Streak ends

Two years later than planned but my running streak finally came to an end at 845 consecutive days of 5K or more. The daily average was 6.3 miles, a touch over 10K. It started back on Dec 8th 2019 at the Christchurch 10K. I ran 46:30 that day and knew I needed to rebuild my running fitness. I’d been running 10K in 42-mins in the summer but about three weeks before the race, I’d caught a mystery illness that affected me for five days – headache, fever and then a loss of fitness. I’m tempted to say it was some early variant of Covid19 and well, who knows.

So I targeted rebuilding fitness thinking I’d enter Bournemouth Bay 1/2M at the start of April 2020. But, news of the Covid19 pandemic broke and I held off entering and it turned out to be the correct decision as we went into lockdown in late March. By then my running was beginning to pick up and I was running a nine mile Steady run around the locale in 1hr9.

My run streak was out to 100 days and I thought I’d see how far I could take it, fully expecting we’d be out of lockdown in 2-3 months and everything would be getting back to normal. If it went on longer and I reached September with my run streak then I’d try to take it through to the end of the year so I could say I’d done it. Of course, it didn’t work out like that.

With the endurance looking good, I dived into a routine of hill sprints, bounding and plyometrics to strengthen the legs. I overdid it and by mid-June I was feeling overcooked, suffering aches and pains every morning, before and after runs. These went on through July and August even though I adjusted my routine.

At the beginning of September I made an honest assessment of the situation. As much as I wanted to try to get to the end of the year with my running streak, I knew four more months of the aches and pains would be too much. If it had been say 4-6 weeks I could have pushed through. So I made a deal with myself, I’d back off the training pace but if I was still in agony at start of October, I’d take some rest days and end the streak. It worked, as after three weeks, the pain had eased but I still wasn’t fully recovered so I backed off even slower than the 9:15/mile I was jogging at. Some way off the seven minute mile pace I was running for 5K.

The true beginning of my rebuild, and all that has come since, began on September 21st 2020. I cut my daily recovery runs from an hour to forty minutes and dropped the pace down even further. My first three runs averaged 10:02/mile, 10:05/mile, 9:48/mile! I kept a Sunday long run and this came in at 9:25/mile. Within 2-3 weeks, I was beginning to feel much better, all the aches and pains had disappeared and the pace was a little quicker. There was still the occasional recovery run which was closer to 10min/mile but my 3rd Sunday run came in at a more effortful 8:41/mile (HR averaging 146bpm). By November I was beginning to feel strong, to add in strides and look for ways to work on adding more ‘stress’ to the runs. Everything was beginning to feel comfortable.

At the start of December, ten weeks after starting my rebuilding; I began 800m training with a time trial. And since then my training has been ever focused on that. I ran every day of 2020 and 2021 and continued on into 2022. Finally two years later than planned, I entered this year’s Bournemouth Bay run. I spent February and March running the nine mile Steady run again. Where in 2020 it had peaked at 1hr09, now it was 1hr03. My run streak finally ended two days before the half marathon and gave the legs a couple of days to carbo load and hopefully be at their best. It didn’t turn out that way but that’s a different story.

And so having run the half marathon I began a new streak … I didn’t run for the next five days!

This is the moral of the story. Streaks don’t matter – they should support your training – not be the goal. My run streak ended at 845 days because I had a race coming up. I didn’t run for five consecutive days because I was recovering from it.

On reflection there were one or two days in my run streak where I would have been better off taking a rest day or doing the run at a different time of day, or shorter distance – even I’m not immune to flights of ego but it never came to dominate. I was ready to give the streak up in September 2020 when the aches and pains were at their peak but some adjustments allowed everything to get on track.

But the streak itself? Well, it’s nice to talk about but the experience is more important to me. I’ve learned so much from going out every day. You get to see how the body is affected and reacts to tiredness. You begin to learn how quickly you recover, to learn when the legs genuinely don’t have more and when they do. And, of course, my fitness has improved. Recently able to run nine miles at the same pace as I would have run 5K a couple of years ago.

For the most part though, I’ve simply enjoyed going out for a run or jog. There is no new streak. I doubt I will ever run every day for over two years again. I hope to be entering more races and taking rest days before and after them.

731 days and counting …

Somehow my Run Every Day streak has hit two years. There was never any intent to start a streak but it began back on December 8th 2019 at Christchurch 10K following a rest day. Post-race I began rebuilding my aerobic base with the aim of running a spring half marathon. Then the pandemic hit and we were all thrown into lockdown – only being allowed out for exercise and essential shopping. Having already clocked up one hundred consecutive days I thought I’d see how long the streak could go, fully expecting it to finish sometime in the summer once the pandemic was over(!), but if I went past that, aiming to do the whole of the calendar year as a challenge. And since then it’s just gone on. I’ve found no particular need for a rest day this year and as I haven’t entered any races other than this year’s edition of Christchurch 10K, I’ve kept running.

How did I motivate myself?

The streak has been incidental to my running. Running is something I love doing. When you do things for love, there is no concept of motivation. People who like fine food, don’t have to motivate themselves to go out to eat!

The sort of reasons why I love running are that it keeps me fit and provides a challenge to be better than I ever have. There are different event distances to get better at, as well as the technical challenge of trying to improve my running form and adding on strength and conditioning for an overall healthy, longer life. Looking after my future health by taking care of myself now is an easy motivation for me.

I guess it would also be fair to say there is hidden motivation coming from being a natural goalsetter. In the early days of the streak I was focused on getting fit for my spring half marathon, then it was extending the streak through lockdown, then the calendar year and now it’s daily running to support my 800m training. As I saw each milestone ticked off, a new one just a few months ahead naturally presented itself. So it just kept going.

How did I make time to run?

I have a routine. I often run at the same times each day.  By having that routine it becomes a priority to my life. In turn that buffers my own mental health and wellbeing because I’m putting myself first regularly in some part of my day. It sends an underlying message to my subconscious that what I want matters.  It’s not that I won’t be flexible when the occasion demands, but having the time blocked out “for me” makes it easier to be flexible when other demands arise.

How did I get out for runs when the legs were tired?

First and foremost, I let my body dictate how it wants to run. I generally schedule four easy/recovery runs each week lasting around forty minutes. I’ll run these as slow as my body wants, or more specifically only as fast as it lets me. I make sure I set off slowly (aka warming up) and I listen to how fast my body wants to go. I don’t push to go faster on these days, I just accept whatever pace my body lets me have.

There’s always a Sunday long run each week. In the early days of the streak I aimed for this to last two hours, but when I took up 800m training I reduced it 1hr30 and found a 11½ mile route which facilitated it.

The other two days of the week tend to be some kind of effort session. Whether that’s a one-hour Steady run, an interval session or parkrun; it’s more likely I push things and won’t be listening to my body. That’s fine because I have all the other days to recover.

But throughout I’ve always been monitoring how I feel, looking for signs of overtraining and ready to drop back and slot in a recovery week.

What have been the benefits?

Obviously I’ve been staying fit and healthy and hopefully getting faster, but there’s also a hidden benefit that only showed itself through daily running. I began to learn about the day-to-day fluctuations in how my body feels and wants to run. I started to understand what soreness meant, able to predict up or down days and be able to accept that sometimes the body can’t do too much.

Many amateur runners only run two or three times per week. If they’re marathon training they start to struggle to follow their plan because they feel lousy or tired. They don’t think they can do those runs slower or reduce the length while still doing something; they simply go all-or-nothing. Running every day ‘forced’ me to go out on the days when I didn’t want to and, by doing that, it’s helped me understand my running body better and figure out how to train to be able to do that without getting injured.

When will it end?

I never intended to have a run streak and despite ensuring I slot in recovery runs, I think there has been a build-up of residual muscle damage that would benefit from a rest day. If I get back to 10K or half marathons in 2022, I’ll be taking rest days in the lead up as part of the final taper. If the winter months in early 2022 are icy and cold, I’m certain I’ll take a rest day. It’s quite possible though I’ll get to the end of 2022 and be writing about my three year run streak!

Over the two years I’ve run over 4,500 miles and it’s consistently been thirty-five to fifty miles each weeks depending where I’m at in my training schedule. Every run streak has to have parameters, Ron Hill’s famous fifty-two year streak involved one mile every day; mine has turned out to be at least 5K every day. There was one day back near the beginning where I only did 4K but, as I said, there was no intention to create a run streak and it’s all arbitrary anyway. It’s not like I’m doing this for a world record, charity or at the expense of anyone else. It’s a nice, little story to tell but not much more than that in my book. The run streak has been something building in the background while I train.

Short sprint – On streaks

On the last day of the month, I spotted someone on Strava mentioning they’d slogged out a six mile run to keep their streak of 100-mile months going. I’ve got my own experience of streaks, after all I’ve been running every day for over eighteen months now. But I never set out to create a run streak, it just evolved due to Coronavirus and lockdowns.

I learned from parkrunning that a streak can become an albatross around the neck. For the first eighteen months or so of my parkrun life, I attended one wherever I was. It got to the point where the expectations of others to see me, my own desire to be there, plus getting up early on a Saturday morning began to weigh me down. Even the streak itself began to become a relentless pressure. When I picked up an injury in the depths of winter I finally had a reason to break the streak. As soon as I broke the streak all the pressure released and I was no worse off.

I still remained an enthusiastic parkrunner, turning up almost every week, so that by 2015 I’d only missed six parkruns in four years. Among other things I was focused on reaching my 250-club t-shirt and had calculated I’d reach it the following February. Then I changed my mind. Or rather I got my head out of the ego-driven, limitations of my mind that were pushing me on towards the t-shirt as well as the routine that Saturday morning parkrun had become.

What I realised is I’d stopped enjoying parkrun. It was a combination of small things. The journey there and back through heavy traffic. Getting out of bed early for a 6am breakfast. Going to Kings Park in Bournemouth, where an icy wind whips across the fields, and the crowds gather in the shadow of the grandstand while the sun rises behind it. Standing around until the 9am start time to be allowed to go run and then having to weave my way through masses of people who’d gone off too fast. I was no longer running all-out every week but using it as a training session. My love of parkrun had died because it no longer fitted with my needs or what I liked. I wasn’t getting out of it what I had four years earlier.

So I stopped and only attended occasionally.

I began to enjoy my Saturday mornings again. Doing things on my own time and schedule. Getting out of bed when I wanted. Having breakfast when I wanted. Going for the type of run and distance I wanted. Often it was an hour’s easy run closer to midday.

After six months I felt replenished and with a couple of 10K races coming up, I went back knowing some fast parkruns would help my training. Since then this has been the pattern. I go to parkrun when it’s helping me with my training or because I want to see friends or be involved in some way. Streaks should support your training and goals, not be the point of them.

People often notice when a streak is causing them physical issues. They try to run through tightness or tiredness to keep the streak going until their body sends them undeniable signals forcing them to stop.

But streaks can also be detrimental to our mental health. Usually the mental side flags up much earlier as a loss of motivation, bad mood or grumpiness long before any physical problems. We become so focused on how it looks out there to keep our streak going that we don’t take the time to look in here to see how it’s affecting us.

Short sprint – Streaking on

Somehow, I’ve created a run streak that goes back into the 2010s. Admittedly it’s only just a decade ago as my last rest day was December 7th 2019 but it’s still a streak of over eighteen months. It’s been 5K every day often more.

It sounds impressive to anyone who isn’t a runner.

It sounds impressive to people who are runners.

No-one has asked me about it but I imagine the sort of question I’d get is “How do you motivate yourself to keep getting out there?”. Well, motivation has rarely been something I had to think about. I have running goals and to reach those goals, I have to get out and do the training, but equally I make it manageable so it never becomes a strain.

My seven day week splits into three workouts and four recovery runs. The workouts are the exciting part of the week where I get to do something that’s different, that’s exciting and which I know will progress me towards my goals. How can I not be motivated to go do those?

The recovery runs are more mundane but they’re usually only around forty minutes long. Once you’ve been running consistently for a while it’s the sort of run that seems to be over before it’s started. If I were a less experienced runner, I’d probably only do twenty or thirty minutes until the fitness expanded to make them feel achievable.

But it’s the pace of the recovery runs that makes them, and therefore the streak, achievable. I always keep them very easy. Some of them have been closer to ten minute miles even though I can run much, much quicker. I focus on my breathing from the beginning and never put in any undue effort on the hills. I never try to speed up, I just let my body take me along at the pace it wants to go. Sometimes there are days when I have to stumble through the run because the legs are feeling hollow but, more often than not, it’s a chance to get out, look around and think about life.

It wasn’t always like this. When I trained a decade ago, I pushed myself harder on every run but that then lowered my motivation for getting out there frequently. Your body is good at telling your mind when it’s had enough but, while people hear it, invariably they don’t act compassionately towards themselves. Some days I turned round after a mile because I knew my legs couldn’t handle the run. It’s just not possible for a poorly trained runner to run hard every day and not need the occasional break. I haven’t been taking rest days but that doesn’t mean I have been taking a break.

Streaking into 2021

With 2020 now done and dusted, it’s an understatement to say it was a difficult year for everybody. From a running perspective, the lack of races, parkruns and even club sessions left many runners questioning why they run. Personally I run because I enjoy it, the races and parkruns are side attractions where I like to test my mettle. While my year started with a rebuild of my fitness, it ended with me having run every day, failing to get faster over 5K and heading in a new direction with 800m training.

The rebuild of fitness began after I suffered a four day illness in late November 2019. It was probably a standard winter flu virus although it’s tempting to claim it was an early version of Covid-19 but realistically the timing is wrong even though some of the symptoms, like loss of taste, were the same. Anyway whatever it was, this all took place the week before the Christchurch 10K and with my aerobic fitness wiped out, I struggled round to receive the annual reward of a Christmas pudding! After that I focused on the rebuild which I knew would take about six weeks and got out running every day. I attended Christmas Day parkrun at Poole with its record attendance of over 1,300 then went to visit friends and ran Rushmoor and Frimley Lodge parkruns on New Year’s Day. By February, the legs were perking up; I was running ten miles on a Sunday at a good clip and ready to up my training.

It was my intention to run Bournemouth Bay 1/2M at the start of April and take a few days rest going into it. But with the onset of Covid-19, I delayed my entry and we ended up entering lockdown in the last week of March. As leaving the house was limited, I continued to run every day and it was a fantastic time to be out running. The roads were traffic free, almost deserted and I remember running at 10am one morning barely seeing anyone for the first mile. It was eerie and quiet like a scene from “28 Days Later”, the 2002 film where the protagonist awakes from a coma to find London deserted. But then, if you’ve seen “28 Days Later”, you’ll know 2020 wasn’t far off a real life version of it.

By the end of March I’d been running for 115 days straight and there was no sign of stopping. I decided that with lockdown in place, no races in sight and uncertainty about when the world would be back to normal, this would be my chance to create the longest run streak of my lifetime. And I mean lifetime. All being well, I’ve got a few decades ahead but I always take rest days before and often after races. If I’m still running in my 70s and 80s, I’ll still be entering races. I don’t usually go more than three months without a race.

Streakwise I’d already surpassed my previous best of 76 days so the question was how long could this one go?  I figured if I reached September I’d try to see out the whole of 2020. But that was still a long way off so I focused on now.

My standard running year is to build stamina in the winter then work on speed for 5K and 10K races in the summer. There weren’t going to be any of those coming up but I pressed on with the plan hoping, as we all did, that racing and parkrun would be back in a few months. I’d also noticed my vertical jump had dropped over the years. When I played basketball I was able to touch the ring and my jump was about 70cms, now it was 42cms at best and I felt little spring in my legs. This shouldn’t have been a surprise because I hadn’t done any dedicated running speedwork in over three years and it was over a decade since I’d been playing the sports that had built big thigh muscles for jumping. So while everybody else was following Joe Wicks’ classes on Youtube, I started my own fitness regime of hill sprints, skipping, side jumps, step-ups and depth jumps. I also started bounding, like a triple jumper, which was great fun and began to highlight some changes I needed to make to my running action.

I continued to run daily and began 5K training with a time trial at Poole Park benchmarking in at 22:05. I was twenty-five seconds slower than I’d been on New Year’s Day. My fastest kilometre had only been 4:14 and I found myself struggling to even hit 4:30 towards the end. But a benchmark is there to find out where you’re starting from and over the next six weeks I ran kilometre intervals twice per week and saw my speed pick up to reach a best time of 3:50. A second time trial at the beginning of July came in at 21:32. A 30+ second improvement isn’t to be sneezed at, but I’d also expected better from six weeks of training so there was something missing. What I didn’t immediately realise was that another rebuild was looming.

The day after the second time trial, it was obvious my body had switched over to speed mode rather than the endurance mode needed for distance running. I could feel it in my long runs where I felt like I was running fast, yet each week’s run came in within seconds of the previous weeks’. Nonetheless I thought I could train myself out of it with a more restrained approach to my interval work but I was wrong. By mid-August I had to admit defeat and think about another rebuild. There was another problem. I was struggling with many aches and pains in my ankles and feet, as well as my lower back. This is always a sign I’ve done too much fast running and need to do recovery work.

On top of all this I started a core stability programme in mid-August. I’d always thought my core was reasonably strong. Certainly whenever I planked against other people they’d struggle to hold it for as long as me and I could hold for 1-2 minutes. But I was wondering how on earth the guy who holds the record at over five hours for a plank could manage that. The longest I’d ever managed was three minutes which is a long way off. Researching I came across a statement that once you go over a minute there’s no benefit to planking for longer, and then I discovered the Big3 programme of Stuart McGill which he’d developed from working with spinal rehab patients.

I began doing the Big3 programme nightly but after a week it was too much, too soon so I backed off and let things settle down. A week later, after my Sunday long run, I bent down to untie my shoelace and felt an ache in my side that took two hours to subside. It wasn’t a bad pain just one that indicated I’d been working the core throughout my two hour run. I realised that while I may always have had a strong core, it had never been integrated into my running and was allowing me to twist and turn my shoulders and hips too much. I continued with the core stability and found an additional benefit was my golf swing became more connected.

Going into September the aches and pains in ankles and feet were becoming too much to bear. My streak was intact but I knew I wouldn’t get through four more months of daily running. I had to be honest with myself about this. It was tempting to think I could take it one day at a time but deep down I knew realistically it would be too many days. If this had been mid-November, with a month or so to go, it would have been different but not four months. I didn’t want to give up without trying to fix things before I took a rest day, so I made a deal with myself – I’d give it until October and if there was no respite from the pain by then, I’d end the streak.

Knowing the pains were a sign I was doing too much, I scaled back my daily one hour runs to forty minutes and shortened my Sunday long run to give less training to recover from. Over the first couple of weeks, the pain eased and I found myself sleeping up to nine hours each night. But despite running at over 9min/mile I returned from each run sweating. I knew from the sweat I was overcooked on the speed side. If I was to get out of this hole, I had to drop back and run even slower.

The week beginning September 21st, I dropped back to running at ten minutes per mile. The average pace of that week’s runs were 10:02/mile, 10:05, 9:48, 9:11, 9:27, 9:53, 9:25. It was a big step back when you consider my kilometre intervals had been easily faster than seven minute per mile. The following week wasn’t much faster but I was arriving home barely sweating and the aches and pains soon eased up. It was beginning to feel relaxing.

After three weeks I began to throw in a faster mid-week run at 8:30/mile and then a couple of strides into my Sunday long runs. By mid-November the midweek run was sub-8 pace and the aches and pains that had plagued me just a few months before were forgotten. Easing up the pace had allowed the muscles to recover, switch to building endurance and the pace to pick up. There was still a variance between the pace of all my runs – days of faster running needed to be followed by a day or two of slower but I was sleeping less and the general pace was improving. All the while I continued the core stability programme on Mondays and Thursdays and found my running form was transforming. Less rotation of the shoulders and hips, more glutes driving me forward.

Finally December of this difficult year rolled around. The streak was still on. I’d always had in mind to get to the 8th to achieve a year’s worth of running and that would then leave a few weeks to complete the whole calendar year. With the quiet of lockdown, I’d had time to think about my own running and why I’d struggled to run the sort of times that my training should have brought. Some years ago I half-joked that I would have been better suited to middle-distance running, or even the sprints, and now I decided to test this by trying my hand at 800-metre training.

To start off December I ran a 800m time trial in 2min58. Considering the world record is under 1min42, that’s a long way from being decent but considering I’d done no dedicated speedwork in years I figured this wasn’t terrible. The following week I began running two intervals sessions each week geared towards building speed over shorter distances. Now as we begin 2021, four weeks have been done and so far so good. My general runs are getting faster and I’m loving the interval work. I like the daily jogs but interval work has always been something I enjoyed much more than any distance run. Often what you enjoy doing is an indicator to what you’re best suited.

So that was the rollercoaster of my 2020 running. Three months spent rebuilding fitness. The following months working on strength and speed. Then back to rebuilding. The underlying positive has been one of a gradual improvement in running form through sprints, bounding and core stability work. I’ve wondered whether the need for the second rebuild was down to the revised form, the body discovering a need to rewrite all its motor programmes as lesser-used muscles began to take precedence over those that have turned out to be inefficient and overdeveloped. Could it be I’m like a beginner starting out and building up for the first time?

In the background there’s been the aim to complete a year of running every day. It never started off that way but became a goal as our circumstances change. The streak itself was never there to be a social media boast, it was a bucket list tick off so one day I’d be able to say I did it.  But I also wanted to experience it and pass on what I learnt. While the early days of my streak never felt difficult, as the year wore on I began to feel jaded. Even when I reset things in September and lowered both the pace and volume of my running I began to lose my enjoyment of running. Completing the streak began to hang over me like a dark mist. With December’s nights drawing in, shorter days, colder and wetter weather I began to struggle to feel enthusiasm to get out on my runs. The introduction of 800m training added an extra stimulus to recover from and most likely contributed to that mood.

Yet as soon as I had streaked the year, the mist lifted and I felt happier in the knowledge that I didn’t have to run if I didn’t want to. Where before I’d been thinking ahead, planning each day’s run with an eye on the run that followed, now I’m able to run in the moment. If I overdo things at any time, having a rest day is back on the table as an option. I realise run streaks are a good thing when they support your training but not when they stop you from listening to your body.

A year of running – 365 days with bonus Feb 29th for free


Halloween’s arrived and I find myself with a running streak stretching back into 2019. It was never my intention to run every day until we got hit by coronavirus when my plans to do Bournemouth Bay 1/2 marathon went out the window. Usually I’d have taken a rest day going into a race but of course there was no race so I kept on running. “To run every day of 2020” became my new challenge.

Continue reading “Streaks”