I did it. I completed my #stupidsummerrunstreak. I ran at least one mile a day, every day, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, totaling 307.5 miles.
No excuses. No rest.
Here’s the top 10 things I learned from this summer of sweaty miles:
10. Memorial Day to Labor Day is longer than I thought. I neglected to count out how many days in a row this runstreak would require (not that I’m sure it would have made a difference. 106 days doesn’t sound as long in theory as it is in practice), and since my summers off from work always seem so short, I figured it would fly by. The time off did. The time required to run without a day off did not.
9. I can get sick of the treadmill. I know many runners refer to it as the “dreadmill”, but I’ve never minded the treadmill. My gym has a cardio theater, so I can often find a movie that I like, and I often prefer the climate control aspect of running indoors. In fact, for most of the year, my routine is to do my long runs outside, to make sure I stay acclimated to “real” running conditions, but complete all my other (3-6 mile) training runs on the treadmill. With the Dallas summer, however, running outside for more than 1-2 miles is not an option for me. (props to those hardy souls that can handle it).
I’m so sick of the treadmill. Likewise,
8. Those “how heat impacts your pace” articles are true. Periodically I got
desperate sick of running on the treadmill day after day, and took myself outside. It wasn’t pretty. I struggled to finish at a pace that, throughout the rest of the year, would be an easy run. I tried to address this by getting up before sunrise, which shouldn’t have been a problem since August through May, I get up before 6am for work, and Saturdays for long runs. But…
7. Getting up early is infinitely more challenging. Admittedly this one might only apply to teachers. Or me. But whereas I have little problem getting up pre-dawn during the academic year, it was especially torturous over the summer. It was hard not to talk myself into “just doing it later at the gym”, even though I was sick of the treadmill. It was a vicious cycle, compounded by the resentment of having to run every single day.
6. A runstreak is not a substitute training plan. Yes, I began the runstreak with an idea of how many miles per week, but that went out the window by July for a variety of reasons, not the least of which involved dead legs and boredom. Without a race training plan (which 90% of the year, I’m following), I found myself bored, aimless, and often, happy to do the minimum required to maintain the runstreak. My overall miles were not impressive. Which leads me to…
5. Medium distances were much harder on a runstreak. I’m not even going to talk about my “long runs” (whereby both the long and run part of that equation were a stretch at best), but medium runs were disconcertingly difficult to get through (even on the treadmill, when there was no heat impact). I don’t enjoy running 4 or 5 miles, but I can usually do so at a decent pace, feeling strong, and certainly without walking. Throughout most of this summer, however, even a 4 mile run seemed arduous. I’m not sure if it was impacted more by the physicality of running every day (tired legs), or the mental burnout, but runs greater than 40-45 minutes required a lot more focus and willpower. However,
4. The 1-2 miles were nothing. As much as the daily monotony annoyed me, the days that I only had to log 1 or 2 miles? Easy peasy. I have a route in my neighborhood for one mile, and 1.5 miles, and even in the sun-up heat, I completed my short “rest day” runs outside. They weren’t fast, and I was still drenched in sweat at the end because of the 85-95 degree weather (depending on when I got out), but it was mindless. As my colleague who runs ultras says about 1-2 mile runs, “it’s not even worth lacing up the sneakers.”
3. A 106 day runstreak is not an effective diet. I didn’t do the runstreak to lose weight, but let’s face it, I hoped a nice side effect would be a smaller number on the scale. Labor Day found me only 2.5 pounds less than Memorial Day. Yes, I “technically” lost weight, but that 2.5 pounds could easily be attributed to the water loss from Saturday’s 9 outside miles. Sure, I might be a bit more toned, but a runstreak is not an effective diet plan (and before you say “muscle weighs more than fat”, 1. that’s not actually true and 2. I was already pretty fit on Memorial Day, so I don’t think there was a magic fat to muscle molecular change). But!
2. I didn’t gain weight for the first summer in forever. I always gain 3-4 pounds in the summer, and then drop it again during the first month of school. For one, I’m home during the day, so I tend to graze and consume more calories. Add that to not being as active (teaching is not a sedentary career. At least, not if you’re doing it right), and the summer alcohol intake, and there you go. During the school year, I might have 2 or 3 drinks in a week. During the summer, it’s not unusual for that number to triple. (I’m on vacation, people.)
And the number one thing I learned from my summer runstreak? 1. Running without rest is the surest way to kill my desire to run. You know how as a kid, when you have to take a nap, you hate them, but as an adult, a nap is a glorious luxury? What should have been an enjoyable few months to train without having to squeeze in runs at 5am before work, or mustering up the energy to run after 9 hours at school, became endless days of obligatory mileage.
All in all, I’m not opposed to runstreaks as a motivational kickstart (after all, one got me on the path to my first half marathon training plan), but they’re not for me as a regular practice.