I am always looking for extra motivation to maintain a regular running schedule through the winter when the temperatures drop and the days get short. I live in Texas, so my idea of “cold” is probably laughable to people in slightly more arctic climates – but it’s a challenge just the same. Recently, my husband and I tossed around the idea of having a running streak competition. Basically, we would each run every day, and the first person to miss is the loser. I feel these sort of cut-throat, trash-talking competitions are really important in a healthy marriage. No? Well, they are entertaining none the less. To heat things up a bit, I donated a $75 gift-certificate to a local running store that I had received for Christmas as the prize. My husband said he felt he should donate something too, but this was quickly followed by the realization that he doesn’t have anything that I want. Sorry honey, you can keep your Ferris Bueller poster and baseball card collection.
Out of curiosity, I decided to google “running streak” just to see how prevalent this whole “streaking” thing is. Well, wouldn’t you know it, there is a United States Running Streak Association (USRSA)! Yes, that’s right, there is an entire organization dedicated to streaking. Below is the definition of a running streak, per their website:
The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the Streak Runners International, Inc., and United States Running Streak Association, Inc., is to run 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).
The USRSA maintains an ongoing list of “active” running streaks. For one to be included on this list the runner must have an active streak that has exceeded 1-year in length. The list currently has 311 members with the longest active streak held by Mark Covert of Lancaster, CA at 15893 days or 43.51 years. No, that’s not a typo. Mark Covert has diligently gone out and run at least one mile every day for the past 43 years. This is incredible to me. I have to be on this list! So, aside from obliterating my husband, Mike, in our streak competition, I have decided I want to “streak” for at least one year to get my name on this list.
I have broached the topic of running streaks with a few of my running buddies with decidedly different responses. Both the for and against arguments have merit. From a competitive running perspective, rest is very important and days off are usually an important part of any serious training program. You can’t build the body up if you don’t let it recover after you break it down with hard training. I get this and I won’t argue with the logic. I will, however, say that running streaks do have some benefits for certain types of runners and certain types of personalities. And honestly, a runner of moderate fitness can still go out and run a single mile on a scheduled off day without much if any negative impact to their recovery. Below are a few of my pro-streaking arguments:
- A sense of accomplishment: Let’s face it. Most of us are never going to set any blistering records, but it is nice to have something to shoot for, and to keep shooting for. No matter how old you are, a streak is something that you can continue to improve upon even as your times begin to slow.
- Motivation for others: I have a friend who had a seven year long running streak. This is incredible to me! My first thought was, if he can run every day for seven years, surely I can get myself out the door a couple days a week.
- Health benefits: Daily exercise = GOOD.
- Making exercise a habit: It takes 27 days to make a habit… or something like that. I think the number varies and I am not even sure where this number comes from, but the idea makes sense. If you do something enough times, eventually it will be the kind of habit that you continue to do without questioning.
Of course, all of this means nothing if you jump in too quickly and get hurt, ending your streak prematurely, so an ounce of caution is probably prudent before beginning your streak. You should certainly already be running regularly and without any existing injuries. The USRSA has a link called “CAUTION: THE DANGERS OF STREAK RUNNING” which you might want to take a look at prior to embarking on a streak. I personally have already started and have run for a very respectable 1-day in a row. Happy streaking friends!