I start dreading winter in July. I hate being cold, I hate being outside in cold weather, and I HATE running in the cold winter months more than anything. This past fall I didn’t do a ton of running when the temperature began to drop because we were moving and renovating our house, but I knew that I could only use that excuse to avoid running in the cold for a limited period of time. On the flight home from Christmas in New Jersey I decided to pass the time I didn’t spend sleeping by coming up with ideas to motivate myself to run in the cold. I settled on outrunning winter by running 100 consecutive days. 100 days later, I am completely exhausted and happy to report that I ended my 100th run with lemon water ice in shorts and a tank top. Bye bye winter.
My quest to run 100 consecutive days was challenging. Throughout the last 100 days I often wondered if it was even possible. In early January I fell hard on the bike path and bruised my knees and underneath my big toenail. It was a bloody mess and extremely painful. Nevertheless, I managed to run two miles the following day. For an entire week I wanted to stop running because of this pain, but I didn’t because I was committed to this insanity. The pain subsided and the toenail eventually fell off leaving me unable to wear my yaktrax the rest of winter because they now hurt my toe. I spent the rest of January and all of February praying I wouldn’t slip on ice. In February I started getting migraines again after almost three months of being migraine free, which is the longest I’ve ever gone without a migraine in nearly 11 years of suffering with chronic migraines. I get debilitating migraines that leave me bedridden, nauseous, unable to function, and they make running impossible. The only reason I even thought a 100 day running streak could be possible was because I’d become hopeful that my struggle with migraines was nearing an end. The new medication I am taking for the migraines worked for that period of time but then then it didn’t work anymore, however the medication for the migraines helped in the sense that the migraines didn’t last as long as they normally do. Luckily, I was able to force myself out the door after the migraines reduced to a mild headache to run 1-2 miles on the days this happened. I was committed to this insane idea that I could outrun winter. Shortly after this started happening again I was able to have the dosage on my medication adjusted and things improved. Running daily is nearly impossible for me because I never know if I’ll get a migraine or not. Once I started feeling better physically I started hating the running streak. It became mentally taxing, unfun, obligatory, I felt overtrained, and the quality of the runs was diminishing daily.
I’ve always known that I am not the kind of athlete who should attempt a running streak of any kind, it’s slippery slope for someone like me but I did it anyway. I have a perfectionistic, obsessive personality when it comes to running. I find myself trying to be perfect and perfect is often some form of overtraining and I always end up sick or injured. This is why I cannot coach myself. I need someone to keep me balanced and realistic in my own training. As a coach I have things figured out, as an athlete I am still a work in progress.
So what did I learn?
This experience taught me that I am strong willed and I can run 100 consecutive days, but that I should not. This experience reaffirmed what I’ve always known about rest and recovery–they are essential. This experience taught me that I can battle through bloody toes and migraines, but that I should let my body heal in these situations because those runs weren’t quality runs. In the end those runs don’t really matter. I learned that when running feels like a chore I don’t enjoy it. I learned that I can outrun winter, but that maybe I don’t need to outrun winter maybe I just need to embrace being cold sometimes. I learned that running a 5k 97 days into a running streak is going to feel like hell on earth. I learned that doing this will make me feel like my feet are bolted to the ground and I will not be happy with the outcome. I learned that I am strong but that I am also weak from pure exhaustion and lack of rest. I learned that I need rest to perform well. I learned that if I keep trying to coach myself I will never make it to the start of my goal race. I learned that if I don’t stop running and break the streak, I never will.
Running streaks can serve a purpose, and they are right for some people but I am unsure if a running streak is right for me. I can’t say I’ll never do it again but I can say I know I probably shouldn’t. Now that it’s spring I see rest days in my future!