Monday, May 10, 2010

One thousand days of daily running

Last Friday, my running streak hit 1,000 days. Not since August of 2007 have I missed a day of running; every day since August 12 of that year I’ve run a mile or more. As of Friday, that totaled 1,000 days.

Several people who follow my running streak through personal contact or Twitter have been generous with their congratulations, emailing, Tweeting or tracking me down in person to comment on the milestone. My mother gave me a flowering rose plant with a card of congratulations – in fact, she left it on my kitchen counter while I was out doing that one thousandth run -- and my parents even took me out to lunch that day. My minister praised me for it as well. The comments have been flattering.

One thousand days may sound impressive to my friends who are not streak runners but puts me only at just above number 200 nationally on the United States Running Streak Association Registry, whose highest-ranked streak runners have done decades, not years, of consecutive daily running. So even as I reflect upon it, it’s with the awareness that another streak runner, whether registered with the USRSA or not, could be reading this and thinking “Two and a half years? I’ve done three and a half decades! Why are you even talking about it?”

And to some extent, I wonder why I’m talking about it too. A lot of people who ask me about my running streak have one question: How do you do it? The answer to that is so easy as to sound glib, though I don’t mean it to: To maintain a daily running streak, you just run every day. That’s all. And oh yes, you learn to ignore the weather and physical ailments and time crunches and deadlines and complicated travel plans, and you just…run every day. And eventually one thousand days have passed.

The harder question for me, which no one ever asks but which I sometimes ask myself, rather than how do you do it is why do you do it. When I started, back in August 2007, I had a good reason: it was a project I was undertaking with my then 8-year-old son. Our goal was to run together every day for a year, so that was reason enough for me to keep the streak through the first year. And then when that year ended, my son wanted to see how much longer we could go, so once again I needed no further justification: I did it because it was something Tim and I were in together.

But when Tim ended his daily streak at two years, I kept going. That was nine months ago now, and brought me from Tim’s total of 732 days to my current of 1,003. What I did to get here was easy: run. Why I did it is a lot harder for me to articulate.

I did it because I love running. I did it because I wanted to test my ability to commit to a daily practice, one that I knew would be much harder to maintain than my daily writing practice. (Yes, I said earlier it was easy, and in a pragmatic way it is, but there’s been plenty of ice, snow, frigid temperatures, thunderstorms, headaches and meetings that ran late over the past one thousand days.) But the biggest reason I ran for one thousand consecutive days and am continuing to do so three days later is that after a certain point I realized I’d need a really good reason to stop. For me, at this point I don’t need a reason to continue the streak – I continue the streak because I’m a streak runner – but I’d need a compelling justification to end it.

Still, I felt sheepish accepting the congratulations for reaching one thousand days, and couldn’t help suggesting that maybe I’d crowned myself Queen of the Trivial Pursuits. So you ran one thousand days? What good is that to society? Or, to be more blunt, who cares? Of all the things you could have been doing to save the world, or to improve your community, or even to better tend to your own family, where does running a daily mile fit in to the general goal of being a better person?

It doesn’t. Not really. And that’s why I don’t really see the one thousand day mark as a big deal. If I continue to run every day, lots of big benchmark numbers will come and go. But I still can’t get past the feeling that this is less about my willpower or fitness level and more about my ability to cleave on to a trivial commitment and refuse to let it go. Is that a growth experience?

I have trouble claiming it is. I can only hope that other, related talents and abilities related to commitment and tenacity are quietly taking root as a result. Maybe eventually, I’ll apply my streak-running neural pathways to something more valuable to society. For now, I’ll just continue the streak for the only reason I know: because it’s easier than coming up with a justification to break it, at more than one thousand days.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, Nancy! I can't believe 1000 days. And being in the top 200 of streak runners is is HUGE.

    I'm in awe of your discipline and commitment.