Run Three Six Five (Day 30)

I ran every day in February (plus the last two days of January) and I’m so glad I did that I thought I’d write about why and how.

First of all February is the shortest month and I thought that it made the perfect opportunity to do something “every day for a month” because if I had started this in, say, January I’d have had to do 3 more runs. THREE.

People who start their New Years resolutions on January 1st don’t realise they’d be better off waiting until February and getting an early psychological boost to their streaks.

So anyway, every day in Feburary, rain or shine (mostly rain), I pulled on my running shoes and stepped out of the door to move myself around the roads and trails near where I live & work — and after a month of doing that I feel fitter, sharper and more focused.

(By the way, just to make this clear early on, I’m not posting this story on the Internet to try and impress anyone. I’m posting it because I want to tell you that running every day is a small thing I started doing in my life that has impressed *me* and if I’m happy with myself then I don’t really care what anyone else thinks.)

If you’re still reading at this point and interested in what I did and how I got on, here are some thoughts and numbers that I hope might make it easier for you to start doing something to make yourself happier every day.

Time. It was actually surprisingly easy to find time for the runs that didn’t eat into other things I had to do.

Lots of people seem to think their time is all used up and they can’t imagine when they could fit anything else into their schedule but I think that’s untrue in very many cases. No matter how busy you think you are, I bet you spend at least an hour a day doing things you don’t need to do and don’t really enjoy. Also, most people don’t need anything like as much “rest” as they think they do. In my experience resting less can actually make you feel fresher and more energetic every day.

On days when I wasn’t due in the office I generally set out for my run by about 7:30am. Before starting this streak I would often lie-in chasing one last snooze or listening to podcasts while doing very little, so I’ve been able to fit in most of my weekend runs before my wife and daughter wake up which means I can still change nappies and do breakfast when I get in — that means it hasn’t felt like I’m selfishly running away from other responsibilities.

At work, I started a strict policy of bringing in my own lunch and running before eating it rather than walking into town to buy food. This has saved me somewhere above £50 in coffees and disappointing sandwiches I would have ended up buying during the month. I spent that on new running shoes instead.

Distance. I covered 225km in February, an average of 8 kilometres a day. That might sound like quite a lot if you’re not all that into running right now but most days I was just jogging 5k and it really wasn’t that hard. Even if you don’t run at all right now, I think you could do something like this much easier than you think.

My longest run was a coastal trail marathon (42k) and my shortest was a gentle 2k jog the day before but I ran 5k or more on almost every day and climbed a total 4,700 meters.

Since I like patterns, on day 10 I ran 10k and on day 20 I ran 20k… but then on day 27 I ran the marathon and didn’t have the energy or inclination to try and fit a 30k run in on day 30. I think that if I didn’t have a job or any other commitments I could probably have kept this pattern going much longer but I’m not sure what the point would be for me to try and do that now.

Speed. I discovered early on that I just can’t run fast all the time. In the past I’ve tended to obsess over my pace and often set targets before runs. I still do this but I’ve had to recalibrate a bit over the month as it’s just not possible for me to run over 5k a day at a pace I can feel really proud of. If you’re using raw speed or single-effort distance as your gauges for running success, you need to adapt that to running every day.

Keeping the streak going is my new mantra and sometimes that means doing very short or very slow runs.

I’m trying to find a way I can work in steady swells of both speed and climbing into the daily run schedule while balancing the running load around race efforts. This is forcing me to start thinking about what each run is “for” — for example, my next race is the Bath Half Marathon in 2 weeks time and right now I’m trying to find a balance between recovery and speed sessions this week in order to give myself time to rest up enough from the marathon and to be on good form next weekend.

Whatever your base speed or appetite for big miles is like, just be willing to put in lots of what you’d usually consider to be “very easy” runs in your lull days so you can feel better on your bigger efforts.

Discipline. The hardest days to keep the streak going were the days after big efforts. Day 21 and day 28 very nearly didn’t happen but after getting them done I found that they were two of the most rewarding days to complete. Also, whereas I have often suffered from stiffness and soreness after marathon efforts in the past, my recovery from this weekend so far seems to have gone very well.

The discipline of getting up early rather than snoozing until the last minute to get to work in time has also been a good thing for my general happiness. By the end of the first week of getting up by 7am and having done my runs done by 8am I was feeling like my days were much longer and more productive.

Once I got the streak up to about 10 days then the fear of falling back down to zero was greater than the resistance of my inherent laziness and that kept me going.

Food. Eating is a big part of running and I had to make some minor changes to my habits to adapt to running every day.

Firstly, I had to have breakfast *every day*. In the past I would often skip breakfast and just get by on coffee until lunchtime. That doesn’t work for me when I’m running this much so I have begun eating at least a bit of cereal or toast every morning. This is another thing that I think has made me feel better about life.

In the past I have used a lot of sports nutrition products like energy gels but I decided at the start of this run streak that I wouldn’t be doing that this time. For the longer runs when I need to take on extra calories while on the move (like the marathon) I have been carrying a selection of “real food” — mainly dates, peanuts & raisins, dried mango, flapjack bars, marzipan pieces, salted peanuts and one of my personal favourites for long distance running, soft liquorice.

I feel like these foods are giving me the energy I need for the bigger efforts without the horrendous refined sugar overloads that sports gels can be liable for. I’ve had more than a few stomach turning moments on long runs in the past after running on liquid sugars for hours on end. Real food is also way nicer to eat. I defy anyone to tell me they would eat any form of gel as a snack if they weren’t running a race at the time.

Having said that, I have been using “recovery shakes” after some of the higher-load days. Mainly just because I had them already and they needed using up, but also because they do seem to help ward off the muscle and joint fatigue than can build up when consistently putting higher loads your body for long periods.

With February done, I’m happy to say that I don’t feel like stopping, so I plan to run every day in March.

Even though that’s three more runs than February.

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