My running streak is over. Three years, three months, and 16 days. At least a mile run every day since January 1, 2015. 6116 total miles of running over 1202 days. It was a challenge, I was glad to have kept at it. It made me a better runner, at least for a while. It overstayed its welcome. Now it’s time to move on.
The running streak kind of started by accident. New Year’s Day is usually a day of laying around, watching the Rose Parade (a parade I marched in in 1982!), and spending time with the family. But I ran on January 1, and then again on the second, and then by the fifth day I realized what I had started. Then it became a challenge to see if I could run every day for at least year, and it seemed like a fun thing to try. Most runners who attempt a running streak (AKA – “streakers”) follow the basic self-administered rule that you have to run at least a mile every day to have an active streak. Since I felt that I could easily do a mile, I made my goal to run at least two miles a day. That lasted until fall of that first year when I got some sort of stomach bug that knocked me out. After spending most of the day trying to retain fluids and bring my fever down, I felt good enough to head downstairs to the treadmill and attempt to keep my streak alive. I ended up jogging a mile, and it about did me in. So even though I couldn’t keep the two mile goal going, I still maintained a running streak. That was the only time in which not feeling well almost ended the streak. There were a couple of times when a pulled muscle during a run almost ended the streak, but I was able to hobble through it.
The other challenges to keeping the streak alive were after a handful of big events. When I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2015, I was more worried about doing the day after mile than I was running the marathon. Same thing for the 2016 Chicago Marathon. The day after completing Ironman Lake Placid in 2016 was a challenge. My wife and I drove to Cooperstown, NY the day after, and upon getting there after a two hour car ride, we chose to walk around the Baseball Hall of Fame. After the walk back to our bed & breakfast, I attempted my mile. It was rough, but I got it done. Interestingly enough, after completing Ironman Louisville in 2017, the long car ride home from Louisville and the race before didn’t have much of a negative effect. I think I could have run 3 miles that day.
But after completing the Boston Marathon in 2018, I was sore. I had shown up with symptoms that were clearly signs of being overtrained. My feet were always sore. I had developed a knee issue that forced me to dial back the training. And my overall mile pace had diminished significantly. The sub-8 min/mile pace that I comfortably ran at the 2016 Chicago Marathon was not even a possibility without really pushing myself into a higher heart rate zone. I knew that upon getting to the Boston Marathon, I was going to be lucky to manage an 8:45 min/mile pace. Boston is a net downhill course, and it tore me up. I was really sore in my legs, so the decision to drop the running streak was pretty much made for me. I could keep the streak going, but continue to have soreness, not see any gains in running efficiency, and jeopardize the other racing I wanted to do in 2018 just didn’t make much sense. In the words of my buddy John, who taunted me occasionally, it was time to “let it go.”
The Annual Totals
2015 – 365 days – 2112 total miles run
2016 – 366 days (leap year) – 1824 total miles run
2017 – 365 days – 1682 total miles run
2018 – 106 days (ending with the Boston Marathon) – 498 total miles run
What were the negatives?
Training for an Ironman requires a smart plan, and I was following up non-run workouts with a one mile run. It added an extra workload to an already tough training regimen. It also added leg work on rest days that followed tough workouts. Mentally it drained me, having to swim or bike and then do a run afterward. Somedays, like Thursday would normally be a swim/bike workout day, and then I would also have to do a run, making it a mini homemade triathlon.
After completing the third year, I was getting pretty sore and tired. My foot started to hurt most of the time, exhibiting a kind of plantar fasciitis-type symptoms. Then my right knee started to hurt, really right below it on the top of the tibia. As I got into my 16 week Boston Marathon plan, I had to take a couple of recovery weeks, which forced me to reduce my overall weekend long runs by about 4 miles each week. The week of my plan that called for a 22 mile run before tapering for 3 weeks I only ran 18 miles, and I couldn’t hold my marathon race pace very well. I was laboring. I made it to Boston, but I was sore and knew I was just there to finish. Boston 2018 was tough for many reasons, but my Boston Marathon time of 4:10 was 5 minutes slower than my Ironman Louisville marathon split of 4:05. The proof is in the numbers.
Lastly, I had to plan a way to run on days when skipping it would have been nice. We were up at our home in upper Wisconsin over Christmas and I had to get in several runs in sub-zero and single digit degree weather. It was not fun. Any trip anywhere meant also bringing the running gear and doing at least a mile. I got through it, but some days it just wasn’t easy.
Was it worth doing?
When I started the running streak I really had no goal with it other than to last a year. I mentioned the streak to my son Ben, a D-III college runner who mentioned that it might be beneficial to me. He then added that it may not be apparent until year two, though. Interesting. There was a little bit of adjusting to the streak at first, both mentally and physically. I didn’t really feel any different or notice any huge leaps in performance in the first year, with one exception – I got my first Boston Marathon qualifier at the Chicago Marathon in October 2015. I basically got a personal best by about 10 minutes. That was significant.
By year two in 2016, I had two big races on the calendar: Ironman Lake Placid in July and the Chicago Marathon in October. By this time I was really reaping the benefits of the running streak. Running every day meant also doing the run after a swim or bike. And since I liked to knock out my workouts in succession, running on days after a bike meant doing a lot of brick workouts. And brick workouts build a strong ability to run after a hard bike effort. Triathletes will often complain about having dead legs or legs of stone when trying to run after getting off the bike. It didn’t take long for me to not notice that at all. I actually felt pretty good when I started a run after a bike workout.
Doing well at IM Lake Placid also meant that the cross training involved with triathlon was also going to benefit me in the marathon in October. When I finally ran Chicago in October, I was feeling strong and ready. I lowered that marathon personal best by another couple of minutes, not only re-qualifying for Boston, but also making the cutoff easily. The second year of the running streak got me to Boston. Ben was right.
During the third year, I kept the running streak going and felt great as I got closer to Ironman Louisville in October 2017. Louisville has had a reputation as being one of the tougher North American courses, but that was mainly due to the fact it was in held in the August heat, and the rolling hills that never end on the bike course. Since it had been moved to mid-October, the heat wasn’t really an issue. The weather did play a role the day of the 2017 race, but it really didn’t effect me negatively. I set a personal best at Louisville in all three disciplines and overall. I had a great swim, a pretty decent bike, and a run in which I almost went sub-4 hours. Damn toilet breaks!
I decided a day or two before running Boston that I thought I would drop the streak after the race. The race did take a toll on me. Running a down hill marathon really tears up your quads, and around Mile 22 or so I remembered thinking that I really couldn’t feel my legs anymore. Most of it was due to the 40 degree temps and all day driving rain and wind. But after limping it home from the finish line, I kind of knew that I had had enough. There was nothing left to prove. The streak helped me get to the Boston Marathon, and I am forever grateful for that.
It’s been 9 days since I finished the marathon, and I have run a total of four times. I have done a little biking just to do something different, but I have tried not to overexert myself.
I thought I would miss not running every day, but I am surprisingly enjoying the time off. I’m looking forward to getting some rest and rebuilding my running without the pressure of keeping a streak alive. At 54, it’s not like I was going to set a Guinness World Record for most consecutive days running. One of the longest streaks lasted 52 years. I’d have to live a very long time to be able to do that. Had I started the streak in 1989 when I started keeping track of my running, I might have had a shot. But I wasn’t as crazy then as I am now, I guess.
RIP Running Streak, it was a good run.
Further info on running streaks: http://www.runeveryday.com/streaks.html