Epic Run Streak 500 Days

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On January 3rd 2015, I had a date. My plan for the day was to grab a quick dinner, and then go log a few miles in the dark before bed. Alas, a freak ice storm struck during dinner, and by the time I got home, the roads were too treacherous to risk a run. I instead settled into the couch and accepted the day off. Rest days are a critical part of training, right?

Well, maybe not. Since getting iced out, I’ve spurned rest days entirely, and now have logged over 500 days in a row going out for a run. Like a mailman, neither rain nor snow (nor runner’s trots, food poisoning or extreme laziness) has stopped me from lacing up and pounding out at least a mile.

Run streaking is increasingly popular among obsessive, moronic runners like me — there’s even an official national run streak association. Contrary to popular belief, run streaking doesn’t require traveling in your birthday suit (though presumably one could, and thus patent the streaking run streak). As best I can remember, I’ve stayed clothed for all 500+ runs. What constitutes a run streak for me (and some people’s ideas vary) is running at least one mile every day, with the day starting at midnight local time and ending the following midnight. It’s simple: once a day, I need to find some time when I can put one foot in front of the other, and traverse 5280 feet.

But life is complicated, and though a quick mile takes only a handful of minutes, a lot happens in 500 days to result in some daunting, and often self-inflicted, challenges. Some of the lowlights from my streak include:

  • Running through food poisoning. I woke up to toss my cookies, and my stomach continued red-alert evacuation of all its contents throughout the day. At around 10 PM, weak, miserable and stinky, I begrudgingly put on my running shoes and ran exactly 1.000 miles. Not calling Ralph until I got home remains a crowning achievement.
  • Running through the snow in jeans. Thanks to poor planning, I found myself at a friend’s house at 11 PM during a snowstorm, post-happy hour, in jeans and a button-up, not having run. I was sure the streak was dead, until my friends practically threw me out the door to make me traipse through the snow in my work clothes.
  • Running after the longest day ever. After a 12-hour drive, I came home to find that my lock was jammed. It took a locksmith several hours to get me inside, whereupon I had to quickly change and get out the door before midnight came and my streak turned into a pumpkin.

Lots of people tell me that streaking is a terrible idea; rest days are critical, they insist, and I’m not engaging optimal training. And they’re likely right. But there’s something to be said for pigheaded determination to never miss a daily dash. And although I’ve faced my share of aches, pains and injuries, I’ve gained a lot from this streak. I’ve taken 25 minutes off my marathon PR, lost over 20 pounds, and feel stronger than ever before. I’ve gotten to explore amazing places; I’ve run in 10 states and 3 countries, on roads and trails, in every imaginable setting. On days when I easily could’ve stayed on the couch and watched TV, I forced myself to head out the door, and I almost never regretted it. My run streak is a silly personal achievement, and totally meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but it’s kept me running no matter what life throws at me.

Streaking isn’t for everyone; most folks are able to run like rational beings, and take regular rest days without feeling existential angst. But for me, the streak has helped keep me motivated and given me an easy way to focus on my running goals. Eventually the streak will have to come to an end, but for now, after nearly 2,400 miles, no ice storm is going to stop me. If you’re lacking motivation or looking for an interesting new running challenge, a streak might be worth a try – just please, keep your shorts on.