Running has shown up for me over the years as a friend, a challenger and a life saver. One month shy of my 21st birthday, my 24-year-old sister, Lisa, died suddenly and for months the only time I could breathe was when I was running, so I ran 8 miles every day. When my 40th birthday was right around the corner, running helped ground me in my vitality and in my 39th year I completed several half marathons, a marathon, and a triathlon.
But, life happens, and in my forties, the days, weeks, months and even years would pass without me lacing up my running shoes and hitting the road. I no longer thought of myself and ‘runner’ in the same sentence – it had slipped from my identity in favor of things like busy executive and mom.
Which is no problem, except that for me, it was.
I am a runner and being a runner reminds me of the capacity of my own body to take me places, it gives me a regular and uncomplicated connection to the natural world, and it acts as mental floss for my busy brain and amped up nervous system.
When I hit my 366th day of running every single day, I had earned the right to register my streak on the USRSA’s website. I logged on and up popped the list of all the current ‘streakers’. I remember noting at the top of the list a group of 5 or so names that were in the 45+ range and thinking ‘oh yay, there are a few of us over 40 that are doing this.’ Wrong! Those names were people who had been doing at least a mile every day for over 45 years. There are 1,452 people registered with active streaks in the US, ranging from 8-year-old Jacob Meyer from Virginia who started his streak July 2017 to 68-year-old Jon Sutherland who started his streak May 1969, 50 years ago. Jon, wherever you are, wow, just wow.
I was so inspired by the list of long-time streakers that I decided to keep the streak going beyond the year mark and mix it up by running two miles a day for year two. For year three, I’m getting back into races and have several coming up over the next few months.
Without question, there are mixed reviews on whether or not streak running is healthy and, admittedly, I did run through the flu, several strained muscles, and even in-place when I was on a boat. For some, these decisions read as rigid, but for me, it was a playful adrenaline rush to commit to something and do it – no matter what.
This commitment flipped a switch for me from ‘I hope I can get a run in today’ to waking up every morning knowing that no matter what else did or didn’t happen that day, I would run. Runners run and every day I wake up knowing that I will run.
Sticking with my streak has stretched my mind and soul around other things I want in my life but dismissed as not available to me. Freedom and discipline often are positioned as opposites, but running every day for two years has taught me that there is freedom in discipline.
And it has taught me that self-care is better served up daily than as a life preserver. Building in running and other daily rituals that ground me has regulated my nervous system – which has improved every single corner of my life in big and small ways.