It’s dark and cold outside — the kind of evening where you could see your breath if it wasn’t for the pervasive blackness.
I’m barely outside long enough to process the chilling temperatures before I’m off — running at a slow, easy pace that will undoubtedly, and unintentionally, increase as I go.
Not that I’m going very far. Just over two weeks ago, I started on a new personal challenge: a running streak, which requires I run at least one mile, every day, for a year.
My athletic career, such as it is, began with running — my first real race was a 5K run when I was 8 years old. My first running partner was my dad, an accomplished runner with a marathon and a number of 15Ks and half-marathons under his belt.
As my family embraced sprint-distance triathlons, my sister and mother were added to the list of available running partners, though my dad remained my most frequent and steadfast exercise companion. We ran my first 15K together when I was 16 years old — a race I had watched him finish numerous times as a spectator.
After a decade of using some of my dad’s best potential years as an endurance athlete making him run with me, I was off to college. There, I added a pair of new running partners — my best friend, Cody, and my future wife, Angela.
For the better part of four years, I had ready availability to someone willing to go run a few miles during the week, with a longer run on the weekend. I’m a social runner — I like using the opportunity to chat and unwind from the day, so the situation was perfect.
When I graduated from college a little less than four years ago, I was off to my first job while Cody and Angela stayed in Rochester for work and to finish school, respectively. Suddenly, I was alone and at least an hour away from anyone to run with.
For the first time in my life, if I wanted to run, it was going to be by myself. The results weren’t great, as I barely got out the door for enough runs to survive my portion of a seven-person, 77.7 mile relay I did with my family, Angela, Cody and a family friend.
The training runs I did always felt like a chore, with my legs and lungs never on the same page. Even when I wasn’t trying to run hard or up a difficult slope, I was clearly in a funk during more than a year in limbo.
A short time later, I moved to Utah and things didn’t get much better. Some months I would bike a few times or go for a couple runs; I’d have a string of consistency swimming then not go for months. My wife turned her attention toward cycling full-time and her job in the bike industry supplied her with a slew of new training partners.
Time passed and my frustration with my sedentary lifestyle and inconsistent exercise routine grew, as did my waistline. I was faced with the fact that I greatly benefited from a training partner but didn’t know anyone to fill that role.
Then I saw the story of Ron Hill, a 78-year-old former Olympian from Great Britain, who ended his record running streak at 52 years and 39 days. For 19,032 days, Hill ran at least one mile over five decades of his life, a staggering accomplishment ended due to heart problems.
At that moment I finally had my motivation — and my new running “partner.”
One of the hardest things about exercising by yourself is finding the motivation to get out the door, especially on a day when you’re just not feeling it. Those excuses quickly evaporate when you’re facing only about 10 minutes to get out for a run, however.
I’m only two weeks into my streak but it has been a great experience so far, even if many of the runs have come early in the morning or less than an hour before midnight. I’ve tasked myself with running every calendar day, so sometimes 24 hours have passed between runs and sometimes far less.
My meager accomplishments pale compared to that of my inspiration, Hill, who averaged about seven miles per day over the length of the streak. Hill is also the second person to break 2:10 in the marathon and was a world record holder at three distances.
The Streak isn’t about being the best runner and it’s certainly not about being the fastest. It’s about having a feeling of accountability, of quashing the excuses that pop up when it’s too late, too cold, or too hard to get out and exercise.
So tomorrow, I’ll slide on my running shoes and pound out a mile or two — just like I have every day for the past two weeks. It won’t be the best or fastest run I’ve ever done, but it will be another day I don’t regret not going for a run and that’s enough.