I'm an advocate of rest days, and although I would feel bad about missing weekday runs, I usually hit the roads four out of five days during the work week. Although that's a lot of days when you have to make plans to run, I usually found one day to kick back and relax. Usually it was a Friday.
I started the new year sick, and it really wasn't the way I wanted to begin my marathon training. I wanted to get the miles going, to kick myself back into motion. Sluggish was a fairly good description of what my legs felt like -- and I was out of breath, my heart really not into hard work.
Clearly, I was not in the shape I wanted to be in. In December, I would be running miles in the 8:40 to 9:10 range, a pace that I wanted to lower in a big way. I entered January with hopes of upping the mileage, lowering that pace and to feel like I could not only do the distance, but start bring back the form I'm used to.
The streakers, and there are many in the running world, are the odd sort of our sport. I have long suspected that a few runners I see on the trail almost without fail at least once (or twice) a week may be on running streaks. And yes I mean time, not clothing optional. They run every day, never stop. I read about them in Runner's World, or see a few quests unfold on social media, but it was really nothing I was interested in pursuing.
I mean, I run a lot already -- why try to make it more complicated than to force yourself out.
Through my quest to regain fitness, to restart my training, I pledged to do consistent running. First step was to convince myself that I had to start building more miles. Second, was to believe that 4-6 miles was a perfectly reasonable minimum mileage during a weekday run, when I would been happy with 5Ks. Third was to again cajole my body into doing a medium distance run during the week, say of 8-10 miles (shock!). Fourth was to take no Saturday or Sundays off, and to focus on getting endurance back -- say start at 13 miles and start building my way back to 19-20 miles by mid-March.
Of course, that really meant reforming all my running habits, to face winter head on and to take no excuses (or prisoners).
Suddenly, I had two weeks of training behind me and a 14 miler that went off reasonably well. Then I figured that in another week I'd regain fitness, so I kept on going out. Then on a Friday, a usual rest day, I saw a beautiful blanket of snow cover the trail, so I went out for a few miles to enjoy the experience.
Meanwhile, my longer runs were paying dividends. I'd done a few long runs (11 miles, 13 miles) at 8:50 mile pace. By the time I was reaching the third week of my running streak (20 days in), I ran almost 14 miles at 8:27 pace.
Something clicked. I never stopped running (I never really do) but the consistency was bringing back my fitness, and 27 days into my running streak, two days ago, I found myself running 15 miles at a 8:05 pace. I remember hitting the half marathon mark and was a little shocked to see 1:46 on my watch. What the heck happened there?
Sure, the weather was perfect, but in that solid month of training, I was rebuilding myself, starting to recapture something.
And in that time, I feel stronger, my form is improving. On the 28th day, yesterday, I went out for a run, and for the first time in a long time, I started to race my watch. It wasn't a breakthrough, but I fought to keep the stride up, the heart racing and sprinted through the last 50 metres, finishing the run with an average 7:40 pace. Not blistering, and shockingly not even fast enough to hit my best marathon pace, but it was good to feel that.
Okay, so you can rebuild a runner, from the ground up. Part of it is rediscovering why you loving running so much -- being outside, feeling strong. Part of it is putting in the work and seeing what you get back.
So after after 28 days -- with my longest streak I can remember -- today, I made a choice. I decided to go out for a run.