On September 4th, I ran for the 100th straight day in a row. And then on September 5th, I stopped. It wasn’t that I was injured or even really wanted a rest day, but it was a good time and a nice even-numbered day for the streak to end.
It started with another one of those Runner’s World run streaks. The summer goal was to run at least a mile every day between Memorial Day and July 4th. Unlike the last time I streaked, I got into a groove. Of course, the groove mostly involved waking up insanely early so that I could run a) before work and b) before it got ridiculously hot. June was a particularly bad month heat-wise, but I ran through it. I ran through long weekend trips to Virginia for my grandma’s 90th birthday party and Memphis for Abby’s engagement party. I ran to Memorial Cross in Sewanee. July 4th came, and I badly bombed a local 5K. But the streak rolled on.
My mom and I did a lovely 10-mile run with the Badgerland Striders while we were in Milwaukee for my cousin’s wedding. If the sun came up that morning, I ran. Normally, I averaged 23-25 miles/week, and suddenly, I was easily averaging 25-30. With the start of training for Marine Corps, I regularly hit 30 miles per week without struggling. My body adjusted, and most of the time, I felt pretty strong. I ran through the end of CPE and final evaluations and good-byes. I ran through my Florida vacation (even though I barely squeaked out a mile most days) and through my first day at a new church. Some days it was 17 miles and some days it was 1 or 2 miles. When it was all said and done, 100 days of running netted me 418.9 miles, or an average of about 4.2 miles a day.
If there’s one thing that the streak taught me, it’s that motivation is overrated. People are always waiting for motivation to exercise or eat healthy foods or start a spiritual practice, but Nike was right when they said, “Just do it.” Running every day was just something I did. Roll out of bed, brush my teeth, throw on clothes, tie shoes, out the door and start running. There was no question, no back and forth, no “I’ll just do it tomorrow.” I ran because I’m a runner. I didn’t always want to, and there were days when a 4 or 5 mile run became a 2 or 3 mile run. Habit will trump motivation every time whether it’s exercise or reading the Bible.
Even nearly a month after ending the streak, taking a true rest day feels weird, like something isn’t quite right with my day. Over those 100 days, I grew to really depend on running for self-care, for my “me” time when it was just the road and me and God, as an outlet for my anger and grief and happiness and celebration. I thought it was going to be a physical challenge, but it became a spiritual practice as well.
Physically, the most I struggled with were some grumpy calves for a few days. I still did cross-training like spin class and weight-lifting, but I would run a mile or two before or after. I learned to really listen to my body in order to figure out what was real fatigue that was telling me to back off a little and what was just a little sluggishness that I could push through.
I don’t know if or when I’ll streak again, but running 100 days in a row changed me as an athlete and a person. I also did a lot of laundry and ate a lot of food!