I’m just back in from my 31st day of running in January. I’ve run every single day of 2013 so far – at least 1 run per day, with a minimum of 30mins or 6km.
It’s known as streak running, and googling it will lead you to Ron Hill, who’s the current world record holder having run every day since 1964!
I’m not quite sure how my streak came about. In December I built a training plan for the Tararua Mountain Race – a 35km trail run with 2,400m of climbing. By the end of December I was already well off target. Even though the race was still 10 weeks away, I was scheduled to do the Jumbo-Holdsworth race (22km with 1,600m of climbing) in late January – only 4 weeks away! I was woefully underprepared and needed to knuckle down.
I had 5 days before the wife went away for a week, leaving me with the two youngest children. I ran every day. Then she went away and I was faced with either a week on the couch OR… So I bought a double running pram, and ran every day that she was away. Suddenly I was hitting my weekly run targets.
I threw out my carefully structured training plan, with scheduled long runs, speed sessions and hill work. I decided I’d run every day; if I had the time, I’d run longer; if I had more time, I’d run hills. But no matter what, I’d run every day. Too many “zero” days had been costing me, so I stopped having them.
And now, 31 days later, I’ve run every day in January.
It wasn’t without challenges. I’ve run the Jumbo-Holdsworth trail race, and I had to run the day before it and the day after it – not my idea of a taper or recovery! I’ve run while travelling internationally. I’ve run with two little kids. I’ve run in a Queensland cyclone. And I’ve run in stinking hot humidity.
But none of those runs were difficult, because the streak is self-motivating. The longer you do it, the more you have to do it. You don’t want to break the streak. There’s none of those draining “Will I, won’t I?” internal conversations – instead you pounce on an opportunity to get out the door, and eventually you start to base your daily plans around your run.
Running every day for a month has had some real positives. I increased my mileage – significantly: 33 hours for the month compared to my previous best of 16; I ran 65km/week up from my average of 30km/week. Although my average run speed dropped away, it was mostly due to the increased focus on hills – very steep hills!
Other positives have been reduced injury downtime. Early on I was battling plantar fascitis, shin splints and a potential stress reaction in my ankle. But by running daily, switching between a few pairs of shoes, and focussing on “easy, easy, easy”, I was able to keep the injuries at bay. My calf strains still recur, but they are predictable. Any run with more than 500m of climbing will bring on a strain, no matter how good I feel straight after the run. But 2-3 days of easy running seems to flush the strain out.
It wasn’t all roses though. I’ve uncovered a bizarre pattern. When I run too much, I start to gain weight! I think it’s a combination of less training hours (so less fuel burnt) but increased pain from the training (so more comfort food consumed). While 8 hours per week is a decent load for a runner, it’s not much at all for a triathlete – and 8 hours of running hurts me much more than 8 hours of swim/bike/run.
Another negative is that my other sports have suffered. I’ve neither swum nor cycled during January. Somewhere along the line it became all about running, and bugger everything else. That was never the plan!
Where to from here?
Well, the Tararua Mountain Race has been scratched from this year’s To Do list. A rough guideline is that if you double your Jumbo-Holdsworth time that gives you your expected Tararua Mountain Race time. Neither my running partner, nor I, felt we had another Jumbo-Holdsworth loop in us (you have to run with it with a partner the first time). Next year!
I still hanker for trail runs, but more to explore new territory than to compete. There’s a couple of good candidates coming up: the Nerang State Forest 25km in 5 weeks, and the Up the Buff trail race in 7 weeks. They could be followed up nicely by the Glasshouse Cooks Tour 30km in May, and the Gold Coast Half Marathon in July.
But last year’s dreams saw me enter early for the Mooloolaba Triathlon (which is in 6 weeks), and also the Byron Bay Triathlon in May. Both are paid for, as is accommodation for Mooloolaba. So it looks like I’ll be tri-ing, but will I also be running?
Should I break the Streak?
This one is not so easy to answer. On the one hand I’m worried that this could turn into an unhealthy obsession and feel I should miss tomorrow’s run just to clear the slate. On the other hand, it has been highly motivating and I need all the motivation I can get right now!
Perhaps I’ll try and fold some cycling and swimming into the daily run. And then try to add some running speed sessions and quality hill reps. If I can’t deliver quality, then the daily run should go.