November 4, 2010

50 days

I've run at least one mile every day for the last fifty days, halfway towards my goal of streaking for 100 days.

first off, I told you on day eleven that I was never going to talk about the streak again, not until I finished it. at the time I felt, as I sometimes do, that talking about it was somehow going to jinx it, and preferred to keep it to myself. except actually I talk about the streak all the time. I'm comfortably far enough into it that there's no chance I'm going to break it out of laziness, so I no longer feel touchy about it.

I started this streak after several weeks off. I ran hood to coast in late august with almost no training, and then didn't run again for three weeks. when I finally started back, I happened to run two days in a row, and I thought, maybe I should just keep going. in that first week, which began on a thursday, I was full of enthusiasm and ran sixteen miles.

those first two or three weeks were kind of exhilarating -- every day came the thought, "I'm going to do it again!" and I kept a careful tally of my streak total. but they were also hard as hell. I felt nearly every day like I was towing a barge. in the spring, after several months of running consistently, I felt fast. now, I felt heavy and slow and clumsy. I had to force myself to overcome the most basic of runner problems: overtraining. I had to run shorter distances or risk injuring myself and ruining the streak. I learned the basic mileages around my neighborhood: a mile and a quarter loop from my house to bybee and back; two miles to the duck pond; 3.7 miles through the wildlife preserve.

In the beginning, when every run felt awful, I knew I just had to keep running and let my body catch up. I finally began to feel better in the third and fourth weeks. On day 28, I ran the first of my two miles that night at a 6:46 pace, maybe my fastest ever.

my weekly mileage continues to average very low, at about a half-marathon a week. the breakdown:

week 1 (days 1-4): 16.41
week 2: 16.05
week 3: 12.4
week 4: 11.5
week 5: 15.2
week 6: 16.77
week 7: 11.7

my total accumulated streak distance, since september 16: about 106 miles.

I have a complicated relationship to the streak. I often hate it. week four, when I ran only 11 miles? it was because I was working 12-hour days at the office, frantically finishing up the hansel & gretel music before rehearsals began. I ran the 1.25 mile loop nearly every day that week, covering just the bare minimum to keep me going. I hated the streak on those days. but the streak is tremendously freeing, too. it completely eliminates the question, "am I going to run today?" after 50 days, there's not a question of whether or not I'll do it. I don't have to summon motivation in the same way. the question shifts: "how far am I going to run today?" "when am I going to fit it in today?" "am I going to take it easy today?"

I've run several times in the dark, having missed all daylight opportunities. the other night I realized I hadn't run while I was at the barn working; I changed into running clothes there and when I got home, I got out of the car and immediately went on my run without even going inside, afraid to wait any longer. I've run several quick one-milers in between work and other events. several weeks ago, I was nearly late to my friend kelly's wedding (herself a streaker; she just broke day 300) because I had to run beforehand.

the streak has been hard on my body. I have recently seen a chiropractor for the first time in my life. in the mornings, getting out of bed, I am nearly always sore somewhere. I'm desperately longing to up my mileage, but right now I don't trust my body to comply. too many things hurt: IT bands, left calf, psoas, low back, feet, left hamstring. I have to tell myself what a good base I'm building, but it's true that a mile and a quarter barely makes me break a sweat anymore, and no longer feels satisfying except in the "another day down" sense. funny how running every single day makes me feel as though I miss running. will I get back there?

by chance, the hundredth day is christmas eve. I have thought nearly since the beginning that I would likely continue past day 100, but these days I'm unsure. the complicated relationship: I love the streak. I am afraid if I stop streaking, I might not have the motivation to keep running like this. and after all, it's just a mile a day! just one mile. this is how people go on streaking for 10, 20, 30 years. I can't imagine the day I decide, today is the day I'm not running. it's already a huge decision, after only 50 days. and it's just one mile.


  1. Congratulations on the streak Ace, but I hope you reconsider seeing the chiropractor. There's absolutely no scientific evidence showing that it can help with anything beyond back pain, and even then the rate of adverse side effects is far too high. If chiropractic treatment was a drug, there's no way it'd be approved for use. You'd be far better off with a physiotherapist or a masseuse.

  2. i love this, i love you, i love that you're doing this and writing about it. in a way what i am doing right now is a kind of streaking and i feel a lot of the same things -- like the way it takes the choice out. also, TEN YEARS. i can't imagine that, much less 20, 30.

  3. Amol, thanks for the note. I don't plan on making the chiropractor a regular thing, and I definitely agree that chiropractic claims to heal all sorts of ailments are overblown. However, in this case I opted for the chiropractor rather than a GP because my visit was, in fact, prompted by a nagging two-month bout with low back pain that did not go away with rest (prior to the streak) or with movement. I chose the chiro rather than the doctor in large part because with my HMO plan, I knew (from experience) that I would have to see my PCP first, who would very likely suggest a round of NSAIDs; after that I'd have to return at least once more before getting a referral to a physiatrist. Frankly, I am not interested in the run-around, nor was I interested in popping Advil like candy every day for a week, knowing that it wouldn't solve the underlying problem. The chiro took one (thorough) look and essentially said, "your hips and the area around your sacrum are awfully tight; go see the massage therapist and tell her to work on the following places."

    Essentially, I wanted someone to confirm for me that my pain was coming from the psoas (it is) without making me see four doctors and take a bottle of Advil. I WILL say that I returned today for a follow-up and the chiro wants to see me again on Monday; I plan on canceling that appointment. I do think they take it too far. She's talking about x-rays and deep underlying problems with my back, but since I have never had back problems I'm certain the issue is daily running with no rest, and I just need to stretch the shit out of my hip flexors to make everything right with the world. (The cracking my back part was helpful, though -- I have noticeably better range of motion in my low back.)

    Sorry to go on with the book-length comment. I guess it says something about our current medical system, doesn't it?