Today was Day 72 of my summer run streak - a continuation of the Runner's World 2013 Summer Run Streak. I'd seen lots of other runners on Dailymile and Twitter participating in run streaks but it wasn't until Thanksgiving of last year that I tried it out for myself. [Hmmm. Something just occurred to me. I obviously like to kick off new lifestyle habits around Thanksgiving. I went vegetarian the day after Thanksgiving in 2011.] The Runner's World Holiday Run Streak challenges athletes everywhere to run at least 1 mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. I completed the challenge and actually hung on a few extra days, ending on Day 50 with an almost midnight run in Orlando, FL the night we arrived at our hotel in Disney World, 2 days before we started Goofy's Challenge. I didn't have any expectations or goals with the streak other than to listen to my body and give myself the flexibility to stop whenever it seemed "right". It happened on Day 50 the last time. I'm hoping to make it to at least 100 days this time around.
The first sign my current streak was in jeopardy came yesterday in the first half mile of a planned "easy 3-5 miles". We headed out to the beach with some of our Galloway marathon training members the day before (Saturday). It was a very slow 20 miles as I was running with our 1 min run/1 min walk group. It's a lot more walking than my body is used to and our overall pace was about 4.5 minutes/mile slower than my personal LSD pace. Runners often ask me how I can run so much slower for such a long time - and my answer is simple: these training runs aren't about me, they are for our members! My focus is their journey and their success. My role is one of support and motivation (ie. leave your ego in the car!!). A few of us cooled our legs and feet off in the cold Pacific Ocean afterwards. That feels SO incredibly good after a long run! I was tired, like anyone would be who covered 20 miles in 5 hours on their own two feet. A little lower back pain, a creaky IT band and some general stiffness but nothing alarming.
I didn't rush to jump on the treadmill for the easy 3-5 miles Sunday morning. I slept in past 5:30 (woo hoo!), had my coffee and cruised the Internet for a while. The stiffness was subsiding but running for 30+ minutes wasn't sounding like such a great idea. Just get on the TM and see how the first mile goes - that's the whole point of this streaking thing, isn't it? - I told myself. I walked for about 2 minutes and bumped my pace up to 5.5mph. I took the incline down to 0.0% (from my normal 1%) because it felt instantly tiring to be on any kind of incline. I stayed mentally flexible with the plan and decided to try walking for 30-45 seconds after every 0.25 miles run. After about 0.5 mile, my left hip joint started aching. Almost like I could feel the inflammation of tendons or ligaments. I slowed down my walking speed so I wasn't talking big steps that would over-stretch my hips. I hit STOP as soon as I made it to 1 mile. I know better than to push it (and sometimes I even know when to listen to myself!).
I had some fleeting thoughts I could run for an hour this morning since I "lost" a couple of miles yesterday, but thought better of it and held myself to a relaxed 4 miler at a 10 min/mile pace. I'm coming off 2 40-mile weeks in a row, not to mention I've been running a series of 800's for the last 5-6 weeks in preparation for a PR attempt at the Disneyland Half Marathon on 9/1/13. I was ready to pull the plug on the streak today if my run today was uncomfortable but alas, it was pain free and I actually wanted to keep going! I may push for a tempo pace on Wednesday but I'll play it by ear.
Is Streaking Right For You?
There is a delicate balance between keeping a run-streak going and training hard for a race. My advice is to WAIT to try your first streak until:
1) you have been running consistently for 4-5 days/week for at least 6 months;
2) run "only" 1 mile on every 3rd or 4th day
3) you know how your body reacts to over training;
4) you are willing to end the streak at any time.
A couple of thoughts I remind myself in the middle of a streak: No streak is worth an injury or missing a race goal over. The best thing about a run streak is that you can always start over or set a new streak goal. After all, it's YOUR streak and YOUR goals!