How to end a streak

Last month’s Runner’s World was devoted to the topic of streaks: doing something every single day. In the running world, this generally means running at least a mile a day, though some people set their personal rules for longer distances. Runner’s World has invited people to play along and run at least a mile every day between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Barring big surprises, I will participate in this challenge by default. I’ve run at least a mile every day since December 24, 2016. That’s 887 days, according to Google.

It’s not as long as some people’s streaks, though it’s not short either. What fascinated me in the streak issue, though, was the profile of a young man who made a conscious choice to end his streak. He was getting married, and he decided that he would run a 5k with his wedding guests to celebrate, and then let that be it.

I like this idea of a ceremonial ending. In life, we pay a lot more attention to beginnings than how things end. When I was first starting to give a lot of speeches, a veteran speaker told me that the expectation to do a Q&A at the end of a speech often led to lukewarm endings. You could start with a bang, but then you’re ending your part by asking “So, any questions?” People slowly warm up to ask them, but then you end when you’re out of time, whether the last question was the right way to end or not. That doesn’t mean taking questions from the audience is a bad idea, but it does mean speech endings often aren’t as strong as the beginning.

Likewise, many meetings peter out at the end with people drifting out as they have to get to the next thing. Many regular gatherings just end when the usual organizer stops planning them. We don’t necessarily begin with the end in mind.

In any case, the article got me thinking about how I plan to end my running streak. I know it will end at some point, it’s just a question of when, and whether it’s a chosen ending, or one that happens because of circumstance. My current thought is that 1000 days might be a good place to ceremonially end the thing. That takes us (again, according to Google, which miraculously calculates these things) to September 20, 2019.

But I imagine I might get up on September 21, 2019 and still feel like a run would be a reasonable way to spend my time. So we shall see. When would you end this streak?

Photo: End of a half-marathon, from my pre-streak days

12 thoughts on “How to end a streak

  1. as an upholder with a severe tendency towards “tightening”, i have to consciously hold myself back from starting streaks or at least coming up with a conscious exit plan.
    several years ago, i got into duolingo and i was of course, very into maintaining my streak there. i planned to do it for 365 days but then just like you said, the day after that, i still kind of felt like doing duolingo was a good way to spend my time. so i reassessed to aim for 500 (same story) and then 1000. and then at some point between 500 and 1000 for reasons that were slightly outside of my control, one day, i was just unable to log in and complete my exercises. i was extremely bummed at first but then i felt extremely relieved and free.
    it was a telling experience about my personality and how i have to approach these things to maintain sanity.

    1. @Haya – I’m definitely an upholder who tightens too! Like — don’t laugh — I actually run at least 1.1 miles per day, not 1.0, in case…I don’t know…I measured wrong? But yes, I have no doubt there will be some circumstance that will prevent my running some day. I could wait for that or just consciously end the streak prior to that happening.

      I began the streak 2.5 years ago just to see if I could do it, since I don’t think I’d ever actually run 7 days in a row before (I’d had it drilled into me that rest days were necessary…but for me it turns out they aren’t). But of course I realize as a strict upholder, it probably wasn’t a real question of whether I’d be able to stick with it. Of course I would! How I will end it might be the more interesting question.

  2. In 2013, I decided to run 2013 kilometres. I posted pictures of my streak, on social media, using the hashtag #2013Kms. On December 30th, I brought the total to 2012 kms, and left the remaining (2013th) kilometre for the last day of the year. I invited my friends to join me ‘virtually’ on that final 1 kilometre, as they had been such an important part of my challenge (cheering me on, etc). So, on the last day of my streak, several friends from around the world ran 1 km and posted their photos on social media with the hashtag. As for myself, I ran that last kilometre with my family and, of course, posted the photo on social media ( I also put together a short video which I shared with my running buddies on YouTube.

    Oh, and on January 1st 2014 I went for a run. But I did not count the distance. And I also went to a gym class because I had been so focused on running, that I had stopped doing gym classes.

    1. @Ana – that sounds like a great way to officially end a challenge, even if you did keep running afterwards. I really like the idea of consciously chosen endings!

  3. Laura, I very much admire your running streak! I have a question for you though. Do you feel like you are internally forcing yourself to run just to keep up this streak? I doubt it, because you very much seem to enjoy running just for the fun of it! For me, whenever I was forced to do something, even if I loved it, it became a chore, and therefore no longer something I looked forward to.

    1. @Ashley- Good question. It depends. Some days I’m really excited to go for my run. Other days I’m less so — though this isn’t so many days. One reason I keep doing the streak is I know it’s a way to make sure I exercise, and I can see from my phone’s step counter that without the run I don’t get a whole lot of physical activity in any given day. That’s probably something I should change, but it’s challenging to build it in with a home office.

  4. Yeah because of the upholder thing and tightening tendency, the mere idea of a steak stresses me out!! I know I would absolutely obsess and have trouble exiting. And it would then become a point of stress for me and defeat the purpose! I do much better with finite challenges, goals, or projects that END (ie a Beachbody program or a race training cycle).

    So I say: day 1000 sounds perfect! Can you picture how you would feel without the pressure of the streak? I will say at least your steak is doable and you managed to not tighten to something crazy like 5 miles a day!!

  5. As a fellow Upholder with tendencies towards “tightening” I really appreciate posts like this! One of the ways that I manage to exercise regularly is due to an “ideal week schedule” including my favorite classes at the gym, early morning runs with a friend, long run on Sunday, etc. However, when something comes up that interferes, I can easily discouraged. Sick kid during the night means I can’t run at 6:00 am…does not need to mean that all opportunity for exercise is gone for the day. One thing I tried this year was to set a goal of trying 3 new exercise classes as well as find a new long running route. That way I can see a disruption in my normal schedule as an opportunity to work toward a new goal. And so far I found one new class that was fantastic and now my husband and I go to it together regularly!

  6. I had a streak with an instructor lead weights class for 4 years as a New Years resolution in 2015. As long as I wasn’t traveling for work, I was there every Tuesday & Thurs at 530am at the gym. I loved it for many years. This year, I wasn’t having success bouncing back from the holiday poundage and stopped having the post-workout “high”. So proud of my streak though, I couldn’t consider changing my workout routine! Then I reached out to a friend to try a meal plan that advises dropping the hardworkout and let the diet do its thing. To my surprise I felt an immediate burden lifted off my shoulders!! This year the workout had become trudgery. I wasn’t enjoying it but couldn’t break that streak (until told to). 2 months later, the diet of working great. I think often if I will go back. I think yes, but I really don’t know. This makes me laugh as I’m a very decisive and planned person. It’s nice to just say, this is working at the moment and I don’t have to decide that today! 🙂

    1. Erin – I can relate completely to your experience. Would you mind to share the eating plan that you mentioned?

      1. It’s called Optavia. There are coaches and such; of which I am not one. Just a focused way to go about the process. Has changed the way I incorporate food in my day to day life (more life focus/less food focus).

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