Thursday, March 13, 2014

The streak

Am I running today? I get asked that question a lot these days as the horrible winter continues.

Runstreak day 104 was different than any other. The usual pre-run satellite locking, the quick walk in the cold winter air, the anticipation had all but vanished, replaced by a shivering self, a shell of a runner who was regretting the third or fourth layer at home that was probably necessary. Necessary because I was on hour 18 of a 24-hour cold.

On most days, the first feel strides of a run feel like freedom, the fleeting moments when my soles hit pavement on road and the shoes. No matter their age or state of repair, those shoes are bouncing.

This streak, I didn't set out to do this. I've been on running streaks before, where I would count, tally and track. By the time I pull the cord and take a rest day, I usually didn't feel like running.

Early morning solo speed work.
But No. 104 was a crossroads for me. Runners remember sick days very well, I think. We get sick and if it's a weekday, we first think, can I go to work, followed by, can I run? Usually I think, "if I can run, then of course I can work." Not 104. I definitely wasn't able to work. But run?

There are those who approach the run streaking with purpose, to the point that it doesn't seem very natural. Run streakers have run longer than a lot of you have been alive, the top ones with more than 44 years of continuous running. They have rules (1.61K continuous) and keep lists.

Streaking, no matter how shortlived, I have always done for different reasons.

I leaned on running in 2013, hard. For me, it was a necessary outlet to deal with stress, loneliness, fear, loss. In the process of losing myself, I found so much on the trails. I found hidden strength. I regained my running writing voice, and more tales to tell. I found that my passion for running had never subsided, but rather realized my maturing relationship with running.

Ten years ago, I embraced the sport for fitness and to produce a better outcome for my health. Seven years ago, I put  myself into heavy training so I could get to Boston. Five years ago, I ran for the act, but never with the same zeal for challenging myself to go faster, stronger.

A year ago, when I needed it most, running drew me out, tended to my mind, forcing me to think about how the heart, mind, body and muscles combine. My loss of my mother, the end of a long relationship, the Boston bombs, in different ways, they all shook me and somehow running was the constant and antidote to endless hours in front of a TV. It had calmed me, the act of running every day. It was the thing I had to do, evening or morning. It was always in my calendar, a constant, simply there. When I pulled the plug on my last run streak in March, 2013, at 72 days, I was satisfied, and when I look back, I see how it was The Big Building Block for my running comeback.

How did this streak start? The 103 days leading up to 104 were no fuss and the streak never really became a thing. I started it with the Runner's World US Thanksgiving to New Year's runstreak challenge, and just kept on going. In the meantime, I joined a running team and told my coach in December I run every day. I think he took that seriously because he has given me a schedule with no rest days.

So now I run every day because I'm told to. Easy.

Four 'easy' days a week, though.
I've made some tweaks since I'm quality training again. I've learned the true value of recovery. I run every day, I train hard, I book time for myself and I schedule around these runs. Does it work for everyone? I don't think so. Some like to say that the longer you run, the older you get, you can focus on quality and get more rest. I think there's another perspective, in that when you run recovery you can strengthen your legs instead of tiring them, repair damages rather than sedentary recovery. In this training cycle, I've been the strongest runner I've been. I've been focused. I've been training smart. I've been running well. The group running has helped this streak unlike the more lonely winter of 2013.

Running every day means early mornings, delayed dinners and a squeezed-in run on a random weekday. Running every day means a constant churn of laundry and a self judge of running clothing (I can wear this if I'm running solo but probably not if it's group run.) Running every day means charging your Garmin constantly, keeping your shoes stuffed with newspaper so draw out the water and watching the hourly weather conditions.

Running every day sometimes just stops becoming a thing. It's just part of your day.

No. 104 was best described as a 1.71 mile slog. I don't even have a GPS reading for most of the first mile. It was memorable because it was one that didn't feel natural. It didn't feel easy. I'd rather forget it.

The next day felt like spring. I wore shorts, a T-shirt and my team singlet. I ditched the gloves and did loops of The Ex with a teammate. We were flying and I was hitting 4:11 Ks, 3:58s and MP paces. I was feeling 75% but it was the Greatest Running Day Of The Year. It may have been more fitting that that day would be the First Day of a run streak, but I was glad in the end that No. 105 reminded me of all the preceding days.

No. 105

So if you see me soon, yes, the streak is still on. No, I don't know when I'll end it, and I'm really not counting every day.

And in case you're asking, yes, I'm going for a run today.


macnic said...


Ririnette said...

Such a great blog post. Happy running!

Marky Mark said...

Wow that is quite a streak!

Robin said...

Loved this post...can relate to it on so many levels. Except the streak :). I'm so thankful that I have running and will never take that for granted.