Lessons Learned from a Year of Running Every Day

My run on April 12, 2020 was relatively unremarkable. I laced up my shoes, as always, and went for an easy 6 miler on my neighborhood dirt path.

What I didn’t realize then was that run would kick off a run streak that would last a year and 11 days.

If you’d asked me a year ago if I’d consider streaking, I probably would have said no. While I have streaked for 7-12 days before, I never thought I’d go longer than a couple of weeks running every single day. I liked having a day or two every week that I’d go for a walk or hike instead of a run, to keep my legs fresh. I admired runners who ran every day, but never thought I’d be one of them.

My streak started unintentionally. Like many of us, I ran to find a sense of calm in the midst of the pandemic chaos. I was working from home, so I just ended up running every day with the time I saved by not commuting. My weekly mileage steadily climbed into the 40s and even 50s by mid-May, the first time I had ever hit numbers that high. I was feeling good and riding that wave of consistency. Even though I had nothing to train for, I was just loving running. I got out on the trails 3-5 days per week, and ran in city parks on the other days.

I ran through the scorching heat of the Arizona summer (100+ degree temps from May-October), on rare rainy days, windy days, and on cold, dark mornings through the winter. I ran in the midday sun and with a headlamp before the sun rose. I ran a few double days, and a half marathon distance or two every month. I ran on sandy desert trails, through a snow-dusted forest, on smooth red rocks and scrambled up boulder-covered mountains.

I may not have a shiny medal or new PR to show for my efforts, but I learned many lessons from my year+ run streak that I will carry with me as my running journey continues.

Lesson 1: You Can Do Hard Things

I have always doubted myself in my life’s pursuits, whether running, writing, or anything else I’ve devoted myself to. Running especially, because I’ve never been able to identify as an athlete — I’m a slower runner, haven’t run further than 15 miles at once, etc.

Running every single day for a year taught me that I am worthy of calling myself a runner, an athlete. I trained through all weather conditions, even on days I didn’t feel like it, and emerged stronger on the other side. I ran trails I never thought I could conquer, and did, even if I left a little skin behind. Once I had it in my head that I wanted to try running every day for a year, I didn’t give up on my goal. I got out there every single day and never quit.

Lesson 2: Listen To Your Body

Many run streakers take “rest days,” where they run only 1 or 2 miles to keep the streak alive but letting their body recover from harder efforts. I didn’t do that.

My lowest mileage day of the whole streak was 3ish miles, but my typical daily runs were 5-7 miles, with a long run of 10-15 miles on Saturdays. I even had a few 60+ mile weeks in the summer with a couple of double-digit mileage days back-to-back. I spent as much time as I could running each day, and for the most part, felt good.

If I could go back and redo my streak, I would have taken more easy days. I think my body would have fared better had I listened to it more, and not pushed miles simply for the sake of racking up high mileage.

I was fortunate enough to not have any serious injuries during my streak, but I did experience some psoas soreness for about a month in the fall, which put a bit of a damper on my mileage.

However, my streak came to an end just two weeks after hitting the one-year mark, thanks to ankle pain. I knew it wouldn’t be smart to push through the pain just to continue the streak, so I ended it. I wish I had just listened to my body and let myself recover more, and maybe I wouldn’t have ended up with an injury that’s kept me sidelined for a couple of weeks.

Lesson 3: Find Your ‘Why’

I think this is a lesson we can all take to heart, especially after the past year of canceled and postponed races.

I have actually never raced before so I wasn’t missing out on that, but I still needed to find my ‘why’ — why was I choosing to run?

For me, it was the sheer joy I experience when I’m on the trails. My favorite runs weren’t the ones I ran the fastest or furthest, but when I was exploring new trails and just soaking in my surroundings. I was able to go on some “adventure runs” that stoked my fire and left me hungry for more. Those runs are the reason I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

If you’re considering a streak, I would urge you not to streak just for the sake of streaking, but really evaluate why you want to do it.

And remember — listen to your body above all else. I’m definitely guilty of listening to my brain and heart and going for a run when I really should have taken a day off to cross-train or just rest. It’s better to end your streak earlier than planned than be sidelined for months with an injury. Most of all, have fun! I wouldn’t have streaked if I didn’t enjoy running as much as I do, and it got me out there exploring more than I would have if I didn’t run every day. And that’s what matters most!

Ashley Wallinger

Ashley grew up hiking and camping in the beautiful Colorado mountains but didn’t start running until after college when she moved to Oklahoma. It was there that she first discovered trail running. She now calls Arizona home and loves exploring the gorgeous trails of the Sonoran Desert. When she isn’t out running, Ashley is playing with her rescue dog, Honey, and writing blog posts.

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