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The Runstreaker - Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know

Photo Credit: Sarah Cooke

The Runstreaker - Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know

27-Feb-19

Last updated: 27-Feb-19


By Sarah Cooke

I’ll start with a disclaimer – I have run every single day since 29th August 2015. However, I don’t write training plans without rest days unless the runner I am coaching is already on a runstreak and wants to continue. I have heard of some coaches refusing to coach anyone who won’t take a rest day, and I understand that. However, one of the key things I was taught in my training was to make my plans realistic.

If my runner tells me they can only commit to running three days a week, there is no point in me writing a plan for four days. Likewise, there is no point me writing a plan with rest days for someone on a streak. I will make the ‘rest’ days short, slow runs. If the runner is injured and doing themselves harm by continuing, then I would have to bow out.

My reasons for not advocating that everyone runs every day? Well, partly because I don’t want to be responsible for the potential consequences (I’ll take responsibility for my own streak, but no one else’s), but mainly because it isn’t a training strategy – it’s a lifestyle choice. I don’t run every day because I think it will make me a better runner. Therefore, it probably isn’t the best way to help most of my clients achieve their goals.

Some people thrive on a structured plan, whilst others want freedom and headspace. If you struggle with motivation, then routine is vital. A streak provides that routine for some people, but there are other ways of creating one – see my article on a psychological approach to a training plan for more on this.

I run every day because I enjoy it, it helps me deal with other things in my life and because, for me, it makes motivation less of an issue. I know when I wake up that I will run that day. The decisions are about where, what time and how far. Not if.

I have heard other streakers say that they would find it harder to commit to running four days a week than seven, because four would become three, then two as you put it off until tomorrow. Perhaps it suits those of us who tend to have an ‘all or nothing’ element to our personality.

When I was working towards my first marathon (before the streak), the need to run long on a weekly basis sometimes got in the way of other things in my life. I am now much more flexible - my long run can be done on a different day or at a different time. I have learned that I can fit running in regardless of whatever else life throws at me.

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Circumstances sometimes necessitate changing the distance, time or location, but if you run every day, you can’t let it dictate other aspects of your life. I am always running tomorrow. Whilst I’m not going to get hopelessly drunk or eat a tonne of chillies the night before an ultra, the fact that I am running tomorrow has no impact on whether I go out for dinner or get an early night tonight.

Am I mad? Plenty of my nearest and dearest think it’s all a bit bonkers. Is it bad? Theoretically, your body needs rest and it would most definitely be bad if you were running with a broken ankle. Am I dangerous to know? Well, I have a number of other runners whom I can hold responsible for inspiring me - I think it has an element of contagion. So why does someone qualified in psychology and in coaching runners do this?

Daily running channels my thoughts, gives me an endorphin boost and provides a positive outlet for that obsessive streak in my personality that could so easily take me elsewhere. Running can have a positive effect on mental health, and I have certainly experienced this. It also works for me. I am extremely lucky never to have had a significant injury and my body has adapted to the demands I place on it.

That doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. If you are prone to injury, or your lifestyle can’t accommodate running every day, then it isn’t for you. If you start streaking and end up hating every run, then it’s time to stop.

Without exception, the runners in my circle of friends whom I deem to have the quickest recovery times are streakers. However, some of the most inconsistent runners I know are people who have tried repeatedly to push for a runstreak and ended up out of action. That’s why I’m not evangelical about it – it isn’t for everyone. I am grateful every single day for the fact that I can do it.

Every streaker is familiar with the term ‘streaksaver’ – you are ill/injured/having a life crisis and you run the bare minimum to keep the streak going. It’s madness, but it keeps us sane. We dread the day when we can’t safely run even a mile. The higher the streak number climbs, the more important it becomes.

The goal is to keep it going. I’ve seen plenty of runners very sensibly end a streak after a few weeks or months due to illness, injury or hectic schedules. That is much harder when you’ve been streaking for years. Each milestone is an achievement – 500 days (I ran 5 x 5km), 1000 days (I ran 10 miles and wrote ‘1000’ on the ground), 1200 days...

The runstreak community is a place where my ‘madness’ is accepted. It’s also a place where I can be reined in. The majority of people will think I am nuts whether I run five or seven days a week; a 40-mile week or a 90-mile week; a 50km ultra or a 100-miler. If another runstreaker tells me I’m overdoing it, I may have to listen!

In return, I like to see that my fellow streakers have uploaded their run(s) for the day, and I am inspired by their achievements (mostly much longer streaks than mine). If you don’t want to go down the streak route, we could be a dangerous bunch to know! The joy we get from daily running may be infectious.

Do you hate me yet? Rest assured, I have days when my mojo appears to have gone AWOL. If that was happening consistently, the streak would have run its course. I started it intending to try it for a week and I have never yet wanted to let it go. I hope I will know when the time has come to stop - watch this space!

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