#comeon1more – Incremental Running Streak Month

2nd of November

Powered by hot baths, cold showers, horse ointment, and Chartreuse.

Since this COVID-19 pandemic is still going on, I’ve also still been missing out on real challenges. All the races remain cancelled and the outlook continues to be bleak.

One substitute that proved itself to be a viable option turned out to be self-appointed challenges. Set a (stupid) goal for myself and have a go at it. Back in June I followed through on a month long quest to run a #10keveryday, which has been very rewarding. My spirit and happiness, as well as my fitness level, went straight up. In the aftermath of that month I used that result to go for a double marathon weekend, then a week of daily half marathons, a go at a new personal best on the marathon distance (3:10:10, over seven minutes faster than my previous best), and a 100k run from Hamburg to the Baltic Sea

After that, I had finally exhausted myself and fell into a bit of a slump during August. In September, my training improved again, and as a few slower marathons with some running buddies kept creeping up, I got back into the mood. 

It’s nice to follow through with the idiocy together with others – this is Oli, his name will come up later a lot
It’s nice to follow through with the idiocy together with others – this is Oli, his name will come up later a lot

Time For a New Challenge

But what challenge to choose? In my plan for 2020, I had a bunch of options left. But none of the remaining resonated with what I really wanted to do. Which is run. So I remembered that on June 27th, during my #10keveryday month, I accidentally ran 27 kilometers and right then got the idea.

How about I do a month during which I run everyday for as many kilometers as is the day of the month?

It sounds easy at first, because the first few days would be just 1 km, 2 km, …, but over the course of the month it would get increasingly harder and culminate in a furious last week of the insane amount of 196 kilometers (25 + 26 + … + 31). 

The math behind it
The math behind it

This is just stupid enough that it could get interesting. And it might even be possible, so that’s a plus!

The First Few Days

On October 1st, I was quite motivated for this challenge and therefore didn’t want to start with really just 1 km, so I did a faster half marathon instead. 

But, in order to find out how these low number days would feel like, I actually did the mandatory minimum 2 km on October 2nd. It was weird. After 11 minutes it was already over, I barely even broke a sweat. Do I even take a shower now? 

October 3rd was a more fun as it was a Saturday which meant a long run with the running buddies.

27 easy kilometers along Grüner Ring and our river Elbe
27 easy kilometers along Grüner Ring and our river Elbe

The day after, while 4 km would have been enough to get through, I had plans to take part in a Hamburg Everest 2019 Revival. Some of the participants of last year’s race wanted to repeat the feat and so we again found ourselves at the foot of the mountain, 87 meters high Waseberg that is. Running up and down as long as everybody wants. I thought that a Vertical k could be fun, which means running so long that you reach 1,000 meters of elevation gain. That’s about 14 times up that hill, a total of 15.5 kilometers.

The better part of last year’s challengers appeared
The better part of last year’s challengers appeared
My co-initiator, Michael Mankus, was also there – and, sure enough, brought the beer
My co-initiator, Michael Mankus, was also there – and, sure enough, brought the beer

Needless to say, that run exhausted me. So it’s been good to have a bunch of very short runs coming up while still being able to keep the challenge going.

The Struggle Begins

For that reason I got some problems quite early in the month. The runs on the 5th and 6th turned out to be fights. I just did the minimum and felt sore from the Vertical k, still. 

On the 7th, we started our short family vacation towards Germany’s south, which gave me the opportunity to run in some new places. 

That’s the Danube river in the city of Ulm
That’s the Danube river in the city of Ulm
Sunrise run in Ulm, still sore from Waseberg
Sunrise run in Ulm, still sore from Waseberg

Especially on the 9th day, when I did a super early bird run through the inner city, I barely got the speed under 6:00 min/km, which is very slow for my standards. The muscles were doing better, but I certainly wasn’t feeling great. I’m still not sure what could have been the problem. But that’s also what these challenges are for, to make you power through regardless. The energy will come back. 

And that suddenly happened on the 10th of October. While still in Ulm, I just felt amazing all of a sudden. My speed increased naturally over the 10 kilometers and I landed on a fast last k at 4:00 min/km, bringing the average of that run to 4:46 min/km, which made me very happy. It seemed I finally came out of that slump and got into the rhythm of this challenge. 

The Breakthrough

That great run gave me much motivation for the next few days. Our vacation continued to the medieval city of Schwäbisch-Hall, a pretty place with lots of old buildings, surrounded by a few small mountains – huge mountains, by Hamburg standards. 

Pretty as a postcard
Pretty as a postcard

11 km on the 11th with 300 meters of elevation gain, and the next days all at a 5:00 min/km pace were really fun. I just enjoyed those days a lot. Back in Hamburg, I ran a bit slower on purpose, because the 17th would be special.

A Marathon in Between

Why not make it even more difficult by adding a full marathon in the middle, right? Fellow runner Fabi decided to go for his first ever marathon run on the 17th and asked for support. You don’t have to ask me twice for that sort of thing, so we had a nice and fulfilling day together with Oli who joined as well. As I ran to where we would start, I even got to about 45 km that morning. The pace was relaxed to accommodate Fabi’s feel-good speed, so it’s been very doable. 

Somewhere around the 35 km mark
Somewhere around the 35 km mark

How to Regenerate Quickly?

Usually, my go-to is a hot bath followed by a cold shower for the legs. But to be on the safe side, I added two new ingredients to the equation, because I felt like I would probably need them later this month so I might as well test them now. 

Horse ointment and Chartreuse, those are. Horse ointment (German “Pferdesalbe”) is a mix of some herbs which are supposed to stimulate the muscles into regenerating faster. Most notable is the distinct menthol smell. It cools down the legs, or whichever body part you use it on, for about an hour. That generally leaves a really good feeling, although it’s surely difficult to say what the actual effect is. But, if it feels good, it might be good, right?

Herbs on the outside, herbs on the inside. Chartreuse is an herbs based liquor, quite strong at 55 percent alcohol, with a very distinct smell, too. Its history is interesting because it originated somewhere between the year 1084 and 1605 with some monks in southern France. In 1605 the recipe was fixed but is to this day kept a secret and won’t leave the brains of just two designated monks of the Chartreuse region, only exception: one of them dies and has to be replaced. The liquor has been known and liked by many historic figures, such as Picasso and Mozart, but also plays a role in modern pop-culture, for example in the Quentin Tarantino movie, Death Proof. And, there’s a Pantone color named after it, because of that special green tone. 

Anyways, two fingers of Chartreuse on the rocks in the evening is delicious and normally leaves me relaxed, sleeping well, and feeling good the morning after. Cheers!

On October 18th I did a few park loops to reach 18 km, speed was good at 5:40 min/km, muscles felt fine. So the strategy probably works.

Now, the distances are finally long enough to reach parts of the city which are further away from me, like the Alster river in the center. So that’s what I did on the 19th. Also, that day, Oli joined me in the challenge with 19 km on his own, vowing to keep going until 31st to make it to 500 total kilometers during October. I really appreciated that. The motivation within myself was still high enough I could have done it alone, but together it’s just a lot easier. 

As he lives about 8 km away from me, it wouldn’t be possible to run together every day, but we made an effort to do so, still. For example, we often started at the same time and ran towards each other, then ran around for an hour or so and parted ways to get home again. That works quite well. Oli’s speed is a little slower than mine, which is great for me because it keeps my heartbeat down. And with all the talking the length of the runs was barely even noticeable. 

Starting a Movement

On the 23rd we couldn’t run together so I went to the nearby school which has a 285 meter track. I was just out of ideas for courses and wanted to not think about it today, so I might as well just run in circles, I thought. But I accidentally ran during school hours, so during a break dozens of kids came to the track to hang out. I was the only one running on the track, and the kids thought that was interesting enough so they started following me. It started out as a joke, but more and more kids were apparently starved for some exercise and joined in.

The pied piper
The pied piper

A few laps later, I was followed by 40 or 50 kids and shouted “can you go faster?“ to which they replied “of course!”, so we increased it to 4:20 min/km. It was real fun, they got excited and I was loving it, too. But then, as always, teachers put a stop to it. People are having fun? Stop it immediately! – is what they must think. 

The reason they gave was I wasn’t wearing a mask. Can’t argue with that, and I’m certainly not against masks. Admitting defeat, I left to a bunch of kids shouting “Bye!” – heartwarming. 

The Tough Part of the Month

Up until now, the daily runs didn’t leave a mark. Or maybe the horse ointment and Chartreuse were just working too well. But the runs now became more time consuming. On the weekend of the 24th and 25th I stayed at a hotel to get some decent sleep (starfish-shaped on a huge bed) and have a little get-away to recharge my batteries from daily life with four kids and two jobs. It was heaven on earth.  

Both days, Oli came over in the mornings so we could go for 24 and 25 kilometers respectively before I had a huge hotel breakfast. To start the days like that… perfect. For Oli, especially the 25 kilometer day worked really well, and he had his own sort of breakthrough there.

I think it was the 26th or 27th when I felt the exhaustion, really. The funny thing is, it slowly creeps up on you. Adding just one kilometer every day isn’t a huge deal, that’s the whole idea behind the challenge. I noticed that it became important to keep moving during the rest of the days, not just sit all day as I sometimes do while working. That sitting really intensifies the stiffness in the legs. Better to walk around and keep active. What also helped, was changing the course layout a bit. On the 26th, Oli and I went for mostly the Wittenbergen forest, arguably a bit tougher due to more elevation gain and loss, but using different muscles in the legs than the always flat Elbe river runs.

The 28th was a great day with lovely weather. I had to run during the lunch times and Oli had business and family matters to attend to which made it necessary for him to move the run to 10 PM even. Talk about a challenge there, coming home after midnight. 

Lucky me got to enjoy the middle of the day weather around here
Lucky me got to enjoy the middle of the day weather around here
29th, a bit more rainy and cold
29th, a bit more rainy and cold

These distances were all possible without taking any liquids with me. That’s also a thing I wanted to test: at which point would I really need to take water? At 28 and 29 I was feeling thirsty during the last 3-5 kilometers, but it was alright.

The Worst Day

Apart from the days after the Vertical k, I didn’t really struggle that hard, except for day 30. It was cold and uncomfortable outside, also rainy. Oli again had scheduling problems so he had to run around the block in between conference calls. I found a window to run before noon and ran towards him so we could have a few laps together to share the suffering. Both of us laughing at our stupid challenge in the rain, it made it a lot easier. 

But as I ran an extended lap back home alone in order to complete the total of 30 kilometers, the fun disappeared. The rain and wind got stronger. At 22 I felt weak and done. Also hungry, but I brought a Clif bar to eat, which saved me. Somehow I managed the remaining 8 kilometers and reached that daily goal (as well as Oli), but it wasn’t great. The suffering is part of it, I reminded myself. Without it, the completion would have been not nearly as rewarding. 

The Last Day

Finally, the 31st has come! And it’s a Saturday, so there are no workday constraints. With enough sleep and a relaxed starting time Oli and I went for our victory run of 31 kilometers. I took something to drink this time.

We ran to the Alster in the city center
We ran to the Alster in the city center

It’s been a great day and made us forget the few bad days before easily. 

There was even a bit more energy left in the tank to climb Docklands
There was even a bit more energy left in the tank to climb Docklands

During the last few kilometers, the weather got better and better. 

Sunny fall afternoon
Sunny fall afternoon
Also, Mathias and his son joined us for support on the last k
Also, Mathias and his son joined us for support on the last k
Sophie and my kids prepared a little finish line complete with chips and non-alcoholic beers – the best!
Sophie and my kids prepared a little finish line complete with chips and non-alcoholic beers – the best!

#comeon1more

Reaching that finish really felt great. Completing a difficult task usually does. Of course, the obvious question is, would I do this again? Or recommend it? To both I can answer a clear no.

For sure, it’s a challenge, and we both got through it without injuries, so it’s probably fair to say it’s not a really stupid idea per se. But on the other hand, I think it’s a bit much in the end and might not be furthering the fitness level. My stats were looking good and Oli and I both felt we increased our running abilities doing this, but the good old #10keveryday is surely a much smarter thing to do. 

Which is what I plan on doing again until the end of the year, starting November 1st. Because running is great, and running every single day makes every single day better. Simple as that!

The stats of the month on Runalyze
The stats of the month on Runalyze
I maxed out the monotony meter! Bing bing bing!
I maxed out the monotony meter! Bing bing bing!

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