Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 4 Sep 2001 09:20:42 -0400

Speaking of Streaking


John Strumsky gave my June Runner's World column mixed reviews. That piece dealt with streakers, those runners who never miss a day for years at a time.

"I was delighted to see your column." wrote Strumsky, "but disappointed that you made no mention of the creation of the United States Running Streak Association, Inc., or our publication, The Streak Registry. "As we are now just beginning to understand, a good many runners have streaked at one point or another in their running careers -- for example, yourself. For our retired-streak list, what were the dates of your longest stretch without missing a day's run?"

I would have mentioned them group and magazine if I'd known about them. No one had told me yet when that column was submitted last January. (The address: USRSA, 294 Chalet Drive, Millersville, MD 21108)

My running streak is long retired and never to resume. The longest lasted about 1400 days -- beginning in October 1982 as I came off throat surgery and ending in March 1987 as I voluntarily quit this dailyness.

It was hurting my running. To keep myself well and the streak alive, I ran shorter and shorter, slower and slower. The runs got better as soon as there weren't quite so many of them.

Writing injuries are rare, so I remain a kindred spirit with the streakers in this way. I haven't missed a day of putting fresh words into my diary since March 1971.

As run-streakers do, I set a minimum standard for what counts as a completed day. Mine is 100 words.

That's about like running the first mile. Once through that warmup, you usually want to do more -- either run more or write more. I routinely put several hundred daily words into this ongoing life story.

So I can tell running streakers about the benefits and beauties of their habit, because it's so similar to mine. Here are 10 of the best reasons to streak, in whatever form this everyday effort takes:

1. You keep going because you can. No injury or illness or life obstacle has tripped up your streak, which means that you must be doing something right.

2. You keep going because you want to. The dailyness doesn't grow stale when you know that no two days are ever quite the same. You want to explore what's different about them.

3. You never know what kind of day it will be unless you test it out. Each one holds surprises, some good and others not so good, that you must go to work to uncover.

4. You learn to pace yourself. Working too long or too intensely one day would jeopardize the next day's effort, so you do only what lets you recover and repeat within 24 hours.

5. You do something natural, not abnormal. Streaking is no more weird than eating every day. Taking frequent days off is the greater oddity in human history.

6. You do something that's easier to do than not do. It's a habit, and breaking it is more stressful than continuing it.

7. You never have to think, Is this my day to work or not? The plan is utterly simple: This is what you do at a certain time and for a certain amount of time each Sunday through Saturday.

8. You work as if you're getting paid for it. You work like a pro, even without collecting wages. To miss a day would be to shortchange yourself.

9. You give yourself at least this one accomplishment every day. No matter what other slights and setbacks that day might hold, you've once more earned this prize.

10. You stay honest with yourself. No one else knows whether you went to work today or not. But YOU know and care, so you stay accountable to yourself and keep taking care of daily business.

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