A word of caution:
This post is about running. If you hate running, or reading about running, or even if you hate runners (OMG, no way, right?!?!?), go ahead and move on to the next item on your reading list.
So I belong to a group of runners from all over the world. It’s really fun and interesting to read about their escapades, their races, and all their adventures from exotic places. (Well, at least they seem like exotic places, but then again, Bujumbura may seem exotic which it decidedly is not.)
Generally I have been mostly an observer to the group, but when someone threw out a challenge in mid-November, I decided to join in and go for it. The challenge was to run at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. And when you think about it, that’s quite the challenge, since traditionally that period is reserved for mostly eating and mostly not sticking with any kind of exercise or activity program.
New Year’s Day was a great celebration of my last of 36 consecutive runs: some good, some less than spectacular; some long, some short, but always at least a mile; some fast, some very, very slow, but 36 in a row! I have been running (off and on, but mostly on) since 1978, and I have never, ever run 36 days in a row. It was quite the experience.
And here are some lessons learned from the streak:
- If you throw down a challenge, I will do almost anything ethically and morally possible to meet the challenge. But then again, I guess those who know me would admit that we all already knew that. 🙂 And as it turned out, there were still a couple of things I never had to resort to, which included running around my yard (which would have been hazardous, not to mention the guards may have decided I’d finally lost it completely), and running at lunch–something I have never done and did not end up doing these 36 days.
- If need be, you can run almost anywhere, anytime. You can squeeze in a quick run on the way home from work, right before sunset; or in the rain; or right before guests are arriving; or while on vacation; or after you get back from an exhausting chimpanzee trek; or any other equally inconvenient, short or seemingly impossible time slot. All these things, I did do during these 36 days.
- The circumstances don’t have to be perfect to get in a run. I used to think everything had to be perfect to run. It had to be the right time–usually first thing in the morning. If I missed that time slot, I missed my opportunity. The weather had to be just right–not too hot, not too cold, not too rainy. If the weather wasn’t as perfect as I wanted, that was enough of an excuse to skip. I had to be “feeling it”. If I wasn’t feeling it, it wasn’t happening. But as mentioned in the second bullet point, you can run almost anywhere, anytime. The circumstances don’t have to be perfect to run.
- Running short distances decreases the list of excuses for running slow. I have to admit that I love the LSD run– the Long Slow Distances, despite the fact that all the research shows that we should run smart, not long, and that shorter, faster runs are overall a more beneficial investment than my favorite LSD run. So having to quickly squeeze in some short, relatively-speaking faster runs made it really difficult for me to play my silly mind games about slowing down so I could complete the longer distance. I’m already plenty slow enough; recognizing the need to speed up just a little (and the lack of excuses for not) was a valuable lesson for me.
- Running goes better when you have a goal or a challenge and some support. I can’t describe how much a difference my fellow streakers made for me–how encouraging and fun they made it, even though I have never met nor actually gotten to run with any of them. I definitely would not have kept streaking without them. So even though I don’t have any running partners here in Bujumbura, and I don’t know of any races I can realistically train for, it’s good to know I have my fellow streakers to spur me on. I will need them more than ever now that the streak is over!
- Grace and forgiveness make the world a better place, even when it is directed towards oneself. In fact, maybe especially when it is directed towards oneself. We live in a fast-paced, high pressured world, where expectations for perfection and accomplishment run high. Some (although admittedly not all) of us can be very hard on ourselves. On Christmas Eve, due to a packed schedule and spending time with our visiting daughter Megan, the day came and went without a run. By the time I looked at the clock and considered running around my house in the dark, it was already 1:15 in the morning–the streak was already officially broken. So instead of quitting and admitting defeat, I gave myself some grace and forgiveness, ran twice on Christmas Day to make up for it, and re-instated my standing in the streak. Sometimes getting back in the saddle after a fall is more important than never falling. I can’t put into words how important this little lesson was for me. To experience that self-directed grace and forgiveness made me appreciate how important it is for all of us to give and to experience grace and forgiveness more.
- There are always lots of life lessons to learn from running. But like the first bullet point, I already knew this one too. And I’m not the first person to recognize this: Paul made lots of running analogies in his letters to the churches recorded in the New Testament. I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps, pun intended. 🙂
Happy New Year! Happy running, happy lesson learning, and thank you a million times over to my fellow streakers for the support, encouragement, and opportunity to experience these 36 days together and these lessons learned. Although I never posted any pictures of my runs, here is the sunset on the second to last day, and me celebrating with my husband and daughter at the close of the streak, my first day without running since Thanksgiving! Enjoy!