I have run at least a mile every day since December 24, 2016. I have long been fascinated by streaks — when people do something daily for a really long time — and so I decided to try one myself. Running seemed like a good choice because I enjoy it, and I was already doing it 5 days a week. A commitment to run daily would just mean adding another 2 runs per week — possibly only 2 miles, total! — and so that seemed doable. Also, most of the normal excuses for not running don’t apply in my life. I work from home (so I can run in the middle of the day). I own a treadmill (so I can run when it’s rainy/snowy). I have a reasonable quantity of childcare, and in fact at this point the 2-year-old can be entertained by TV long enough that I can theoretically run while I’m home alone with him.
That is not to say that keeping the streak was easy. With a 5-day a week habit, I was already running on most of the really easy days. There have been a few slightly ridiculous 1-mile runs done solely to keep this streak going:
— running laps around the first floor of my house when I was home alone in winter weather with my four kids and had been sick the night before with the stomach flu. The flu didn’t derail me because I’d had the foresight to run before I started vomiting the previous day, and then by the next evening I could run those slow laps.
— running laps in hotel rooms: in NYC when I was with my son and couldn’t really leave him, when I’d forgotten my running shoes once and was in a hotel in Long Island (I never forgot my shoes again!), when we arrived in Hawaii after flying 12 hours and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get it in later, in Tremblant (outside Montreal) and in Deerfield, Illinois when I was staying in hotels that theoretically had treadmills, but they were broken or completely booked up. I have a new major pet peeve of people who are running on hotel treadmills right in front of signs limiting them to 20 minutes and clearly have 45 minutes on their counter. Also, hotels where they don’t maintain their exercise rooms.
— very early runs. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. in Palm Beach to run on the hotel treadmill before a day that started in Florida, and would take me to speaking gigs in New Jersey and New York before I returned to Pennsylvania around midnight. I got up around 5 a.m. to run on a day I traveled to/from Nashville in a day — after the 2-year-old had a horrible night and had not gone to bed until after 1 a.m. I also got up to run a mile on the day we drove back from Indiana to Pennsylvania and didn’t get home until 10 p.m. or so.
So there was all that craziness. However, I think the streak encouraged some positive behaviors too.
— I now bring my running gear when traveling overnight anywhere. As I travel more, I can’t just ditch all healthy habits while on the road. In the past, I often decided that bringing my shoes would just add weight to my carry-on bag (and I never check bags) but the truth is they don’t add much. And because I bring my running gear, I’ve run in some fabulous places, like Savannah, Georgia. That was a 1-overnight trip, so pre-streak I wouldn’t have packed my shoes. I did, and it wound up being one of my favorite runs of the year.
— The streak changed the conversation I have with myself. I don’t ask “will I run today?” I ask “when will I run today?” When it’s just a matter of logistics, any day can accommodate a run. This means I have run on days when I don’t feel like it. I tell myself “you only have to run a mile!” A mile is nothing. So I just do it. And then I realize yet again that “I don’t feel like it” almost always means “I don’t feel like running the first few minutes.” Once I get through the first mile (10 minutes or so) I’m almost always willing to keep going.
— I finally bought some more sports bras.
— I have definitely run more this year than ever before. I am pretty sure I crossed 1000 miles at some point in the last few weeks (I don’t know for sure because I didn’t record my mileage until February 12! If I assign myself my lowest weekly mileage that I recorded during the rest of the year for those first 6 weeks of the year, then I hit 1000 a week or so ago. If I hit my average weekly mileage during those 6 weeks, then I hit 1000 well before that).
— Part of running more: I’ve run faster than before. I recorded several mile PRs on the treadmill, and some 5k PRs as well. I feel stronger, and like my form is better as I’m running outside.
— I have run with some fun people! And to shake things up I did several barefoot runs on the beach this summer.
One thing the streak did not do? Keep my weight down. I’ve been hovering in my highest range ever. I’m not sure if that’s the reality of middle age, or if it’s muscle (probably not – though isn’t that fun to think?) My clothes still fit, so I’ve been debating whether I care or not.
Given that the year is close to over, this raises the question: will I continue the streak? I don’t see a real reason not to, though I suspect life itself will cause the streak to end at some point. I did a year (ok, in 2 days! I am not trying to jinx myself by hitting publish early – I just don’t plan to be online this weekend!) and that was the goal, so I will take what comes this year as it comes.
Have you ever tried a streak? (Other than, say, brushing your teeth! Which is a real streak, and I tend to think shows that many people could do other sorts of streaks if they wanted to.)
Photo: The two pairs of shoes that took me through most of the year