recent All in One collection for Kingdom Hearts, which includes the “remixes” and games that I missed over the years. In the process of purchasing the game, I also picked up the same strategy guide my parents and I used when running through the first and second game. Some people are rolling their eyes but LISTEN! They still had the stickers in the back of the book to help me track all the collectables!
I truly look forward to making my way through the games and playing KH II again. It holds so many good memories (no a joke towards..the game…you know..) and still holds up to the JRPGs being produced today.
I struggled with this one as I am/was a huge fan of the franchise. However, I think for most people it was all about just the game here. For me, it was different. I went further into the lore with this series and have read most, if not all, the books generated in this universe. That is why I was excited when it was announced that Halo: Reach was becoming an actual game. Halo: Fall of Reach was the first of the books I read in the Halo Universe and it immediately attached me to the characters that were never talked about in any of the existing games. When I got my hands on it, I remember playing at midnight in my dorm room while my roommates were asleep thinking to myself “Wow, this is perfect.” With the new addition of armor abilities that made sense, new weapons (including the DMR from ODST), Firefight( also from ODST), it was bound to find a spot on my top 10.
The story, graphics, and overall gameplay was top notch, and along with ODST, were Bungie’s last call before they jumped ship from Microsoft. ODST came close to bump this off the list, but Halo:Reach truly is THE best Halo game out there.
The Last of Us
At this current moment, I have not completed The Last of Us Part II, so I cannot put that on my list yet. But, I recently played through The Last of Us on PS3 at the end of 2019. Fun fact; I will remember this game forever because after playing it for the first time my wife went into labor 1 hour and 30min after I fell asleep. The longest day of my life, but it certainly will be one that I will remember for the birth of my daughter and finally being introduce to a game that would leave me hung over after I finished it.
Simply put, this game induced every emotion in me. I would say it was not a “fun game to play” in the sense that I was jumping for joy on how joyful everything was. Not one bit. This game was challenging, but is a pure master piece. The story, the character interactions, the grief! Woof. I would recommend this game to everyone, because it appeals to all gamers in its own way.
World of Warcraft-Legion
Now-I know what you are thinking. Really? World of Warcraft?
Then I say, really? Fortnite?
In all seriousness, this is by far the best expansion year to date. For someone who has been playing World of Warcraft since the original game was released, this was the real winner. I continue to play on and off as it is a love hate relationship. I really enjoy the world, the ability to look for a raid (LFR), and the simplifying the talent tree as the game progressed. The level caps continue to increase but it needed something else. Legion brought that “something else” to the table with us returning back to characters I missed from the Burning Crusade and diving into the different factions of the Demon Hunters. Everything about this expansion made the game really enjoyable again to solo, or to play with your friends. I really wish there was not a subscription fee here because it is always the reason why I stop playing after time. I don’t want to be constantly thinking about the money I am spending to not play a game. Maybe they will eventually get away from that…but it is Blizzard….
The Legend fo Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Cheers to the first Zelda game I ever finished! Crazy, I know, but I could never finish a Zelda game. Not sure why, but it was just not for me. But, this game changed it all. Lucious scenery, fantastic controls, lovable characters, CHALLENGING dungeons/shrines, got to have collectables, and superb DLC make this game the best open world RPG I have ever played. I don’t think I have to really convince anyone here on this, so I will leave it at that.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Arguably the best and last Star Wars game to date until Jedi Fallen Order came. I wish I still had the ability to find the stats for this game before steam on the original xbox because I played a ton of it. I played so much of it and needed more, I bought it for my first custom built PC, then again when it went on steam, and then again when it came to IOS. I used to play through the whole game at least once a year, every year, up until last year because I was always finding new paths I never followed, or conversations that I never had with my favorite characters. I was excited when it was announced that there would be an MMORPG game based on this universe, but unfortunately it was no where near as good as the original. Shame-Guess I will have to wait until the next equivalent comes out but my hope is pretty much lost since EA holds the future of that franchise in its hands……
Growing up, I played plenty of Armored Core and one of my best friends loved everything mech. Something we also loved was Battlefield 2. So when Battlefield 2142 dropped, my best friends and I jumped on the chance to pilot mechs, fly futuristic helicopter jets, and orbital drop on or from the Titans. Battlefield 2142 took everything from Battlefield 2 and made it better. You still had your typical territory contention battles, but added a new mode “Titan Conquest” that incorporated the new Titans into the well known game type. Deploy from the Titan, man one of its many turrets, or take off from the hanger bay to take control of flag locations that housed missile silos that would weaken the enemy’s Titan shields. Raid the Titan, destroy it from within, and epically escape from the exploding ship in typical Michael Bay explosions. I recently tried to play this game only to find the servers were all down. But! There is a pretty active community out there trying to kickstart some hosted servers to play on. I might be looking at that sooner rather than later.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty used to be known for its epic campaigns. So far, this one was the best. And…the multiplayer was pretty dang addicting too. So it may not be a shock to you that I not only 10th prestige’s my friends account by playing so much but also my own account. I would love to see the amount of hours I put into this game and I think my parents would be able to give you an idea too…
I don’t know how to describe why this game was so addicting or why multi-player did so well but I think it had something to do with the fact that it was the first Call of Duty game set in a “modern” setting, with well designed maps, and the addition of perks enhanced your gameplay made me throw countless hours into this game. I would love tell your that I didn’t miss out on social events because of this game, but that would be a big lie!
It would not be a top 10 list without a Pokémon Game. Yes, I said it. I am lucky to have been alive when Pokémon Red/Blue was released. Again, countless hours poured into the Pokémon Franchise. However, I am partial to Red and Blue because of what they introduced me to. So, when Gold and Silver came out, then Crystal, it was really the best of both worlds. Gold/Silver/Crystal introduce us to a new region, but you are also able to go through the Kanto region as well! I mean, how cool! And updated graphics! I was sold. I really love the introduction of breeding here, which really made it easy to get every Pokémon you ever wanted. If you are discouraged by the graphics, try out HeartGold or SoulSilver.
And that does it! I will add the top 10 list to the site and my twitter account for people to troll but I am glad to post this as my first post in the new year!