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?