Over the last few years I have taken part in various running streaks, the first of them was in November 2013 as a way to build base fitness ahead of the Manchester Marathon. The official definition of a running streak is to run at least one mile (1.61 kilometres) within each calendar day.
How to get started
Before you start a run streak you need to set rules. Some running groups, Advent Running for example, set the challenge to exercise for at least 30 minutes throughout December. The aim of my run streak was to increase stamina and as I had already built up my mileage I targeted 10 miles every day for the month. I knew it would be tough but I thought it was achievable based on previous running and my day to day routine. Once you have joined a run streak challenge or created your own the next step will be to work out how you are going to fit in the miles or minutes.
Tips for a successful streak
1. Set a challenging but achievable goal - Make sure the challenge motivates you and is achievable, assess your current level of fitness so you don’t aim too high. If you are currently running one or two times a week, try to gradually build up to 3 or 4 days before beginning your streak as increasing your weekly mileage by 10% or more can increase the chance of picking up an injury. If you are deciding the length of your run streak maybe start with the aim to run every day for a week and go from there.
2. Schedule - Work out how you can fit the miles or minutes in around work, family and friends, other hobbies - Can you schedule running so that it doesn’t affect too many areas of your life? I am lucky to live within a good distance of the office so I often run commute to and/or from work. I actually get there quicker than if I take the tube and I avoid “Tube Tetris” on the Northern Line. If you live too far away from work to run commute the whole way, maybe you could take the train/bus/tube part of the way and run the rest.
3. Explore - A run streak can become incredibly boring/challenging if you run the same route and at the same pace all the time. I have a couple of routes that I take when commuting so that I can mix it up. Exploring is a big incentive for me, the further or more often I can run I am rewarded with finding new places.
4. Nutrition - As you will inevitably be running more miles, you will in turn be burning more calories. I eat more protein and fruit & veg as well as snacking more often. Hydration is also really important, I make sure I drink more regularly and keep on top of electrolytes.
5. Sleep - on my first run streak I found that I had to really prioritise getting good rest and sleep. As I got into the routine of running early in the morning, I moved my bedtime forward. I found I slept better whilst on the run streak; I generally got around 8 hours sleep a night.
6. Kit - To be able to carry on running everyday it is really important to have comfortable running kit. If your trainers are giving you blisters or your clothes chafe you’re simply not going to want to run. I have a wide variety of running kit so that no matter what the weather is doing I can get out the door knowing I’ll feel good and not have to worry about having any issues. I like the Iffley Road Cambrian tees and Thompson shorts because they have little pockets for keys and cards, are lightweight and super breathable. This makes them great for run commutes and long runs. In terms of running trainers I alternate between a few pairs. I opt for lightweight/racing shoes for track sessions and then well-cushioned shoes for long runs and recovery runs.
7. Logging the runs - In 2017, I have been using an Iffley Road Logbook, it motivates me to fill it in and record how I felt on my run. I also use Strava which helps me keep track of progress, at the start of each week I set mileage targets which vary depending on what races I have coming up.
8. Running community - I am incredibly lucky to be a part of the large running community in London. Throughout Advent Running in 2015 and 2016 I didn’t struggle for motivation as I knew there were hundreds of other runners lacing up and getting out there. James and Claudia (founders of AR) always organise special events throughout December: there is a big launch party, a run in Christmas jumpers, and run around London’s Christmas trees etc. The miles or minutes go so much quicker when you are running with friends. I’m lucky to be able to share a lot of miles with my girlfriend Lorna; we often explore new routes at weekends.
9. Train smart - throughout my first run streak the aim was to hit a specific mileage by the end of the month; therefore I tended to run at one steady pace just to get the miles in. If I was to take part in a run streak now I would place less emphasis on mileage and would alternate hard and easy days. This would mean I could still train and take part in certain sessions like track, tempo runs or hills. It is hard to train specifically and take on a run streak, it is doable but I would recommend taking on the challenge when you are building base fitness before going into specific training.
10. Recovery - to aid recovery I try to set aside time to stretch and foam roll. I find even just 5 minutes of foam rolling really helpful. Some people opt for wearing compression socks whilst running or after to increase blood flow. I’d also recommend scheduling in a massage every now and then to loosen the legs up.
11. Mix it up - If you can run on trails regularly it is a good idea to do a lot of your mileage off road because it’s more forgiving. I try to run on trails at weekends when I have time to travel to parks around London. If you can’t hit the trails then maybe try to put a track session or a run on a treadmill in the plan, the change in surface will give your legs a bit of a break from the impact of road running.
I would definitely recommend taking on the challenge of a run streak. It can be good fun and excellent motivation in the build up to a race. It is also a great way to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and it makes you manage your energy levels from one day to the next. Run streaking can help you to train more consistently and assess your performances and recovery.
A piece on running streaks wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Ron Hill. The former Olympian ran every day from the 20th of December 1964 until the 28th of January 2017 an incredible total of 52 years and 39 days (19,032 days). Whilst on his run streak Ron won the English Cross Country Championships in 1966, became the first Briton to win the Boston Marathon in 1970 and in the same year won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh crossing the line in 2:09:28. It’s amazing what you can put your mind to.