For a little over a year and a half, or 650 days if you are counting (and I am counting very carefully), I have been on a streak. Every day, no matter the weather or the time (or my feelings), I run at least one mile.
I started my run streak on November 23, 2017, to get myself out of a running rut. I’ve always been a runner—cross country and track every season in high school, a handful of fun runs in my early 20s, many half marathons in my late 20s—but in 2017, my running took a slide. I was working more, volunteering more, socializing more, and my fitness seemed to keep sliding to the bottom of my list. I was (and am) running two half marathons a year, but my training was nonexistent. Every week I would look at my training schedule and push all the runs to the end of the week. Invariably something would happen so that I “couldn’t” complete any of my runs. I needed a change.
To facilitate this change, my friend encouraged me to join Runner’s World’s fall Run Streak with her. It was a scary commitment—running at least a mile every day from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Eve. Forty days of at least one mile seemed like an impossible task. I thought of so many excuses—the holidays are busy, it would be cold outside, what about the need for rest days? Mostly, I didn’t believe that I could do it; I didn’t believe that I could invest that much time in my physical and emotional wellness for 40 days.
The run streak started in Pittsburgh, on some incredibly challenging hills. I huffed and puffed my way through that run, the next run, the next-next run, and every run since then. I somehow completed the 40-day streak and kept going. It felt good to trust in myself and to push myself to take 10-20 minutes a day to do something exclusively for me. The run streak has brought me to some bizarre places—slow laps in the Los Angeles and Detroit airports, running on top of a catamaran and next to sleeping sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, running in the blazing heat of the Australian Outback at 3:30 a.m. before the rest of our group woke up for our sunrise hike, jogging laps around my living room at 11:55 p.m. at night to make sure I got my mile in, just to name a few.
Throughout the last year and change, the run streak has evolved to mean different things at different times. It has gotten me through some tough emotional periods in my life, and on some days has been the one thing I could do to care for myself. The run streak has allowed me to prioritize myself once a day every day. I am so grateful for the space that it provides for me to mull over a problem, to make lists and organize my thoughts, to socialize and build relationships with other friends who are runners, to focus on my breath and strides and forget about everything else, or to see parts of a city or even my hometown that I would typically never explore. It’s about so much more than running.
I’m thinking about ending the run streak—either at the 2-year mark (November 23, 2019) or at 1,000 days (August 19, 2020). I’ve thought about ending it at day 500 and 555 but then kept going. I’ve carved out this one place for myself, where I have permission to care about no one else but me, and I am nervous about being able to intentionally find space for myself through a new practice or activity. Luckily, I have a bit of time to decide what to do before then, and in the meantime, I’ll keep streaking.