[Godiva column – Jan 2020] On resolutions and run streaks

Hi Godivans, and Happy New Year! It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome you to our first 2020 newsletter and my first President’s column. On this, the first day of a new year, you might be considering setting a new goal – a resolution, if you will – for the upcoming year. Perhaps you intend to save money; to spend more (…or less?) time with your kids; to lose (or gain) weight; to read more books; to actually use all your saved-up PTO; to cuddle your cat or dog more often….or, perhaps, your goal is running related – to run your first 5K or marathon; to never run a marathon again; or, to run every day for a year.

I’ve never been a streaker (oh, thank god, you must be thinking – our new President doesn’t often run around with no clothes on!) – sorry, a run streaker – but on the 9th of December in 2018, a day of rare snow and ice in Durham, I unknowingly took my last day off for over a year. I tried to run that day, but the immediate burning cold of the sleet and ice permeating my shoes sent me inside after 0.4 miles to a warm cup of cocoa. Whatever the reason, it was still a day off. A day of no running. The next day, I jogged on Duke’s campus, conveniently paved perfectly while the rest of Durham remained a frozen mess. The day after that, I ran again. And again. And again. And then I found myself, six months later, after running the Umstead Marathon for the 3rd time, a half marathon PR, a handful of Godiva Winter Series races and other workout efforts and long runs, without having taken a single day off, and without having run less than 3 miles per day on any day.

I didn’t plan for this, you see, because I’m not a streaker. A RUN streaker. But now it had been half a year, an accidental streak, the longest streak I’d done since I began running ‘seriously’ 3 years ago. I refused to call it a streak. More time passed. Once I realized it was looking like a streak, though, I started to reflect on (….or, as an over-analytical introvert, obsessively overthink) how I got here – what I settled on, and what has kept me going, was that I just like to run every day. In the time between that last day off and the day I realized I accidentally did a run streak, there wasn’t a day where I didn’t want to run; where it felt like a chore, an obligation, an item on my ever-growing to do list, to run; where I felt like it was maybe a bad idea to run due to illness or injury. In summary, I got pretty lucky. I had a good six months, and I didn’t need a day off, so I never even thought about taking a day off.

Perhaps just in time, I committed to keeping it going as long as I could, not because streaking (RUN STREAKING!) seemed like a fun idea but because I genuinely believe, for me, running every day works much better than…not. As the summer came and the days got hotter (and hotter, and also hotter), I just knew I had to get out there and run. In the fall, after I ran my first (and second) ultra-marathons, I didn’t consider taking a day off after a race even though I felt beat up in all sorts of new and exciting ways. To date, I’ve run 3 miles or more for 385 consecutive days. (I should note, for posterity, that there are folks in this very community with much longer streaks than mine – some over 1000 days! – but alas, they are not president and don’t get to write this column, so you’re stuck hearing about my measly 385.) In total, I’ve had perhaps 2 or 3 days where I just wanted to give it up or wasn’t sure it was a good idea to run, and I’ve had many more days where it was a challenge to even fit in a run on a busy work or travel day, but I’ve done it, every day, no matter what.

You might be asking….why even bother doing this, especially with all those difficult days you just described? Aren’t rest days important? Are all your columns going to be like this? Is this just how you write, all the time?!

As I mentioned above, I’ve settled on “I just like doing this” as my ‘why’. But really, it’s more than that. For me – and certainly, your body could be different – my body responds well to running every day. I have a few years of experience at this point to know that previously, when taking days off (particularly after a harder effort), the next day back was horrible. Somehow, it always felt like I just forgot how to run. My body acted weird; everything felt off; did my legs always move this awkwardly? what do I do with my arms? I never felt particularly refreshed after a day off, and the day off itself brought with it feelings of guilt and listlessness. You might be thinking, “that sounds more like a deep-rooted mental issue of discomfort with sitting still and not being busy”, and you are most certainly correct. Another benefit I’ve found in running every day is for recovery – after a race or an otherwise hard effort, it might be tempting to do nothing the next day, but I’ve found I always feel better (less stiff; less sore) after an easy recovery run. The key word there is ‘easy’, and I mean ‘don’t even look at your watch or think about pace’ easy. The third, and perhaps most important, benefit of running every day is entirely mental – I never sweat a bad day. When I ran 3-5 days a week, one meh day would throw my mental game out the window. Now, two bad days in a week? I had lost ALL of my fitness. I should drop out of the upcoming race. Why do I even bother running? Why don’t I just go back to CrossFit?! Running every day gives you more of a buffer and makes it easier to remember that one has good days running, bad days running, totally forgettable and uneventful days running…you get the point. One or two of out five days being bad in a week vs. one or two out of seven? Clearly the latter is better. It’s just MATH!

I thought it timely to share about my streak in case you are thinking about your own 2020 goals or resolutions. I have never been a fan of resolutions, but setting incremental goals and making commitments do work for me. Of course, to each their own – resolutions can work, but it seems to me that resolutions work best via….setting incremental goals and making commitments….rather than via nebulous proclamations like “I will run more this year” or “I will spend less time with my kids”. HOW you plan to spend less time with your kids seems like the important part, there, not the resolution itself. In the case of a run streak, it is a plan in itself. Perhaps I have, above, convinced you to give run streaking a try – if so, I apologize! Of course, another plan could be to join a certain Godiva group run every week, or to follow a specific training plan in the lead-up to a goal race.

Whatever your goals may be for the upcoming year, I wish you the best of luck in sticking with them. I hope that, for many of you, your running-related goals can be supported by Godiva throughout the year – I’m excited for a year of maintaining all the great traditions of Godiva while also thinking of new and innovative ways to engage with our community. I personally look forward to having many of my daily runs overlap with many of you throughout the year. Happy 2020, friends, and thank you for allowing me to step up in this way to lead our community into this new decade!

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