Today was a milestone day for me with my running. You see, I started a running streak on Christmas Eve 2011. It was not something that I expected to continue long-term. I just so happened to start the streak the day after arriving for a visit with my brother-in-law (Donny) and sister-in-law (Anica) in Liverpool, New York. Right before the first of the year, Runner’s World magazine posted a challenge on Facebook to run every day in the month of January. Several of the folks in my running group, The Village Runners, decided to try the challenge so I did too. I had tried something similar on my own the year before (2011) but got sick late in the month and only made it about 20 days. I was determined to make it in 2012 to make up for having to stop the year before. Since I had actually started my streak on 24 December leading into January, my streak was at 39 days by the end of January. I decided to push it for a couple of more weeks to get to 50 days. Once I got to 50 days I decided to see if I could make it to 100 days. By the time I got to 100 days, my friends were challenging me to see if I could run every day through the end of the year. I was not sure I wanted to do that but thought it would be something to see if I could achieve. Those that know me know that I have some obsessive compulsive tendencies. As a result, I have gotten the streak up to 800 days as of this morning. Now that running every day has become a habit, I am not sure how to stop it without getting injured or sick.
The reactions I get from people when they learn that I have run so many days in a row is diverse. Runners understand the difficulties that have to be overcome in order to run every day. Non-runners either have no concept about what it means or think it is just something only an insane person would do. Regardless, I have been fortunate to avoid any serious injury or illness that would stop me from running. There are actually some rules about what defines a run. An organization known as the United States Running Streak Association, Inc. was founded in 2000 and sets the criteria for what makes up a running streak:
The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the Streak Runners International, Inc., and United States Running Streak Association, Inc., is to run at least one continuous mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day under one’s own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices).
Running under one’s own body power can occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill. Running cannot occur through the use of canes, crutches or banisters, or reliance on pools or aquatic devices to create artificial buoyancy.
What started as a simple challenge to run for every day in a single month has turned into an obsession for me. Several times I have decided to end the streak only to get in a run late in the day to keep it going. By this point, it has become habit and I want to see how long I can keep it up. Who knows where it will end.
Every time I hit another milestone on this streak, it causes me to reflect back on my relatively short running career. Prior to May 2008, you could have never convinced me that I would become a runner. I hated running. I hated everything about it. I thought runners were idiots. After all, who gets up while it is still dark to go run around the streets, especially if the weather is cold, hot, rainy, etc. Somehow, I have experienced a paradigm shift in this area. It is interesting when I learn about others who have gone through the same transformation. My running guru, Coach Danny Haralson, shared one such story recently on Facebook. It was a well-written piece by someone name Rachel, whom I do not think I know, about her own transformation into a half marathoner (read it here). She even mentions that her father was a streaker who ran every day for more than 4,000 days.
My 800 days pales in comparison to 4,000 days. That figure even pales Jon Sutherland and Jim Pearson, both with over 16,000 days (44 years). We even have another runner here in Birmingham, Prince Whatley, that is closing in on 10 years with over 3,500 days so far. I think of these people any time someone acts overly impressed with what I have done. For me it started as just a personal challenge. I did not even know there was a such thing as streaking in the running community.
Looking back, it is quite shocking that I am even a runner. I tore my ACL when I was in college. After about six months of physical therapy, my orthopedic surgeon told me to find a 10k and finish it. He did not care whether I ran the whole way or not. He just wanted me to cover the 6.2 miles. That was in March 1989 and I ran the Cotton Row Run in Huntsville, in May. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I swore to myself that I would never run again. For the most part, I kept that promise for almost 20 years!
Fast forward to May 2008 (19 years later) to when I signed up for a “Couch to 5k” program through Coach Danny and Run University. I would like to say everything was nice and easy all the way up to the 5k and beyond. However, that would be a lie. The first C25K session I attended, in retrospect, was supposedly very easy. For me, though, it was not. When I got home after that first night, my wife (Caroline) asked me how it went. I had to be honest and tell her that I did not think I would be able to do this program. I wanted to quit and put a stop-payment on the check I wrote Danny that night. Caroline talked me into sticking with it, at least until our target 5k race. I did not want to, but I agreed. I honestly hated pretty much each run I did as we worked our way up to the 3.1 miles. I was actually looking forward to the 5k so I could quit running again. The week before the 5k, we ran the course as a preview run. That preview run was the first run that I completed without hating running. In fact, I had to admit that I really did enjoy that run. I finished the Race to the Courthouse 5k the next weekend then ran the Retro Run 5k a month later. Over the next year or so, I worked my way up to the 10k then half marathon and then the marathon. It has turned into something I could have never imagined prior to May 2008.
I have learned a lot about myself over the past six years. I have accomplished much more than I ever imagined. I also feel like I am an example of what others can do if they make it a priority. If I can do this, anyone can.