The Pros and Cons of a Run StreakJul 12, 2021
A common running mantra goes something like this: Even a short run is better than no run at all. Or: No matter how little you run — or how slow you go — you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.
Have you said this before? If you have (or if you’ve even just thought it), then a run streak may be for you.
What is streaking?
The United States Running Streak Association (USRSA) defines a run streak as running at least one mile every day. The organization, which keeps track of runners with streaks of at least one year, reports 2,301 active streakers in America right now. The state with the most is Texas, followed closely by Minnesota and California.
If you want to be thoroughly impressed, take a look at the statistics from the USRSA’s parent association, Streak Runners International (SRI), which lists 70-year-old Jon Sutherland of California as the runner with the longest active running streak in the world. Sutherland has been running consecutively for 19,028 days, or 52.10 years.
According to SRI, the oldest person in the world with an active running streak is 84-year-old Lois Bastien of Florida, who’s been running for 15,048 days, or 41.20 years.
Not looking for that much of a commitment? Don’t worry. In a nutshell, a run streak is simply running every day. It’s a challenge that requires a completely different mindset — and a completely different goal — from typical race training.
Instead of trying to run a specific distance, or a specific distance in a certain amount of time, a streaker’s goal is typically more along the lines of building consistency, more mental strength, or just having fun.
And there are plenty of benefits.
The pros of streaking
Undertaking a run streak can give you all sorts of advantages, including:
- Increased motivation
If you’re relatively new to running, one of the major benefits of a run streak is the motivation it builds in you. You have a tangible goal every day, a reason to get up and get out the door — and only yourself to answer to if you don’t.
- Greater resourcefulness
Keeping along the lines of motivation, if you’ve committed to a streak, you’ve left yourself no room for excuses like a missed alarm or a late meeting. Sometimes you might have to schedule a run at times you usually wouldn’t, including just before bed, just before the sun comes up, during a lunch break, or between meetings.
Getting creative with your running will help you become more resourceful as a runner, an ability that can spill over and help in other areas of your life, as well.
- Increased consistency
You can’t get much more consistent than running every day. Making it routine makes it easier, and it also gives you a foundation to build from that will allow you to run longer in the future.
- A stronger mindset
When it comes to running, mental strength is often more important than physical strength. What else is going to keep you moving when your lungs and legs are screaming at you to stop? Only mental toughness can do that. By demonstrating to yourself that you’re capable of running every day, you’re gaining mental fitness. And that’s no small matter.
- A non-competitive goal
Maybe you’re a runner who doesn’t love competition or racing. Streaking gives you a fun goal to work toward that pits you only against yourself.
The cons of streaking
Despite its benefits, streaking isn’t the most forgiving of challenges, and it does have certain negatives. Maybe you’ve been noticing a painful tweak in your knee when you run, or you’ve been fighting off a cold. Running that mile only to continue your streak could cause a full-blown injury or illness, or wear you down to the point where you’re more susceptible to one.
A running streak might also not be for you if:
- You’re more of an all-or-nothing type of runner than a something-is-better-than-nothing one (i.e., you don’t see the point in running unless it’s a full workout).
- Having to get creative each day to fit in your mileage is going to cause you too much stress.
- You want to get faster or be able to run a certain distance.
- You’ve only recently started running or are recovering from an injury.
To avoid any drawbacks from streaking, it’s important to enter one with a reasonable mindset. Make a deal with yourself that if you notice any pain while running, or aren’t feeling 100 percent healthy, you break your streak. It’s simply not worth the risk of a major injury or worsened health.
Also, to streak successfully, you need to start small. That could mean beginning with a lower weekly mileage than normal. It also usually means tabling speed workouts for the time being. With the increased frequency, your body’s already dealing with enough stress. Keeping your runs easy is a good way to stay away from injury.
Finally, make sure you incorporate dynamic stretching into your runs. And consider switching up your distances and routes so you don’t get bored or burned out.
Now get out there and run your life.