As I write this, I’m sitting on my couch trying to work up the energy to go for a run. It’s not just the physical energy, it’s the mental energy that I’m lacking. Today is day 19 of the Runner’s World Summer Run Streak, which started on Memorial Day and ends on July 4. I’ve run at least one mile (often more than one) every day for the last 18 days, and this week I’ve hit a wall.
I started the streak on a bit of a whim. My running had been so inconsistent, and I wanted a new way to get motivated. A couple days after I decided I’d do it, I asked a few friends if they wanted to join in as well. This quickly turned into a bet between one of said friends and me: whoever ran fewer miles would treat the other to brunch when everything was all said and done. My friend has been an avid runner for a little over a year now, and I knew going into the bet that I was going to be the one paying for brunch. But that was fine (and still is)–again, I just wanted something to keep me motivated.
The streak started out hard both mentally and physically. I felt tired and dragged a bit through most of the first week. But after about four days, I felt like I’d broken through a wall and my running felt free and easy. I’d never been a big proponent of running streaks before beginning my own, and all of a sudden I wanted to tell everyone how great an idea it was. ‘Why doesn’t everyone do this?’ I found myself wondering. ‘This is the most amazing thing! I can’t imagine ever taking a day off of running again!’ All the worrying I’d been doing a few weeks earlier when my running schedule was erratic and fraught with anxiety disappeared, as it was no longer a question of whether or not I should run. Knowing that I’d be running no matter what took the edge off of some of the things about running that had gotten so difficult for me and had been holding me back for months. I ran through a nasty cough, in torrential downpours, and through some horrible humidity, all the while feeling alive and undaunted. The experience was exhilarating! This feeling of elation lasted a while–up until the beginning of this past week, in fact.
After day 15, things changed, and the past few days have felt more like a chore than anything else. I haven’t run more than 2.5 miles at a time since Monday; I haven’t had the energy or the desire to go much further than that. I’ve had to buy more running socks because I don’t have enough pairs to keep up with the rate at which we do our laundry, and I’ve started wearing some of my running tops and sports bras more than once between washings. I’ve found myself getting annoyed with the fact that the constant humidity has also got me feeling like I’m constantly sweating, and like my sweaty running clothes will never be completely dry again, no matter how long I hang them up to air out in the bathroom. I’ve noticed that almost every time I go running, I get some sort of comment from the people I pass on the sidewalk on my way to the park–”Hey gorgeous”, “Oh, hellooo…”, or just a simple but lascivious, “Niiiiice” as I run by. Maybe this stuff was happening all along, and I just didn’t notice because I wasn’t running as frequently. Who knows? Needless to say, it’s dampened my enthusiasm for going out. Yesterday, feeling both exhausted and physically sick, I delayed for a long time before finally putting my running shoes on and doing a quick 1.2 miles. Under normal circumstances, I would have let myself off the hook for an upset stomach. But with a running streak comes an obsessive need to keep going no matter what. My stomach hurt, sure, but why should that stop me from running a mile? Surely I could get through a mile. If I didn’t, I was throwing away 17 days of hard work.
It was while in the throes of this obsessive thinking that I realized that maybe this streaking stuff wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. If I missed one day, did that really discount 17 days of running? Or any of the other runs that had come before this one? Would the running be less meaningful if I didn’t manage to do it for 39 days straight? Even I, with all my anxiety and perfectionism, could see how potentially unhealthy this could be. And sure, 39 straight days of running is great, but enjoying the time you spend on your feet is even better.
So the upside of all this is that once I publish this post, I’ll get up, put on my running shoes, and head out the door. I’m feeling a bit low energy today, but I think being able to work through this sort of inertia is more healthy than it is unhealthy when it comes to running. Still, though, I’m not sure that once I’ve gotten through day 39 that I’ll keep going through days 40, 41, 42, and on and on. In fact, I’m thinking instead that day 40 might be a perfect day for a massage and some rest. I’m pretty sure that in my case, a running streak is going to be a simple accomplishment, and not a way of life.