Two days ago I hit an actual milestone, although funny enough, I don’t know the exact mileage. I have completed a year long run streak of 366 days (because it is a leap year.) The streak started one year ago on the day after my grandfather died. I decided somewhere along the way that this has been my year of running for him. This has been a hard year for a number of reasons, but this has also been a year in which no matter what was going on in my life, running was my constant.
Did you watch the television show Lost? There is a extraordinary episode called “The Constant” where through timeline flashes, the protagonist of the episode, Desmond Hume, is able to stay sane and know who he is/where he is because of his constant- the love of his life Penny. I was able to stay grounded this year because of running, because no matter what was going on in my day- for better or worse- I knew I had to run.
My year in running started out with a death and it ended with moving out of my home for the past two years and into a temporary sublet. The whole year seemed to have a number of highs and lows, things planned and unplanned, basically a year that was constantly fluctuating in some way. Running was a part of it all. I do not know the next steps in my life since graduating with my MPH in May, but I know I have running. I don’t know where I am living after this sublease is over at the end of July, but I know I have running. Running is my constant.
I ran at sea level at the Beach to Battleship triathlon and I ran above 10,000 ft. on the Inca trail in Peru. I ran up hills overlooking downtown Montreal and up mountains to watch the sunrise and catch glimpses of wildlife in Wyoming. I ran hungover after partying with college friends in Nashville. I ran after getting a stomach bug (the hardest run.) I ran in celebration after getting my Master’s degree. I ran with friends for my birthday triathlon and I ran alone to just spend time in the forest. I ran when I was upset and I ran just for fun. I ran in rain, snow, ice, heat, daytime, nighttime, anytime. And I ran races.
From late January to the end of April I accumulated over 100 miles of racing- a 10 miler, 20 miler, trail marathon, 50k, and 21 miles of the Smoky Mountain Relay. It was a lot of racing. This may not be a whole lot of mileage to many ultra runners (I have a friend who just finished two races that together added up to over 125 miles!) but I also PR’d at all of these races. These weren’t just races to complete, they were races against my previous times! And I never had a break- I ran every. single. day.
I think a lot about habit building and consistency in sustaining behavior change, (as a good former student of public health should.) There is often a cue to a habit, like waking up and making tea or coffee, putting your gym bag in the passenger seat of the car to remind you to go to the gym before or after work, or putting meditation into your calendar. I didn’t really have a cue for running, at some point in time it just clicked in my mind that I am a runner who runs every day. The habit I was building became a part of my identity.
Some people have asked whether I am going to keep up the streak. I will keep the streak alive for as long as I enjoy it. And I have enjoyed it fully.
I was able to not just observe the seasons change, but to experience them. To breathe in the warm summer dew, crunch joyfully through the autumn leaves, feel the chill air of winter seep through the seams of my clothing, and listen to the birds chatter earlier and earlier in the mornings of spring. There is no better way to explore new cities, or countries, than by the power generated by your own legs and feet. There is no better way to think through problems, find solutions, or generate a creative spark than by lacing up and opening up the front door. When I cross that threshold and take those first tentative steps, it is akin to the feeling of greeting an old friend you’ve seemingly known forever. That old friend is yourself. It is that inner voice that we sometimes suppress, get angry at, or are embarrassed by. It is goodness, but it can also be frustrating. We spend so much time listening to others and absorbing outside information that we forget that we have our own views, wants, needs and desires. Running has given me an opportunity to know myself better emotionally, mentally, and physically. I know my resting heart rate. I know when a twinge is just a twinge versus a more serious issue to watch. My body is more resilient.
But mostly I enjoy where running takes me, in a literal geographic sense and in a metaphysical way. Every day can be a new adventure – which is something I’m pretty sure my grandpa would be proud of.
I’m currently on run streak day 368.
500 sounds like a good number right?