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108 Days of Running

I meant to finally stop at day 100.

I knew I needed to stop in order to move forward. My body needed a break. It was time. But I found myself accidentally running on day 101 and had to think of a new, comfortable number on which to stop. Day 105? Labor Day? Day 111? It had to be a number that made sense and was "round", if only to me. Basically, I had to satisfy my neurosis with a number that didn't spark my anxiety. Because there's already a lot of anxiety surrounding stopping this running streak.

I started streaking with the Runners World summer streak of 2020, which is a yearly (virtual) event from Memorial Day to July 4th, for 41 days. I wasn't 100% sure I could do it, but circumstances aligned to make it the best time to try:

--Last year's injuries were 90% healed,

--I no longer have a busy work schedule (thanks Covid!),

--I don't have to worry about childcare because my husband works from home now

--I live in Los Angeles right now, where every day offers perfect running weather

--I was physically prepared because I had done a sort of practice run streak at the very beginning of quarantine, back when I thought it would only last a few weeks. That streak was about 21+ days minus 1 or 2, so I had given myself a taste of it, knew what to expect, and knew I was in shape from all my quarantine running leading up to Memorial Day.

It was time to stop admiring streakers and join them. And I'm really happy I did!

I knew by 3/4 of the way through that I'd go to at least day 50 (41 is such an odd and uncomfortable number). Then I passed by day 50 and thought maybe I'd stop at 65 or 75, 85, 100...but I just kept going. My daily run had become so rote I didn't even think about it anymore, I just went. Even though I knew I needed to stop, I couldn't just end it on any random day; the number had to make sense and be 'round' (in my head, not in the mathematic sense). I intended to make day 101 my rest day, yet found myself out running that day, too. However, it was on that run that I settled on a comfortable end day: 108.

108 is a sacred number in yoga as well as other Easter cultures. Turns out there are also some mind-blowing mathematical/scientific links to 108 that I didn't know. In yoga, there are 108 beads on a mala (the necklace/rosary used for meditation), 108 nadis (energy canals) converging at the heart, 108 pressure points in the body, 108 sacred sites in India. In Ashtanga, one may do 108 Surya Namaskars (12 rounds of 9 poses), the list goes on. It's a popular number. For me, it's a cyclical number, whole, final and just special enough to be an end point to my streak. It felt right(-ish).

I had lots of anxiety surrounding stopping. As with any behavior that becomes a habit, it's very hard to stop. Who would I be and what would I do if I wasn't running every single day? If my days didn't revolve around my daily run, what would hold them together? Would my mental health fall of the rails? Would my tan fade? Would I be a quitter?

Why I did it:

  • Making and keeping commitments to oneself is paramount to personal success of any kind. I needed to do this to reassure myself that I still got my own back. Especially after having lost everything I knew and everything that I tied to my identity (my job, my city, normal life as we knew it before Covid).

  • To keep busy, have a schedule of sorts, have a goal and task to do every day. I thrive in structure as much as in physical movement.

  • To have a sense of accomplishment every day. Feeling productive on a daily basis has been unreachable over the past 6 months of quarantine, but adding another day to my streak gave me that feeling. Some days it was the only thing I accomplished, and I was ok with that.

  • Mental health. I need physical activity and alone time to stay sane. One of the reasons it's so hard to give up this streak is I no longer have a guaranteed chunk of time to myself--not cleaning up after other people or being interrupted by them. When I started trail running these blocks of serenity grew even longer to accommodate driving to the trails, sometimes 2 hours of escape!

  • Continue exploring my new city. Running is the best way to get to know a place. I love discovering new neighborhoods on foot, and getting up into the mountains allows me an even more unique vantage point of the awesome geographical landscape that is Los Angeles. I feel so much more connected to this place in a short three months just because I've covered so much ground of it.

Why I'm stopping:

  • I want to be able to run races when they finally re-open and I absolutely can't right now. I can barely run more than 4 miles anymore because I've trained it to run shorter distances, every day. Your body will be primed and prepared only for what you're training it for--consciously or not--which is whatever it is you ask it to do every day. Many people are training their bodies to sit on the couch, or hunch over a computer, or starve, or depend on substances like caffeine, drugs, sugar. Like it or not, you are in training for something right now. I have trained my body to run every day, but only 2.5-3 miles, so that's all it can handle. I have to stop, reset, and start a new training plan (one that includes proper rest and recovery) to get back to longer distances.

  • It's time, my body needs quality rest and focused recovery. My legs are shot, probably working at about 40% of their potential capacity.Which means I'm only getting about 40% of the total potential enjoyment out of each run. I want more, which means I have to do less right now.

  • I have plateaued on all fronts: I'm no longer getting stronger, fitter, faster, or building endurance and haven't been for a while. You can't get better if you don't give your body ample recovery time to restore and re-build the muscles that make these progressions possible.

Unexpected benefits/side effects:

  • I didn't think I could do it, and definitely never thought I'd get to--and PAST--100 days. This feels like a big accomplishment and I'm proud of myself. Doing things to make ourselves proud is important to our emotional well being and positive outlook, as well as self-confidence and general satisfaction in life.

  • Trails! Trails! Trails! I'm madly in love with trail running now and I'm not sure I would have discovered this new passion if I didn't need something to shake up my streak. The best part of this move to Los Angeles is the abundance of trails surrounding the city and my discovery of them.

  • I've never been so tan! Even my legs are tan (although it's a serious shorts tan) and they're looking more defined. This is considerable for me because I've historically hated the way my legs look.

  • I didn't get injured! (knocking on wood with one hand as I type this) This kind of blows my mind. I'm sure it's due to the relatively low daily mileage and mostly easy/slower pace, but it's still really surprising. The number one way to incur an injury is to overtrain, not getting adequate rest and recovery. I'm thrilled to know my body can still handle hard work.

  • My old injuries (Achilles tendon strains) actually got better over the course of the streak. They seem to have strengthened with the frequent, lower-demand running I was doing. I never would have guessed this to be the effect.

What helped me along the way:

I doubt I could have done this streak if it weren't for the factors mentioned above: normal life in NYC would have tripped me up at some point. Some things that kept my body going:

  • Frequently foam rolling, stick rolling, stretching, Hyper-volting, and practicing yoga. I tried to do one of these modalities every day, but in reality it was probably only every second or third day.

  • Podcasts. I listened to podcasts for the first half or whole run to keep my pace slower and for entertainment. On pavement I prefer to run fast, and if I listen to music I definitely run faster. But running at a PRE (perceived rate of exertion) above 5 or 6 every single day would have been unsustainable: I surely would have brought on some type of injury or just bottomed out early on.

  • I got a couple of body work (deep massage w/ pressure point) sessions and chiropractic adjustments, which may or may not have helped.

  • My husband was supportive of my endeavor. I had to squeeze runs in while traveling, on beach days, before day trips and weekend adventures. He understood and even helped me strategize fitting it in. Moral support is so crucial.

So now what?

I'll probably take 2 or 3 days off and then start a hybrid training plan: speedwork on pavement 2 days a week, and 3 days of chill trail running, increasing that distance each week. Although I don't have a race in mind, I want to be in running shape to do a half-marathon by November. Fingers crossed that I'll find one!

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1 Comment

Sep 11, 2020

Absolutely love your blog posts Karen! That’s why i did the whole 30 and had anxiety to stop. And after day 45, I felt bad about stopping but jumped back on in a less strict way because for me, this is a lifestyle; not a race. I’m trying to continually stop breaking promises to myself, because that’s how I feel the best version of myself. Strong, confident and self loving! Thanks for sharing!

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