twelve lessons from a year of run streaking

Quick and dirty:

  • total miles: 1,012.31

  • three continents, seven countries

  • shortest run: 1 mile, longest run: 20 miles

  • number of times I got lost: who knows, but clearly I made it home eventually?

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Lessons learned:

1. The laundry struggle is real, but it doesn’t have to be. I used to be such a freak about re-using running clothes, but I care so much less now. If it's clean-ish and I have to get out the door, it's clean enough.

2. "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing" is COMPLETELY true. I've run in 4 degrees, 97 degrees, in a blizzard, in a nor'easter, a hurricane, a thunderstorm, and probably some other situations that I've just conveniently forgotten because they were that awful. The key is to have the right clothing/gear. A few things that saved my streak:

3. I would rather risk my own health and wellbeing than run on a treadmill. I only ran on a treadmill 27 times and according to my Garmin, I’d rather freeze/get struck by lightning than run inside. Treadmill days really only happened if safety/logistics were a concern or if I was trying to squeeze in a run at work between meetings.

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4. I definitely thought that running anything under 3 miles was pointless when I started this, but I just didn't always have a 30 minutes free to run every day. What I did have was 10 minutes, and over the course of the week, eventually that added up. Ultimately, my weekly mileage was between 25 - 30, which is crazy considering I wasn't training for anything. The few weeks where this number dropped under 15 were weeks where I was traveling for work and therefore logistics were really weird:

  • Day 73: Boston at 2:16AM on Saturday (9 degrees) and then day 74: ran in Maseru at 4:52PM on Sunday (90 degrees). Between these two runs: BOS -> JFK, JFK -> JNB, JNB -> MSU.

  • Day 165: Amsterdam International Airport: 5:30AM, 1.25 miles in Terminal D.

Or, I was really, really anxious and depressed and I was expending so much energy trying to make a shitty situation better that I stopped taking care of myself. It's easy to see how a run streak can feed into self-destructive behavior, because days 221 - 239 were my longest stretch of single mile days and also coincided with a really, really low period. I wasn't eating and I wasn't sleeping, but I was so determined to hold onto this run streak because it felt like the only thing I could control. Healthy? Absolutely not. But at the same time, the thing that pulled me back was realizing that I couldn't sustain things the way that they were, and that something had to change. (But obviously I didn't quit my run streak. I quit my job.)

5. Miles with friends are better.

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6. When you tell people about This Crazy Thing You're Doing, people you wouldn't expect get very weirdly (awesomely) invested. There were a few days where I ran solely because I knew a few people would have been very upset with me if I had just quit. There were also a few days that people knew I wasn’t sure if I could get a mile in, so they hopped on my run with me and made it happen.

7. Run commuting > regular commuting. I am by no means a fast runner, but my legs are definitely more reliable than public transportation (dear MBTA, give me back my money). If you have a place to shower or invest in wipes, it saves so much time. For example: Running 4.5 miles takes me max 45 minutes, and this includes having to wait for every single walk signal. Yes, the same bus technically only takes 25 minutes, but that requires actually showing up when it’s supposed to, and not getting stuck in traffic. It could take 25 minutes, or it could take an hour, but not only can I sleep in and get my run in, I can also not be late.

8. Running in your late 20s is a lot different than running in your early 20s, and while I wouldn’t say I’m definitely smarter, I’m at least more prepared. I had plans to meet a friend for a Sunday long run (day 354), but also had plans the night before to go out, and I didn’t want to back out of either of those. So, I ate a lot of carbs, drank a lot of water, put a granola bar in my purse and left a bottle of electrolytes by my bed for when I got home. (It might have been the best 18-miler I’ve ever ran in my life - I wasn’t even wrecked the next day! What a weird alternate universe we currently live in.)

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9. Always bring running stuff. A free 10 minutes (or more!) pops up in the most random of places: waiting for coffee to brew, if a meeting or class gets out early, if someone randomly decides they want to go for a run. The opposite is also true - the day you don’t bring running stuff is the day the bus doesn’t come and you spend an hour waiting when you know you could have run to where you needed to be - with enough time to have cooled down and made yourself presentable. (Again, MBTA, give me back my money.)

10. Washing your hair every day is overrated.

11. Garmin watches are not invincible. The watch face will shatter if you throw it across the room at the television screen as you watch everything you thought you knew about democracy burn down. And yes, I should have known better.

12. I guess I’m not actually afraid of commitment?

running while female

I posted the original version of this on Facebook at the end of the summer, but in light of Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation to the US Supreme Court, it feels appropriate to share an updated version.

What the hell does running have to do with Kavanaugh? While I’m sure he’d be wonderful at a beer mile, it’s more about the fact that those in power in this country just affirmed rape culture and the normalization of violence against women. And if you want to see how that plays out (sober) every day, just ask any female runner if she’s ever been harassed while on a run. I bet you she says yes.

I want to exist in a world where it isn’t a hazard to go for a run just because you’re a woman. I don’t want to live in fear of becoming a statistic. In order for that to happen though, I’m either going to have to quit running or men are going to have to step up, and I just don’t think either of those things are likely to happen.

Every few months I have the same conversation with friends and family because when a woman gets attacked while running, people feel the need to check in. Nearly every conversation I have goes something like this:

Person: have you heard about (name here)? How do you feel? Do you feel safe when you run?

Me: WELL, I try not to run too late at night or too early in the morning. Someone usually knows what route I'm running/how long it should take me. I have several routes that I switch up the direction of, frequency of, timing of, so no one can figure out my pattern. If something happens or creeps me out, I won’t repeat that route for a few days, or a week, or a month. Just in case.

If I do run late at night, I'll try to recruit a friend to come with me, preferably a dude. If I can't do that, I'll wear a light-up vest and only stick to routes I know well, and ones with escape routes. The benefit of a light-up vest is that cars will see me and hopefully won’t hit me! But the drawback of a light-up vest is that anyone can see me coming. So usually I stick close to home. Just in case.

I know which houses around here have motion-sensor lights that will turn on, whose dogs in the yards will bark as I go by, public establishments I can duck into if I feel like I'm being followed (this last part also applies to daytime running). Just in case.

I've taken a self-defense class. Actually, I’ve taken a few. I never want to be so tired I can't try to run away. I don't go into public bathrooms alone and port-o-potties are literally last resort, not just because they're gross but because who knows who watched me get into one? Just in case.

If I'm going to be gone for more than a few miles, I turn my phone tracker on and tell people exactly how long I should be gone for. I'll try to meet people at the end of runs so someone knows I might be missing. Just in case.

If I'm out for 16+ miles I'll text someone at the turnaround, because that usually means I'm more than an hour away from home. If I have to stop I also tell someone I'm adding a few minutes onto my run. Just in case.

If it's a million degrees out, I try not to dress ~provocatively~ which means I'm probably going to sweat to death, but at least it doesn't bring any more attention to me (because clearly what I wear means I'm asking for it). Just in case.

In winter, if it's really cold and I have to wear a headband or a hat, I won't wear headphones so I can hear people coming and I'll tuck my ponytail in so no one can grab it. Just in case.

I have a list of license plates saved on my phone because I've gotten creeped out. I've thought about carrying pepper spray. I’ve carried pepper spray. I've clenched my keys in my fist for multiple miles. I’ve sprinted the last mile just so I could get home faster. I've overshot my house in case someone was trying to figure out where I lived. Just in case.

I’ve turned around early or outright shortened runs because I didn’t want a group of men at my back. They might not do anything, but I also know that if they did, it wouldn’t be their fault, obviously it’d be my fault. (That is - if anyone believed me.) So I’d rather end my run early just to get home safe, rather than risk anything. Just in case.

I avoid underpasses, I don’t wear headphones if I’m in cutting through the woods. I always try to guess where someone might be lurking in the shadows, and I avoid those areas at all costs. I have added miles to my run to not come back to the same place. Just in case.

Every man out there is a threat - it’s not about race or ethnicity, it’s not about being in this country legally or illegally, its not about being Democrat or Republican. It’s the fact that violence against women has been so normalized that I know, deep down, if anything ever happened to me, someone out there would go, “Well, she should have known better.”

The sad thing is that yes, I really should have known better, because deep down inside I know my luck will run out one day. I know all of these moments seared into my brain are not even considered by the men who have cat-called me, the men who have sworn at me for ignoring their cat-calls, the men who have screeched their cars to a stop beside me, the men who have chased me down the street, the men who have actively put their bodies in front of my body while I’m running and laughed at my anger and fear and my scrambling to get out of arm’s reach, the men who have followed me with their eyes or their vehicles or themselves.

Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court is an affirmation of male privilege and cements rape culture as the norm in our society. It’s an affirmation that all of these checks I go through just to get in a few miles are not as irrational as I wish them to be - they are real, they are valid, and at the end of the day, they just don’t matter when men can do what they want and suffer no consequences.

I might not have faith in men stepping up, in realizing their privilege to just go for a run without worrying or to exist in this world without worrying about becoming a statistic, but I will keep running. I might not feel safe, but I will keep running for those who can’t, and because being able to run away might very well be the only thing that saves me.