Thursday, November 26, 2015

Run Every Day From Thanksgiving to New Year's? Yes. It Can Be Done.

The author running.

I had never run more than seven days in a row until I heard about the Runner’s World Thanksgiving-to-New-Year’s-Day Challenge to run at least a mile during the year-end holidays. Of course even as a beginning runner I had heard stories of people who have run every day for 30, 40, and even near 50 years. Naturally, I considered those people not right in the head (not to say that many people consider me right in the head, either. But I digress).

The only time I had run at least seven days in a row was during a particularly stressful time at work, and the few people I told about my streak had differing opinions. The regular weightlifter said it probably was fine as long as I wasn’t running nine miles a day or something like that. The cross-fitter said I was probably going to damage something. Later, the cross-fitter claimed that any top cross-fitter could smash Ashton Eaton’s decathlon world record with a minimum of effort, but I had already stopped listening to his advice by then.

Nevertheless, the idea of “going streaking” was in my head. When I first heard of the RW Challenge, my mind was made up. 35 days or so in a row seemed very do-able. In addition, I had just moved and this seemed like a way to start things off right. Plus, it would let me explore my new town.

On Thanksgiving, I went for a morning run. My route was familiar up to a point, when I veered off to a new, untested portion of the trail. As tends to happen in these situations, I soon found myself not knowing where I was, and then in a mostly fenced-in private yard, which was really more like a ranch than anything else. Fortunately, nobody came out to yell at me, and nobody loosed the hounds to get the intruder. Still, I didn’t want to cross back through the property to increase the chances of either of those things happening. On the other side of the fence was the main road. Since there were no cars around, I hopped the fence and headed back, grateful that people tend to leave home during holidays.

The next few days I ran short distances, trying to figure out if a month straight was even feasible for a comparative newbie like me. I calculated that if I ran just a mile a day, I would do about 35 miles, a distance I would exceed in a normal month. Two miles a day would equal 70 miles, also a monthly distance I had exceeded before. The streak seemed more and more feasible.

I ran on. I discovered a new loop of about three miles. I cut it down to a mile and a half. I extended it to four. I reversed it.

After about ten days, there was a new challenge, although an inevitable one considering I now lived at four thousand feet elevation. It had snowed overnight, but not heavily. I had never run in snow before, having always said “forget it” every other time it had happened. I had instead gone for a walk or decided it was a good day to not go outside.

But this was different. This was part of “the streak.” Running a mile counted, walking a mile did not. Watching “A Hard Day’s Night” for the six thousandth time would not extend the streak. I had to go. I put on ski pants and felt like an idiot. I put on my lightweight running shoes and felt like a fool. I put on a windbreaker and a hat that covered my ears and knew I looked silly. I went outside and ran just over a mile on a short loop.

When I returned, my shoes were soaked and my feet were frozen, as were my fingers. But I didn’t care anymore about what I looked like. I was a runner and had done what real runners do- I ran despite the weather. I felt like I could do anything else that day, no matter how tough it appeared to be, and it would not be as difficult as running in the snow. I looked forward to the day where I could run when it was snowing.

The next day I ran with my regular running group. It was dark and 15 degrees when the run began. I ran four miles and didn’t care. I was a runner and knew I was going to complete the streak.

Over the next month I ran when it was snowing and when it wasn’t. I ran in my snow boots and I ran in battered sneakers. I ran in ski pants and I ran in ski liners. I ran in windbreakers, I ran in layers, and I ran in hoodies. I ran in the morning, I ran in the afternoon, and I ran in the dark. I ran when it was five degrees and I ran when it was 35 degrees. I ran just over a mile and I ran five miles. When the run group canceled one week because the weather was “too nasty,” I went out and did a mile anyway.

I ran close to 90 miles that December, my highest monthly total at the time. On New Year’s Day, despite being out way too late and having football watching parties to go to that day, I made time for a run. 

The next day I went out of town and the streak ended. I now understood how people could run 365 straight days, although I still didn’t understand why anybody would want to. Since then, I have rarely gone more than three days without running.

On Thanksgiving, I’ll start the yearly streak again. I’ll make time for it every day for more than a month, no matter the weather or the situation. I won’t run every day for 30 years. But 35 days or so in a row? That’s something anybody can do. Even if the cross-fitters tell you otherwise.

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