Why I’m Not Participating in a Holiday Run Streak

This is the time of year for streaking.  No, not the crazy naked college kind you might be imagining, but the active workout type of streak.  The one where groups of people commit to running or working out every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  From what I can tell, the streaks often happen either to attempt to maintain sanity during the busy holiday season, or to attempt to ward off the holiday pounds that tend to result from endless celebrations and indulgences.

Several years ago, I joined a Runner’s World holiday run streak.  The guidelines stated that you had to run at least a mile a day, every day, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  I completed the streak successfully.  And yet, I have no desire to complete another one.  Usually I’m a sucker for any type of group running activity.  So why not streaking?

In my mind, streaking is most beneficial if you have an issue with accountability.  If you don’t work out, committing to a run streak is a great motivator to start.  If you have trouble with consistency, choose to do a run streak gives you a reason to get out every day.  Now there are many things in life that I struggle with, such as putting away my laundry in a timely fashion, but sticking to a running schedule is not one of them.  I draw up schedules 6-9 months in advance, print them out in an Excel spreadsheet, and then diligently check off my runs as I complete them.  I occasionally cut a run short, or move it to a different day, but it’s rare for me to miss one completely.  So for me, the accountability aspect of a run streak isn’t really needed.

The other reason I don’t like streaks is that I think it actually hurts my running.  See, when I follow my training plan, I tend to run 5 days a week, and do 2 days a week of strength training.  One of those days is an easy run combined with strength work, which gives me one day a week completely off, and another day a week where my legs get a break from running.  I believe that being diligent about days off is one of the things that has allowed me to run at a fairly high training load for so long with very few injuries.  When you are training 30-50 miles a week for 11 months out of the year, recovery days are just as important as active training days.  Participating in a streak messes with that, and tends to lead me to overtraining.

Of course, I’m not saying that run streaks are bad in general.  As I stated above, they can be a great way to build up your training base, or learn to become more consistent with your training.  For me, however, I plan to head into this holiday season the same way I usually do – with my trusty Excel sheet in hand.

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In Running Limbo

wissahickon-autumn-trail

These laid-back autumn runs have been nice, but I’m ready to get back on a real schedule.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a planner.  I like following a schedule, in life in general, but especially in running.  It’s one of the many reasons that I hate taking time off.  I feel much better when I’m working towards a goal.

After making it through my gauntlet of autumn ultras in October, I forced myself to take a bit of a break.  Of course, I had all this extra time on my hands, so I used it to plan out my racing schedule for the next year.  I planned to run North Country 50 miler in August, Worlds End 50K in June, Dirty German 50K in May, and Hyner 25K in April.  Life was good.

Of course, as always seems to happen when you make a plan, the universe decided to throw me a curveball.  My Ragnar team captain from 2014 sent me an email.  He’s getting the team back together for this June’s Ragnar and he wanted to know if I was in.  As a Ragnar Ambassador, I should really run the race, but I was going to hold off because I really wanted to do Worlds End again.  It felt like this was a sign, a reason to run it this year, so I agreed to join him and put my dream of a return to Worlds End on hold.  My plan was slightly shifted, but still good overall.

Then I received my daughter’s gymnastics schedule.  This is her first year competing, so I knew we would have some meets we would have to work around.  I was concerned there might be one scheduled on the same day as Hyner, but it ended up being a week later.  All good.  Of course, until I scrolled down and discovered that her state championships are the weekend of Dirty German.  The really fun part about gymnastics meets is that you rarely find out the day and time of your actual session until a few weeks beforehand.  Which means that I could be clear for the race, or I could discover that I couldn’t run it just 2 weeks out.  It would be awful to train for 4 months to have to miss out on the race.

So now I’m at a total loss for where to go next.  Logic would say that I should forget about the longer spring races and just do Hyner and Ragnar in the lead-up to North Country.  I hate that idea.   This past year has taught me just how much I love trail 50ks, and I want to run another one.  The training helps me to balance all of the stress in my normal life, and I know I won’t commit to the training unless I have an actual race in my future.  I was feeling so desperate today that I found myself considering a 100k for next fall.  Stupid.

I need the universe to send me some kind of obvious, clear-cut sign.