Monday, May 7, 2012

Running Streaks: How Long Can You Go?

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier

Have you ever streaked? No, I don't mean that bare-naked running popular at football and baseball stadiums in the sixties and seventies, the ones that usually ended badly with the streaker getting tackled by security. I mean a running streak. 

What is a running streak? It is just a period of consecutive days of running. If you have never heard of running streaks and the people who have undertaken this practice, it is pretty interesting and amazing (or stupid and ridiculous, depending on who you ask).

There is actually a United States Running Streak Association (USRSA), which is part of the larger Streak Runners International. There is an application form and a $20 application fee. The rules are pretty simple: "A running streak is defined by SRI/USRSA as running at least one continuous mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day under one’s own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices)." Applicants must keep running logs or other evidence of their streak to submit if requested. To join, runners must have a streak of one year or more.

The association keeps records. Some of the streaks are truly amazing. Right now, the person with the longest running active streak is Mark Covert, a 61 year old teacher and coach from Lancaster, CA, who as of today has been streaking for 15, 995 days, which is 43.79 years for those who are mathematically challenged. Amazing!!  He is not alone. Close on his heels is John Sutherland, also 61, who is at 15,688 days (42.95 years).  The longest running streak by a woman had been held by Julie Maxwell, who had done almost 34 years (12,212 days to be exact), but she slipped and fell last December, breaking her foot and ending the streak. The new women's record holder is Barabara Latta, a 70 year old retired teacher. She is at 10,382 days (28.42 years). The number of people with streaks of ten years or more is truly amazing. The active list has 140 people with active streaks going now of ten years or more. While the list of those with "retired" streaks includes almost 80 more! (Most of the streakers have amazing stories. If you get a chance, you should take a look at the articles I have linked to above.) 

The reason I bring this up is that, as some of you might have noticed from my Daily Mile report (at right) or on the Facebook page, I have started a streak. Actually I was on day 7 of a streak before the Trail Marathon last weekend, but stupidly I just completely forgot to run on the day before the race because I was so wrapped up in the whole taping thing (couldn't resist the pun!).  I had to start over this week. I started on May 1, and I am now at Day 7 again.

This is not the first time I have done a running streak. In the past I have had several month long streaks, and my longest streak to date was 61 days back in early 2009. My intention right now is not to add myself to the list of multi-year streakers (although you know how runners love a ridiculous challenge...). People streak for all different reasons. Most often my reason for streaking is that I realize that my running needs a kick-start of consistency that I don't seem to be bringing to the table in my training. That is why I have started streaking now.

Consistency in training is the key to success in distance running, especially long distance running, such as marathon and beyond. To excel at running marathons requires adaptations that require years of consistent training. Both of my marathon PRs came after periods of 2-3 years of solid and steady training and build-up of mileage and endurance.

However, sometimes because of life stresses or injuries, my consistency falls apart. Once I lose that groove, regaining it can be a challenge. This has been especially hard for me since I have moved to Michigan, where the weather does not suit my personality. I hate the cold and love the sunshine, so being consistent when the weather is cold and dreary is a real challenge for me.

When I am feeling this way, a streak is just what I need to help me rebuild the running habit. It helps me renew my commitment and introduce the running back into my life in a way that is insistent but not overwhelming. I can easily tell  myself, "Come on. It is only one mile. Get the mile in and then you can quit if you want." The thing is that a lot of times I don't quit. I start to run, feel better, and do a workout on a day when it would have been so easy to blow it off.

Joining me on this streak is my friend Denise. She is streaking for a totally different reason. Denise is a fairly new runner (although she has been at it for over a year and a half now -- Go, Denise!!). She is not into the competitive end of things and is not interested in racing. She did reach a major goal of completing a half marathon a while back, something she never imagined she could do when she started. The problem was that after about a year of working toward that goal, she was suddenly goal-less.

While Denise is not competitive, she is a goal-driven person. She was really floundering in her running because she could not find a new goal that motivated her. When she heard about the streak, she was intrigued. That sounded like something that she could shoot for. The streak let her find new motivation and a new goal. She is shooting for 30 days (or 31 just to make the whole month of May). 

Not everyone is a fan of streaking. In case you didn't know, streaking is actually a controversial topic in the running community. In fact, so much so that on the USRSA site, they include an article that discusses this topic, titled "Caution: The Dangers of Streak Running,"  so that new runners can understand streaking a bit more fully and also the dangers of "trying to do too much too soon." If you are interested in starting a streak, that article is a must-read.

The article gives a lot of tips that are important to know if one is considering a streak. It addresses probably the most common objection/question: "Won't I get injured if I run every day?" (Not if you do it right!). The same principles apply when doing a running streak as doing other types of training, specifically the hard/easy principle and the ideas of taking rest days. Although I do run every day during a streak, some of those days are just a slow mile or so warm-up before my yoga or stretching. The author also makes a very important point about streaking: "Most importantly, never lose track of the ideal that your running streak should complement and enhance the rest of your life, not become the sole focus of your existence.  The goal is to improve the quality of your life."  

So, at least for now, I am a streaker. I will be posting my progress periodically on the Facebook page and in my Daily Mile log if you are interested in seeing how far I get.

What about you? Have you ever streaked or known a streaker? Does this sound interesting to you or totally crazy?


  1. Lori, great minds think alike! I just started a streak on May 1 also. My previous best streak was 55 days before my left foot got to sore to continue due to a neuroma. I have been doing better lately and decided to give it a try again since I changed my running style to mid-foot strike! Like you, today will be day seven! Hope you have a long and fruitful streak! :)

  2. Well, knowing how I like a challenge....this has a certain appeal. Perhaps a walking streak is something I should consider when it's winter and ugly. It would get me out the door!

  3. I think a walking streak for fall and winter is a great idea. Anything to get out the door in the winter.

  4. Awesome post... Keep it up...

    I am on my 75th day of my running everyday... It is an awesome addiction...

  5. Wow, 75 days is fantastic! That is my next goal point. I think it is getting easier to keep it going the more the days pile up, don't you?


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