When I accepted the challenge of the Runner’s World holiday running streak—running at least a mile a day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day—I sincerely thought I’d have a slim chance of making it very far. But after three weeks, my streak is still alive. Not only that, it’s alive and well, and has started to change how I think about running.
The way I used to feel about days when I didn’t run at all I now feel about days where I run just one mile. It’s a mixture of guilt and pleasure—guilt if I feel like I haven’t earned it and pleasure when I know I have. So for me, the mile is the new “day off.”
Running a mile all by itself is a funny thing, though. It’s far enough that you feel like you’ve gotten your blood flowing a bit, but not so far that you feel like you had a real workout. And with a mile, you can—and probably should—run it easy, barely breaking a sweat, thus nixing the necessary post-run shower. I suppose you could just power your way through a fast mile, but without a warm-up and cool-down that probably wouldn’t be very smart, and I’m certainly not going to bother with all that for a one-mile run, unless it’s a one-mile race.
But getting into the groove of running every single day has also made me want to push harder during my “days on.” So, unlike the previous two weeks—where my runs were an amorphous blend of one to three milers—all of my runs have been least three miles long or more at a healthy clip, except for my “day off” one-milers.
I had a particularly exhilarating four-miler on the treadmill that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on the ‘mill. I’d set out to do just two miles, but lengthened it to four because I was having so much fun. I would have kept going too were it not for time constraints. Was it because with every step I knew I was getting closer to my goal, keeping the steak alive yet another day? Maybe. Or was it because running every day has actually become a new habit? That could be too. After three weeks, it certainly feels habitual.
This week, I also made good on my goal to bump up my mileage. In Week 2, I ran 15 miles. So for Week 3, I increased my mileage to 16.55. As I enter Week 4, I want to get myself up to a 20-mile base and then think about training for another race early in 2012.
It’s all part of how this streak has changed my thinking about how, why and when I run. I’ve never trained through winter before. Now with the streak, I’m itching to give it a go. The official holiday running streak ends in two weeks and change. With 22 consecutive days of running behind me, I’m more determined than ever to see the streak through. I’ve even had fantasies of keeping it alive as long as I can past the January 1, 2012 finish date. Maybe I’ll use it as a springboard for a whole new running me in 2012.
That’s some big talk there. Let’s see if I can make it though the holidays in one piece first. I’ll be on the road for 10 days around Christmas, making stops in both the U.S. and Canada, where I know über-wintery conditions (and no treadmill) await. But until then, I’m onward ho. Who knew running every single day could be habit forming?
Rock on, streakers.
Karla Bruning is an award-winning journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.