by Claire Louise Thomas
“RUN every day? You must be insane Claire”, these were the words on my husband’s lips in March 2020. He was the first person who I shared my harebrained idea with. I had been quietly watching a few other run streakers on Facebook and was intrigued to give it a try for myself and see how far I could go.
I like to challenge myself and in one way or another I always have some goal I am striving for. Whether it’s training for my latest marathon, planning my next fundraiser for charity but a run streak; that was new and something that even shocked my husband.
When I told some friends a few told me I wouldn’t go beyond a month. One even said, “I give you 50 days max”. That was like a red flag to a bull.
We were about to go into a national lockdown for the very first time; scary, uncertain times were ahead. I was a keen runner and already running four times a week. I had suffered with my mental health in the past. Running always helped lift my mood and gave me those feel-good vibes and so I knew that I needed to use it to help me through this testing time. I invested in a treadmill as I was worried that outdoor exercise would be restricted and as I have dogs my daily outdoor exercise slot would be allocated to their walkies.
On that first day of starting, I made a promise to myself that I would run every day during lockdown until it ended. I had no idea how long that would be but didn’t for one minute expect it to go on anywhere near a year. I set up an Instagram account @thevoguerunner and used that as a daily diary and for my own accountability purposes. I also joined some streak runner support groups online.
The first few months were challenging, I won’t lie. I was running on average 5k per day and some days I was doing a little less. My body was adapting and I felt tired a lot. I started to look at my hydration and food and increased both to accommodate the increased exercise. That helped.
There were days I didn’t feel like running but I kept reminding myself of that promise to myself and so continued on putting one foot in front of another and one these days when I felt tired I listened to my body and just did less and at a slower pace. To keep a streak alive you need to do at least 1 mile continuous run and so some days I did that.
My runs were a mix of treadmill runs and outdoor runs. Where possible, I got out to run as that really lifted my spirits and broke the monotony of being indoors.
Before I knew it my first milestone of 50 days was approaching and I secretly felt excited and proud. Then, it was nearing 100 days…. Lockdown seemed do be everlasting and there was no end in sight.
My fitness levels were starting to improve and I managed to get a new PB for my fastest mile of 8min 10s. I was also noticing that I was able to go further every day and by this time I had increased my mileage to around 5 miles most days with maybe a 4 miler one day a week in between. I was no longer as tired and felt really good.
I decided that with every 100 day milestone I would do a virtual celebration, and so on day 100 lots of people from all over the world joined in with me to run virtually . The virtual running community is so supportive and that helped keep me motivated and spur me on.
All run events had been cancelled and my place in the London marathon and New York marathon had been deferred. I had the option to do a virtual marathon . I mulled over whether I could do that during my run every day streak . Training for a marathon is testing enough but doing that while on a run streak is even more of an ask. I was secretly nervous at how my body would cope but I was determined to use it as an opportunity to raise more money for my chosen charity (plus I wanted to see if I could do it!)
Another harebrained idea followed. I decided that I would challenge myself further and upgrade my virtual marathon to my first ultra marathon of 50km! On a very wet day on the 4th October 2020 I achieved my goal. I managed a 34 mile trail run up through the Afan forest. I will never forget the day after my ultra. I felt like the tin man as I ran a 5k. Nevertheless, after that first mile I loosened up a lot and the run really helped my stiffness.
By this point I was probably around day 250 of my run every day streak and I knew that I was going to aim for 365 days. I believed I could do it, especially after having done the ultra. Self belief is everything. How you speak to yourself is key. Tell yourself you can and you will. Tell yourself you can’t, you won’t.
Throughout my streak I have had ups and downs. There have been times when life got in the way and the thought of squeezing in my run seemed impossible but like with anything in life, if you want something badly enough you will make it work for you and find a way. I have run at 1 am in the morning and at 10pm at night on some days to get that run in. I’ve had days when I felt under the weather, I’ve still got my run in, albeit a slow, gentle mile.
I’ve run through family illnesses and death. Those were the hardest, most challenging runs which almost made me quit the streak. At the end of January 2021 I lost my mum to covid, and within two weeks of that we had to put our furbaby Oscar to sleep after 11 yrs. I nursed both in the lead up and was with both at the end. After losing mum I had to self isolate for 10 days so relied on my treadmill, along with doing hundreds of laps of my garden for my fresh air boost! These were the hardest times of my life and I often cried while running but I was determined to run on in their memory, and to hit my personal goal. On the day of mum’s funeral I did a midnight treadmill run as I knew it wouldn’t happen otherwise.
I hit my 365 days run every day on Tuesday 23rd March 2021. I celebrated with a 5 mile run with a friend. I also did a virtual celebration again of colour and life and called it Rainbow Child. (the name of one of my favourite songs) Over 100 people joined in virtually from as far away as Canada and Colorado USA, as well as the lovely ladies from She Runs: Cardiff.
After reading this you may think I am mad doing what I have. Starting my streak was one of the best things I’ve done and also something I am incredibly proud of. I have learned so much about myself in the process. Not just my body and how much it can achieve but also my willpower and strength. I never realised how determined I am until I started the streak. With dedication and hard work you can achieve anything in life, running related and otherwise.
I am still running every day and haven’t stopped yet as it’s become a habit and a lifestyle for me now. I look forward to my runs. I have achieved my goal and so if I feel like a day off I will. I am just going to see what happens.
My top tips for anyone thinking of starting a run streak:
1. Listen to your body and never push when tired or if you’re really ill. Health always comes first and never jeopardise that or risk injury. On these if you feel you can and want to continue do less and at a slower pace. It takes just 1 continuous run mile to keep a streak active. If you feel really bad don’t go….
2. Train smart and mix up terrain to avoid too much impact on tarmac. Where possible train on trail or wet sand as these are kinder for the joints.
3. Self care : foam roll and when able to, get a deep tissue massage. Always warm up before and stretch after runs.
4. Hydrate and fuel to accommodate your new exercise levels
5. Enjoy the ride. Have fun. Run for YOU!