The title of this post reminds me of the first day of school, when English teachers made you write about what you did over the summer. I’m sure this is an assignment to evaluate where the students are in terms of writing, but as an only child who spent the summer watching The Price is Right with my grandma, I always had writer’s block.
Writer’s block be gone! Today, I’m writing about run streaks, as I completed one earlier this month.
I’m also aware that the Runner’s World Memorial Day to Independence Day streak challenge is going on right now. Spoiler: I’m not participating.
About the Challenge
My run streak challenge was hosted by my Florence-area run club, Fitness World Run Club. I moved away from Florence four years ago but still participate in the FWRC Facebook group and occasionally run races there since my family lives there.
For the sake of the challenge, the streak began on May 5 and ended on June 4. Of course, some people are ongoing run streakers and their streaks started before this and didn’t end on this day. The challenge entailed running or walking at least one mile per day and posting it online, and those who completed the challenge earned a t-shirt and bragging rights.
Running or walking a mile a day for 30 days is a challenge most people can do, even beginners and non-runners. Some of our challenge participants walked more miles than they ran. The streak challenge got people walking on their lunch breaks at work and getting their kids out for runs in the evening as a family. Being active is a good thing.
The streak also helped people run consistently. I credit my own running improvements to consistently training for years. It’s difficult to improve as a runner if you randomly take entire weeks off, or you run 30 miles one week followed by 8 miles the next week. During the challenge, no one had long periods of inactivity that would cause someone to lose fitness.
In my opinion, the best part of the streak challenge was the motivation from the group. Everyone knew that 100 or so other runners were out there logging miles each day for the challenge. People need motivation and encouragement with their goals.
Also, I’m not a high mileage runner. My highest weekly mileage during the streak was 50 miles, so I wasn’t treading into new territory with training volume. But in Charleston, 50 miles in May is a lot tougher than 50 miles in November.
I started the challenge optimistically. An easy 20 minutes on what was normally my rest day wouldn’t be too bad, as I always already training 6 days a week.
However, I was already training 6 days a week when the challenge started- and had been for awhile. With my training schedule, my streak started 5 days before everyone else’s. I had no chance for extra rest to prepare for the rigor of running every day for 30 days- and it was rigorous.
The first two weeks of the challenge weren’t bad. Weather wise, May was a very mild month in South Carolina. I ran my easy 20ish minute days very easy, running about 30 seconds per mile slower than my regular easy pace. Soon, the heat kicked up. My normal 5-7 mile easy runs were feeling harder and slower. I thought it was the heat, but looking back, my body did not adequately recover between runs.
When you’re poorly recovered, one of the hardest things to do is to run workouts or race. May is one of the biggest racing months in Charleston, and I was signed up for a 5K series before the challenge was announced. I also run a track workout every Wednesday night in Summerville. Not only do I physically “run” the workout, but I also set the event up, so I need to be there.
With Race the Landing 5Ks on Thursday nights, I did easy runs on Wednesday and squeezed in interval workouts on Monday or Tuesday, trying to alternate hard and easy days. My “hard” days weren’t as hard as they were before the challenge- because I had to save enough energy to run the next day, even if it was an easy 20 minutes. For the duration of the challenge, I never could figure out the balance.
I know I could’ve taken a rest day at any time, but I wanted to give the streak a chance, unless I got sick or injured, of course.
The last week of the challenge was the worst. On Sunday, I experienced stomach issues during an easy treadmill run and felt off the rest of the day. I chalked it up as a bad run- we all have them sometimes. I didn’t want to quit with a few days left.
Later that week, I couldn’t sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time. I also woke up hungry at night. One night I woke up hungry twice and ate peanut butter at 12 AM as well as a protein bar at 3:30 AM. When you run more miles, your body needs more calories. I track my food intake to make sure I eat enough, but my body was craving nutrients to recover from workouts and increased miles.
Sleep deprived and under recovered, I ran Race the Landing #3 as a glorified tempo run. It was one of my more successful tempo runs, but successful runs need recovery.
The day after the race was the next-to-last day of the challenge. I’ve never lacked motivation to run, but it was all I could do to muster that 20 minute streak keeper. A Fitness World Run Club friend and I messaged each other on Facebook to encourage each other to log those miles. I ran for 20 minutes, but I wasn’t happy or enjoying the process. I was going through the motions for the streak.
The next day, I ran the Floppin Flounder 5K, where I started too fast and positive split like a champ. My speed was zapped in Mile 3 and my legs would not go. It was my worst race since Race the Landing #2- which also occurred during this challenge.
June 5 was the end of the streak challenge, and I happily took a rest day. I slept, ate, and the only run I made was a Costco run with Clay. With the extra non-running time on my hands, I reevaluated my training and racing schedule for the rest of the summer. I did not miss running at all!
Any athlete can follow a training schedule and go through the motions each day. Successful athletes think long-term, listen to their bodies, back off, and reevaluate. The decision to pull the plug on a workout or training is often the hardest.
The Final Verdict
Did I complete the running streak challenge? Yes.
Do I plan to complete another running streak challenge? No.
Some successful runners train 7 days a week. Some successful runners train 3 days a week. I’ve learned that I am neither and my best races and runs come from 6 days a week of training. I believe I lost fitness during this streak.
With that said, I am glad I “streaked” for 35 days. I learned a lot about myself, my training, and what works for me. Thirty days is long enough to know if something works for you or not. Different training styles and workouts work for different people, and you never know if something will work unless you try.
Run streaking didn’t work for me, but I loved encouraging others and seeing people who were not as active become more active. I hope those who did the challenge continue running and walking, whether they run every day or not, and that they learned something about themselves through the whole process, too.