Running Streak Month #10keveryday – Another Crazy Experiment
6th of July, 2020
I like to shake things up with doing little challenges during the year that are usually supposed to last for a month. It’s fun to follow through with difficult tasks I wouldn’t otherwise manage to complete.
In the past, I have done things like a month of daily planking exercises, a month of eating entirely vegan food, a month of avoiding products with more than 5 percent of sugar, a month of daily 7 minute workouts, and a few other challenges, mostly about nutrition or health.
Because nutrition and exercise are difficult areas to get right.
We all certainly know that it’s good to eat healthy and keep our bodies occupied with regular athletic activity. But as the benefits of that are not immediately apparent in many cases, it can be tough to follow through on a plan. Enter the monthly challenges! It’s just a motivational tool, basically. It provides instant gratification to me as I can check the mark whenever I completed a daily task or made it through a day of unusual behavior. Completing a month lifts that feeling up even further. And if the task turns out to suck, you’ll always know it’ll just last for a month until it’s over. Maybe the perception changes during that period.
As you might be aware, I planned 10 little monthly challenges for 2020. I call them “Secondary Goals”, coming right after my two main goals of running 12 marathons and reading 12 books throughout the year.
Goal #5 and Goal #6 of that list are, respectively:
- A running streak month, run every day for at least 5 kilometers.
- Do a month with at least 400 total running kilometers.
Where Does Motivation Come From?
Coming right out of a motivational abyss at the end of May, when I barely managed to go for just a single run per week, I felt I needed this. Briefly, the COVID-19 situation and resulting lack of marathon races robbed me of a lot of my usual motive to keep training. Sure, I went for some solo marathons anyways, but it just wasn’t same. What got to me especially was the lack of perspective – usually I’m looking forward to a special or tough race sometime in the future and that alone keeps me going. Missing that, I decided to stay home and prioritize other things. That’s good as well, but my general well-being and mental health noticeably suffered from the lack of physical exercise I used to enjoy.
Whenever I run, I feel happy and content afterwards. I remembered that during those times and it helped me.
Still, I started this challenge month by accident. There’s a religious national holiday in Germany which fell on June 1st this year. A Monday. Nearly all of my clients would abstain from writing emails and calling and my colleagues would also be rather quiet – a perfect day for a long run! So I did a 38 kilometer lap around Hamburg towards the grave of my paternal grandparents as I haven’t been there in a while and there’s a friend’s restaurant next to it where I could meet the family afterwards. Perfect day, sunburn, a bit exhausted because of the missing training weeks before though.
Later that day I realized it’s been the 1st of June. “Good timing”, I thought. Perfect situation to start a challenge month, and the most fitting challenge on my list is the running streak month. That’s how it started.
What’s a Running Streak?
Usually, a running streak just means a continuous daily running effort for a certain amount of days or even of indefinite length. There are no real rules to it, but a bunch of runners agreed to count a run as a run if it’s at least 1 mile (1.609 kilometers) in length.
If you ask me, that’s way too little. Who even gets dressed for a run that’s over after less than 10 minutes? Initially I put down “at least 5 kilometers”, but I revised the goal to at least 10 kilometers because I don’t think it would be a tough challenge otherwise. Mainly I’m just curious to see what would happen to my body after those 30 days and 5 kilometers per day just wouldn’t change anything, I estimated.
After a few days I noticed two things. First, it’s harder than I thought to fit a daily run into my schedule, but it works if I really want to. Second, some days are really tough but that doesn’t seem to correspond to the perceived exhaustion of the other daily tasks. There were days on which I felt great but ran slow and weak, and the other way around as well.
During the first week I decided to keep it simple and have most runs just barely cross the 10 kilometers. My favorite Elbe loop, to Blankenese and back, is about 11.2 kilometers in length, so that’s perfect.
I was surprised to see how my motivation went up. In part it has to do with removing the decision part of “do I go for a run today or not?” because every day has to have a run. So it’s out of the question to stay home, which makes it easier not to give in to the lazy demons.
Also I noticed that my energy level rose during the first days. That is probably a combination of the sunny summer days, the decline of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regained stability of my company, but also the daily planking I have recently started again.
If you would like time to go by as slowly as possible, do some planking.
Stronger core muscles really improve my running so I bit that bullet.
Another thing I changed during the first few days was my nutrition. I felt like I didn’t get enough protein with my vegetarian diet, so I just added daily protein shakes after the runs. That also seemed to improve everything. Sidenote: I’m going with pea-protein based, strawberry flavored vegan powder and use organic oat milk. Tastes good enough and does the trick. No need to get a cow involved.
Day 5 is the Worst
I don’t know if I’ve ever in my life run for five or more consecutive days before, but probably not. On that Friday I just felt completely drained of all energy and put off the run until the last possible moment. That doesn’t make it easier, because the whole day had already sucked the energy out of me. I thought about quitting a lot, but then pulled myself together and limped onto the sidewalk in my running gear.
Getting Motivation from Basic Logic
I remembered that I would be sadder if I quit right now and that this feeling would be a lot worse than putting one foot in front of the other for an hour. Absolutely true, of course. The first few kilometers were hell, but then the rhythm came back and the run worked well. Afterwards no one ever would have preferred to have stayed at home instead. I took that lesson to help me during future bad days.
Day 7 was special in that I had a date with a few fellow runners with the goal to improve our individual personal records over 5,000 meters on the racing track. I missed my best time by 10 seconds and landed on 20:30 minutes but that was no surprise. Still it’s very motivating to do this with six other runners while our kids played along the track. Running there and home again completed the 10 kilometers for the day.
On Day 8 I could really feel improvements. Energized I ran 22 faster kilometers (5:14 min/km) and got home very happy. So there must have been a training effect happening. That day I made the decision to also go for my Goal #6, running 400 kilometers in one month. That’s 13.3 kilometers per day, so I would have to do the occasional long run in order to reach about 100 kilometers per week and make the total goal of 400 in 30 days of June. It’s a bit of a stretch goal and I wasn’t sure at first if it’s the right call to do both at the same time, but on the other hand you fail 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, right?
That evening, my 6yo daughter Vera fell off our trampoline and broke her right forearm. Ambulance, emergency operation under general anesthesia, two mandatory night-stays in the hospital, the whole deal. And all that while COVID-19 is still a problem, especially at hospitals. So I had the three other daughters to look after on my own while my wife Sophie stayed in the hospital with poor Vera, but thanks to Kindergarten and school being open again there was a chance to continue with my work and also the daily runs.
Day 10, perfect sunny weather, I felt so good I did 16.1 kilometers (about 10 miles) and got a bit crazy thinking about upping the daily kilometers to that amount next time. Next time?!
Days 11 and 12 were easy slow runs, because on Day 13 I did something unusual: a whole marathon.
We’ve got a few rivers flowing through our city of Hamburg, one of the most popular being Alster. There‘s a path along it which I’ve wanted to run along for a while, so that day I did it. Read my separate post about that whole marathon if you like!
After a slow 6:30 min/km pace recovery run on Day 14 together with Sophie on Sunday I had reached another record: a week with the most kilometers run in my life. 122 kilometers. New levels!
Day 15 and everything seems to be back to normal again, my body has processed the marathon from two days before. I’m feeling fast and do 15 kilometers. Afterwards I feel so energized and great about running again that I look for other possible races later in the year to follow up on my Decade Goal of participating in the Western States 100 run. To participate, I need to qualify first. I planned on doing that this month at Mozart 100, but that 100 kilometer trail race was cancelled due to Coronavirus, as well.
Now, I have signed up for Festival des Templiers, a historic trail ultra in the south of France with 106 kilometers and 5,125 meters of elevation gain. It’s going to be very tough and I will need to finish it within 19 hours to qualify for Western States. But right now, after just two weeks of these daily runs, I feel confident and I am very much looking forward to this race. Late in October, the virus situation will hopefully be a lot better.
Fun fact, after today I had to charge my new training watch, a COROS APEX, for the first time since starting the month. 15 days of daily wearing, 15 GPS tracked runs including heart rate, and 240 kilometers total so far. That battery is incredible.
Inspired by the hilly ultra in France coming up soon, I did a few stair loops on this building on Day 16. Still a bit of hill training to do for me.
Day 17, 22 kilometers with a few more meters of elevation, super nice but exhausted afterwards. After a few hours, that’s gone again. Has my body adapted to the challenge? Day 18 gives me a reason to doubt that again, as I really feel like I need a rest day by now. Day 19, easy 10 kilometers again, but one fast kilometer in 4:10 min/km to check out the pace.
Because Day 20 has another challenge: personal best 10 kilometers trial with the running buddies.
It turned out to be a bit difficult for me. I hoped to be able to keep a steady 4:10 min/km pace, but that only worked out for the first 3-4 kilometers. In the end the average pace I did was 4:17 min/km, reaching the 10 kilometers after 42:50 minutes. That’s a new personal record! Just a few seconds better than my previous best time, but I’ll take it. Now I wonder what just one day of rest yesterday could have done. Or an intervals session during the last weeks. There’s a lot left to gain for me.
I’m getting used to the hills and in fact I start to enjoy them more than the flat runs.
The Biggest Surprise
As said earlier, sometimes the current energy situations don’t correspond to what the body is able to provide. In the evening of Day 22 I had a few beers because I felt like it. In the morning of Day 23 I felt like crap. No surprise there. That was the second time I thought about quitting the challenge. Again, late in the evening I mustered up the courage, got into my running shoes and stepped outside. The first three kilometers were like torture. But then, something clicked. I got faster and faster, my body’s posture changed from that of the Hunchback of Notre Dame to that of Jan Frodeno, I extended the distance because I felt so good and eventually reached 4:10 minutes per kilometer pace for a total of 4:55 min/km over the 14 kilometers I did that evening. Amazing. I was so happy! Incredibly glad I didn’t stop but pulled through even though it got quite tough.
Day 24, 25, and 26 were a bit tougher again, slow and steady work. But the former experiences got me through those more easily.
Day 27, another buddy run through the hills of Blankenese, this time with my old friend Nico.
I carried 2 kilograms of water in my backpack to get used to the weight for later longer runs. We talked for the whole time but still ended up with a 5:45 min/km average on a hilly course.
By accident, I reached 27 kilometers on the 27th day of the challenge, which got me thinking that another challenge could be to do a month of running just the kilometers corresponding to the day’s number. Very easy in the beginning, very tough towards the end of the month. Some day I’ll do that, for sure!
Day 28, trip to the Baltic Sea to see my parents, running along the coast is a nice change but heavy rain makes it hard. I decide to do the hill at the end twice and fast to get some more uphills into the system.
On Days 29 and 30 I did four laps in our close-by Jenischpark each, 2.5 kilometers per lap. Getting out the trails shoes, my beloved Altra Superior 4, and that’s easy as pie.
454.6 kilometers total, no skipped days, every day at least 10 kilometers. Two challenges completed! ✅✅
But Surely it Can’t be Over Now?!
Absolutely it cannot be over now. Some months have 31 days instead of June’s 30. Running every day for a month is therefore at least 31 consecutive days, I think. First of July, into the shoes again!
Another day later, July 2nd or Day 32, new running buddy Oliver asked to be paced for a personal best half marathon. Obviously I’m not saying no to that. In the end, I did 33.33 kilometers that morning. It’s going well.
What Have I Learned?
Running is great and makes me happy. I knew that. Running every day for such a long stretch of time is not only possible, but it even increases my motivation. Especially those tough days when I almost quit the challenge but then didn’t and went for a run, changed something in me. Overcoming those hurdles made me stronger and increased my will-power even more.
Also I learned that protein really plays a role when you do lots of cardio intensive exercise. Usually you associate carbs with long distance running, but you need both. It certainly helped me to add these daily protein shakes, I think.
Of course I had thoughts about not stopping the daily running to see how long I could keep it up. I think I can go for a really long time, maybe even years, doing this. But I decided against that because I don’t think it’s the most efficient method of training. A rest day can do wonders and certainly improves health and fitness, too. My main take-away, though, is to run more. Maybe 5-6 times per week is the sweet spot. I’ll figure it out!