What I Learned From My 2012-13 Running Streak

Running Streak Finale1

Two weeks ago I got my last ‘running streak’ update from TimeHop on my iPhone, meaning that a year ago I stopped my running streak after 65 days. I started the streak because right after my last half-marathon of 2012 I took a couple of days off and didn’t have a goal and was concerned I would lose my ‘mojo’. I had seen the Runner’s World Running Streak, which was meant to be 35 days from Thanksgiving through New Years. I started the second week of November and went more than half-way through January.

1. The numbers – here is a summary of what I did:
– 65 days
– ~500 miles
– average of ~7.5 miles per run
– Minimum distance 4 miles (Thanksgiving and day after with my brother)
– Maximum distance 16 miles
– temperature: average temperature 20F, ranging from -5 to 45, winds still to 30MPH.

2. I really CAN run every day

Like so many other things I have attempted, I had no idea if I could do this. Would I get injured, would I get sick, would I just somehow find myself unable to continue? What did I find? Every morning during the week, every day on the weekends, every holiday, every post-holiday … I got up.

Not only did I get up, I got up when the temperature was below zero, when the wind chills were approaching -20F, when I had been up past midnight, when there were stresses or other things that would have allowed me to say ‘I’m taking today off’. Instead I used it to help me focus, to relax, to meditate, to be present in the moment.

3. Your Motivation Changes when you make this promise.

I remember reading that the irony of the streak is that it is liberating. Committing to this streak is a thing unto itself.

Looking back there was really no question I would succeed – I mean, all I have to do is dip into the willpower (fueled by fear of failure, very likely) that has helped me with weightless and pursuing and completing multiple marathons.

But still … having a new day dawn and think, I AM running today, just like I ran yesterday and will run tomorrow.

4. Running and Breathing and Form

Everything you are doing wrong is amplified when you don’t rest. When I look at my old blue Nike Free Runs, the bottoms are not uniformly worn … yet the orange Nikes, Saucony and both New Balance shoes are all worn near perfectly. I worked on my form, I worked on doing fartleks and other things, I worked on the ‘running on air’ breathing techniques, and I worked on totally clearing my head some mornings. It is amazing what you can do.

5. There is no such thing as a bad run

Sure there are days when you don’t FEEL like getting out there, when you are out and the pace just won’t cooperate, when the hills feel more punishing, and so on.

And yet, each day there was something – I looked back through my Facebook logs and each day there was something there, something that clued me to the runs and reminded me of some reason I was glad I went out.

6. There is nothing worse than a strong arctic wind

It might seem odd, since I’ve been running for nearly 25 years through pretty much every sort of weather from 90+ heat to -20F chills … but until recent years I never did more than glance at the outdoor thermometer before heading out for my runs. Cold was cold, whatever. When it hit winter I bundled up to varying degrees, but until 2012 I wasn’t running the distances that required that much care.

But running ~7.5 miles every day for 65 days through the middle of winter meant hitting everything – and what I noticed most was the impact of the wind. Some days when temperatures were warming the air might be cold but you were comforted by a ‘warming’ wind. But most times it was cold and the arctic blast just drove right through you … one run I was reading about from last January had me going out in 40F temperatures, but with a very cold 25MPH winds carrying colder temperatures. My remark the next day was I would take the 5F without wind over the previous windy day 100% of the time!

7. And yet, when it is done, you will be relieved.

And yet, when it was over, I was glad. I was glad because I knew I was getting sick, and for the previous two days everything else was suffering more than it needed in order for me to keep running.

I was also glad because while it was liberating for a very long time, after the new year it began to be an obligation. It became something I needed to do everyday, and I worried that hyper-focus could become an unhealthy pursuit.

So I went back to my normal 6 days, ~50 miles schedule … which I have kept up ever since and have continued thoroughly enjoying my running. I never had the desire to do the Streak this year – because I had already proven what I needed to myself, and as I’ve noted I was actually doing about 6.5 days per week anyway and had taken just 2 days off out of 40 by mid-December, but not in pursuit of anything, just because that was how my schedule worked.

Did you do a running streak? Are you considering one? If you did, what did you learn – share a link to your summary post if you have one!

15 thoughts on “What I Learned From My 2012-13 Running Streak

  1. Whenever I try to run too much, I get injured, and I need the rest days during ultra training. However, I hope that as I realistically build mileage, someday I’ll be able to start a streak!

    • I have found that I can resist injury pretty well – and am not willing to trade off on that risk for a tremendous push on pace or anything else. The general ‘streak’ plan has you substituting 1 mile runs for rest days … which is what SMART people would do. πŸ™‚ Good luck if you do try! I’m sure you’ll rock it! Oh – and thanks for all the great (but heartbreaking) sharing posts this week at your site!

  2. I have been looking forward to this post from you!! I love it! So insightful and really made me start to think about my own streak. I was nodding my head in agreement to a lot of this. I was actually just thinking the other day looking at the bottom of my current shoes how they are wearing differently than my last pair. I know my foot strike has changed and I think that was due to the streak. πŸ™‚

    • That IS interesting – I have read that ‘constant fatigue’ changes things and training your body to run when tired can be very helpful (and also increase injury risk). Had I written this a year ago I wouldn’t have even realized the shoe-wear thing, but it is very interesting.

  3. I love reading about the running streaks everyone does! I am really intrigued in trying it out but I am currently staying at my Aunts place so I am just waiting till I move into my new place and have consistent access to a gym. I live in South Dakota so we really don’t have ideal weather for running outside which is a huge bummer!

    • Thanks! This year would have been more of a challenge – last year I never ran below -10F … but this year I have run down to -20F but stayed indoors (rest day) when it hit -30F! Ugh! South Dakota is even worse depending on the area! I think you are smart waiting for the gym and/or warmer weather! Because cold weather is very dangerous and you can get into trouble *fast*.

  4. Congratulations! That is pretty amazing. I’m not sure streaks (at first I wrote steaks-in which case they could be my thing) are for me. I like fitness challenges but I crave variety too much. But I I think what streaks do is help create habits (especially in people who need them) and shows you that you can do anything you set your mind to. And with the temps you run in, you’re kind of like my hero!

    • Ummmm … steaks! πŸ™‚

      As I say the streak was an interesting thing: I already knew I could be a ‘habitual runner’ after more than 20 years of mostly ~4 run days a week of 2-4 miles. And in 2012 I learned to run long distances. But this took me beyond either of those … and it is always intresting learning about yourself.

  5. You’re amazing! I loved reading about this, although I’m pretty sure it’s not for me as I want to avoid the feeling of “having to” go out for a run (and I think I’d be a prime candidate to get injured!). Pretty impressive though!!

    • That is why it is SO important to learn and know your body and listen to what it tells you. To me, the ability to ‘get up and go for a run tomorrow’ trumps everything – I care more about being able to run 10 or 20 years from now than I do any other goal.

  6. Pingback: My Running Story – The ‘Corning Years’ Through Today | Running Around the Bend

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