Like many runners, I like to (and almost need to) have events and races in the diary to focus my training, and ultimately keep me on track and accountable. RunThrough’s Chase the Sun Series, has become my go-to event series when wanting to fine tune my five- and 10-kilometre runs. However, when events suddenly looked extremely unlikely to go ahead this summer, I decided I needed to set myself a different type of challenge. Unsure with what the future held, I wanted to ensure I had something to focus on during lockdown. Largely to keep myself motivated, but hopefully in the process I would encourage others to keep on track with exercise and training in these uncertain times, and even inspire new runners to give it a go!
I have always been interested in habits and consistency, so I decided to turn to this topic whilst settling on an idea. I had heard of runners doing consecutive running challenges. There are some fairly extreme examples including Dean Karnazes 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states and Fran Benali’s epic Benali’s Iron Fran – seven ironman triathlons in seven days. Taking inspiration from these, I landed on my own challenge. 10km every day for 100 days. A few considerations led me to this point. Ten kilometers felt like the right distance, relatable to both a marathon runner and a park runner. I was also working full time, so I needed to consider the time I could reasonably commit to each day. The 100, well if I’m being totally honest, I figured it looked nice with 10. It was also big enough that I had no idea if I could achieve it. I think that was what excited me – I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up (or if it would), what the biggest challenges would be, and ultimately if I could even do it.
Monday 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson announces that the UK is in lockdown. Tuesday 24 March 2020 I (somewhat naively) run my first 10 kilometers.
Writing this now I am excited (and relieved) to say that I completed the challenge. There were ups and downs along the way, and a few toenails had to be sacrificed. However, I can honestly say I enjoyed every single run in some way, even if it was simply finishing it. I have tried to summarise a few of the things I learnt and experienced over the last 100 days.
JUST GET STARTED
Getting out the front door was the hardest part nearly every time. Once I took my first few strides, I’d settle into “the zone” and remember how good it feels to run. My shoulders would relax, my mind would clear, and my breath would settle into a steady rhythm. I realised you can apply this to other areas of life, as the greatest friction often lies with getting started. On the days I found particularly tough, I simply focused on lacing up my running shoes and getting out the front door – the rest would then fall into place.
MAKE LIFE EASY FOR YOUR FUTURE SELF
I constantly looked for ways to make getting started as frictionless as possible. Top tip: unlace your shoes the night before. Trying to undo tightly laced trainers at 6.30 a.m. when you’re sleepy and disoriented is just a difficulty you don’t need. I figured any small preparation I could do that makes the barrier to getting started lower was worth it. Keys, headphones, watch, phone armband, running kit… the mornings these were placed in a prepared pile the night before were so much smoother. Setting my intentions and making life easier for my future self was always worth it.
GET RID OF EXCUSES
Bad weather, Garmin out of battery, tight calves, tired, busy at work, just not feeling it. These are all things I have used in the past as excuses not to run. This challenge forced me to get rid of them all. Funnily enough, none of them are really that valid. It is easy to create excuses, and a lot harder to get rid of them, but once you do it’s amazing how trivial they suddenly seem.
KEEP IT INTERESTING
Whilst lock down meant there were certain restrictions on where I could run, the days I explored new routes; or even just sections of routes, gave my run even a small sense of adventure, and as a result, it would go much quicker. I learnt so much more about my surrounding area just by a bit of google maps planning and a willingness to get slightly lost. It’s amazing what is on your doorstep if you take the time to explore. I found the monotony of the challenge particularly tough. As someone who likes to frequently jump between sports, distances and environments, doing the same thing every day started to take its toll mentally, especially towards the second half. Mixing up my routes was a big help. When time permitted, I would ride my bike out so I could run a different area, simply to keep my mind and my legs engaged.
RUNNING CAN UNLOCK OTHER HABITS
I’m a big fan of James Clear and his work on habits. With the daily nature of my runs I was able to use them to stack other habits. I listened to nearly as many podcasts as I have done runs. I started writing. I foam rolled and stretched more than ever before (although still far from enough…), I drank more water, and I even started doing 10 minutes of mediation when I got in from my runs.
RUNNING BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER
One thing I love about running is how it attracts people of all abilities. All you need is a pair of shoes and a willingness to get up and go. Whilst having solo runs to listen to podcasts or just time to think was great, when the ease of lock down was announced I was relieved and excited to get back running with friends and family. Having family and friends join me on runs, and even strangers sending kind words of encouragement, truly helped with the monotony. It was ultimately people that boosted my motivation, helped me through, and made this possible.
TAKE YOUR TIME
The competitor in me found it tough to see my times get slower, but deep down I knew this was about sustaining, not racing. I had to be smart if I wanted my body to last and I began to appreciate the runs where I took my time. I would focus on my technique, really think about how I was running, and how I could improve. I would allow myself to take in my surroundings properly. It’s rather cool what you notice, and what you can achieve when you give yourself permission to slow down and take your time.
I also made sure I took the time to recover as much as possible between runs. Although tempting to join friends for bike rides, big walks, and even other runs, I knew I had to be sensible and focus on the bigger picture. Other key elements of my recovery were staying hydrated throughout the day and dedicating some time to the foam roller.
I LOVE RUNNING
I was worried at the start that I would be sick of running by the end of the challenge. However, if anything it has re-instilled my love for running and my sincere gratitude for being able to run and move every day. The monotony was tough and there are some runs I was admittedly less excited for, but overall, I can honestly say I enjoyed each of my 100 runs in some way. It gave me structure and focus during these uncertain times, and hopefully I encouraged even one other person to connect with running in this time.
A lot of people have asked “what’s next?”
The honest answer is I don’t know. However, I’m sure it will involve some more running!
If you have any questions or want to get in touch, please feel free to reach out via my Instagram channel @in_the_running_