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the run that started it all

Back on Monday, September 10th of last year, the summer weather in Atlanta finally broke and I wanted to run again. Tuesday was beautiful, Wednesday was great, and so was Thursday… and by the 17th of September I had amassed 7 straight days of running. That was my longest streak to date. I got up on the 17th and had an internal debate on whether to continue the streak. Rest was good, right? Shouldn’t I rest? But after getting some feedback from some of my dedicated Chicago-area athlete friends, I decided to go for day 8. In particular, I remember what Tim said: If you approach every run with a purpose of some sort, then every run can be beneficial, even when it’s done back-to-back (to-back-to-back-to-back).

And so the runstreak was born. 8 days turned into two weeks, which turned into a month… and then into 100 days… There were long runs. There was speedwork. There was a Ragnar. There was a full marathon. Rest days became easy 1-miler days. Some days that mile became quality time with my children as we created our own group runs.

Today marks the six-month mark of my Unintentional Runsteak. I wanted to celebrate it with some cool, meaningful run–like a mile for every month or somesuch. As luck would have it, today was one of the few I remember where I had to really fight myself to go run. My oldest has a raging case of the flu and I’m fighting something myself, but out I shuffled for a mile to keep the streak alive. But regardless of what today’s run was, I have learned a lot from the runstreak, and I want to share that with you.

1. Commit to something good; it forces you to get rid of the junk.

“I just can’t find the time to…” is such a common refrain when we try to rationalize not doing something that’s good for us. But if you’re committed, you’ll MAKE time for it. For me, running every day has meant less TV (we don’t have cable anymore, just Netflix and the local stations we can tune in), less internet (I have mostly quit Facebook and gone through periods of less Twitter too), and less stress (both TV and internet, with the constant barrage of images and information stress me out). This applies to so much more than running–I think you’ll find that if you make the time for more GOOD stuff, you’ll find cutting out the bad stuff is easy, and beneficial.

2. Rest can mean a lot of different things.

As a first-worlder, I will say that we often think we work a lot harder than we do. There are people who still balk at the idea of an hour or even just 30 minutes of daily exercise. But c’mon people–the vast majority of us (myself included) SIT or SLEEP the entire rest of the time! Our bodies were made to move, so we really should move them. Here’s how I view my workouts: they are the minimum I can do to apologize to my body for the sedentary-ness of the rest of my very American lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong on this one–I still definitely believe in full-on rest days, and in cross-training. But I’ve found ways to “rest” while keeping the streak alive. I go slow some days. I run without my Garmin some days (eh, well, maybe not so much). Some days I wait until afternoon to run after a long or hard run the day before–almost 36 hours in between. But a lot of times what my body needs even more than resting is some good stretching on warm muscles–what better way to warm them up than an easy mile? There are ways to make a mile a restful thing.

3. Consistency is it’s own hard work.

It’s not a question anymore of “If” I will run. It’s a question of “When” I will run. That has meant overcoming a lot of things that previously would’ve deterred me. Husband gone on a trip? Still running. Cold coming on? Still running! Overslept? Still running! That is a huge mental exercise that goes beyond the physical benefits of running. That gives me an extra tool to use when things get hard during a race or in my life.

I’m sure there will come a time where I have to end the streak. But today is not that day. I still have more to learn!