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!