Should Every Runner Try "Streaking"?
When I hear the word “streaking,” all I can think about is Will Ferrell in Old School sauntering down the street naked and drunk. In running parlance, streaking is a daily run for an extended period of time. The United States Run Streak Association (USRSA), which tracks running streaks, defines a run streak thusly: “Run at least one mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day. Running may occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill … for at least one year in duration.”
You read that right: running at least a mile every single day for an entire year. If you think that is nuts, a perusal of the newsletter put out by the USRSA showed that quite a few runners have streaks of 25 years or more! The only things I’ve done for 25 years straight are eat, sleep, and breathe.
A run streak requires a lot of positive traits: motivation, commitment, time, energy, stamina, and good health. But it raises the questions: Why would anyone embark on such a tenuous journey? And, more importantly, should you?
I personally have not accomplished a 365-day running streak. My longest streak is 87 days. Mainly, I haven’t attempted a yearlong streak. But it's also not an endeavor I want to take on. Running streaks will undoubtedly require a person to run under less-than-ideal conditions, such as sickness, injury, or inclement weather. Not that I haven’t run in those circumstances—I have definitely participated in bad behavior when it comes to running, ignoring a cold, pretending the little ache is nothing more than that, and unwisely running through blizzards and hail storms. It’s just that I do not want to make those decisions a habit, nor do I want to become a slave to my running because as it stands, running is my salvation.
I solicited the insight of my good friend Brandon Del Campo, who completed a one-year running streak while in high school (Brandon went on to run track at UCLA during the Meb era). That’s a bit young on the streaking-age barometer. “The streak was something that was ‘in fashion’ for running at the time—the mid '90s—and encouraged by my coach," he told me. "The deal was that you had to run 5k or 25 minutes for it to count.” Ah, so their requirement was even more stringent than that of the USRSA.
I asked Brandon how he accomplished his streak and he admitted that indeed, the streak did require some bad behavior. “I can remember running through flus, running in airports, running 5k just before midnight and then 5k just after midnight, and planning my entire day around getting that run in," he said. "There were days when I should not have run, like when I had a nagging injury, but the idea of the streak out-ruled everything.”
The notion that the “streak out-ruled everything” is most concerning about streaking. I read Amber Travsky’s words, “I was like an addict"; her streak ended after 755 days when she had knee surgery.
Running in and of itself can be a healthy activity; taken to an extreme, however, running can create problems. Brandon explained that at first, the streak helped his running, but over time, it hindered his running because he “started to experience burnout late in my season.” And a perusal of run streakers' blogs indicates that most of them endured some manner of injury during their streak, some of which were streak-ending.
There are plenty of positives to streaking, however. Benn Griffin’s three-year streak gave him excellent insight: “Over the last 1,100 or so days, I’ve learned to appreciate the opportunity that streak running provides to deepen self-reflection and heighten my perception to this amazing world around us!”
Brandon’s experience also had many positives: “I think the streak bonded me to running and those around me.”
There is little consensus in the medical community about whether streaking is good or bad for you. A 2015 study indicated that the lowest mortality was seen in those who jogged two to three times per week—certainly a low weekly total for serious runners. But we also know that lack of activity has deleterious health effects. Perhaps the best choice is somewhere between not running at all and running every day.
Ultimately, whether or not to embark on a run streak comes down to a personal choice. If you decide to begin a run streak, here are some things to consider:
- Make sure you are healthy enough to begin your streak. Start with a physical and a biomechanical assessment. Get your iron and vitamin D levels checked. Ensure that your running shoes are right for you.
- Begin your steak with low mileage and build slowly.
- Implement some kind of strength training and stretching program to help prevent injuries.
- Incorporate bodywork, such as massage, dry needling, or chiropractic care.
- Understand the psychological ramifications of streaking and how the streak can potentially become an addiction.
- If you are beginning your streak for motivational purposes, set an end date to your streak.
- Make sure your "easy run" days are actually easy.
- Plan for “rest” days by doing an early morning run one day and an evening run the next day.
- You can still race. Plenty of streakers have prolific racing schedules. Keep your runs short leading up to the race. Integrate “rest” days before and after the race.
- Be smart! Your health is more important than the streak. If you feel like your mental health is being affected by the streak, it is time to stop. Likewise, injuries and illness should be taken seriously and not ignored. If running through an injury will affect your long-term health, shut it down.