The Truth About Run Streaks

A woman runs as the sun rises.

Maintaining a regular running schedule can seem like a daunting task. Most average runners hit the roads between three and five days per week. If you’re not familiar with the popular “run streak” trend, running every day may sound like something reserved for elite athletes and dedicated professionals. But thousands of amateur runners have joined the movement, logging miles every day to keep their streak alive.

Committing to a run streak can help you stay motivated and force you to get off the couch. But is running every day good for your body? We spoke with several runners and a Fleet Feet running coach to learn more about run streaks.

What defines a run streak?

Believe it or not, there are various organizations whose sole focus is run streaking. The United States Running Streak Association (USRSA) established a national streak group for runners in 2000 and maintains a registry of active and retired streaks. According to them, a run streak is defined as running “at least one mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day.”

Unless you want to be formally recognized for your run streak, it’s up to you to decide the terms of your streak. Most runners stick to the USRSA rules of running at least one mile per day. Some runners even commit to running a 5k every day. Nathan Gehrig, a sub 3-hour marathoner who runs with the Fleet Feet Delray Beach club, began his streak in January 2019.

“Until two days ago, the streak meant at least a 5K per day. At some point along the way, I had decided to get to one year running at least a 5K per day. Yesterday, however, after completing that year, I immediately broke that streak by only running one mile,” Gehrig explained. “So, now the streak will carry on requiring one continuous mile per day.”

Because Gehrig is training for an upcoming race, switching to a one-mile-per-day run streak made more sense. “I need to have a day or two per week to be able to do some cross training without a real running commitment. A mile a day is really sustainable and can be squeezed in anywhere. A 5K a day is a real run, requiring a change of clothes and a little planning,” he said.

A woman pulls on her running shoes.

Why do runners streak?

From relieving stress to setting a new PR, there are a variety of different reasons that drive runners to start a run streak. Making a commitment to run every day requires dedication and drive, not to mention time management skills.

Nadine White-Boyd, a Boston qualifier who trains with the West Boynton Road Runners club, started her first run streak over the summer of 2020 when gyms were closing because of COVID-19. “I never thought about doing a run streak because I also enjoy working out in the gym, and if I was running every day I wouldn’t have time to do that,” she explained.

Once a fellow runner challenged White-Boyd to a run streak from Memorial Day to July 4th, she was hooked. “Once the streak ended I thought ‘thank goodness this is over!’ But just a couple of days later I committed to running another streak until Labor Day,” she said. Now, White-Boyd is motivated to continue her streak and join the elusive “comma club,” reserved for those who have put together a thousand days of consecutive running.

Amy Madsen, a member of the Fleet Feet Fox Valley Racing Team, is a member of the comma club and just celebrated her six year "streakiversary."

“I started a streak a few years prior to starting my current one and only made it about 60 days before I fell on some ice and tore a tendon,” Amy says. “On May 1, 2018, I woke up and said ‘Today is day one.’ My initial goal was to make it to 100 days, and then 200 days and then a year. I never thought that six years later I would still be going and loving it. I have no plans to stop streaking. At this point it’s just a part of my day, like brushing my teeth or telling my kids ‘I love you.’ It’s a part of who I am.”

No matter what your motivation is, running a streak is a fun and rewarding way to challenge yourself. Checking the days off on the calendar can provide you with that exciting feeling of achieving something awesome.

“Running gets me through each day knowing I’ve accomplished something for myself,” explained White-Boyd.

A woman smiles as she runs down a tree-lined pathway.

How do run streaks affect your body?

Everything is better in moderation, and this saying rings true for running as well. Running too much can have adverse effects on the body. Too much stress on your muscles and joints can cause fatigue and injury, and the mental energy required to run every day can be overwhelming. So, how does a run streak affect your body? The answer isn’t as simple as you may think.

Recovery is a crucial part of any training regimen. In order to get stronger and faster, your body needs rest after the stress of a hard workout. If you’re running every day, it might seem like there’s no room in your schedule for rest. But it is possible to participate in a run streak while allowing your body to recover.

“Active rest is a real thing. You can go for a short run at an even easier pace than most runs, which allows you to have the benefits of endorphins and keep the rhythm of your previous runs going,” explains Nick Stump, owner and run coach at Fleet Feet Delray Beach.

According to a 2018 article published in Frontiers in Physiology by Dr. Oliver Dupuy, active recovery is shown to decrease the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Going for a one to two mile run at an easy pace the day after a tough workout can help get blood flowing to your muscles, reducing soreness and inflammation. As long as you break up your hard sessions with some easy runs, you can still recover adequately while run streaking.Foam rolling, stretching and massage will also help to ensure a thorough recovery.

Is a run streak right for you?

As long as you’re healthy and haven’t suffered any recent injuries, a run streak can be a great way to stay motivated and push yourself. “In these times where there aren’t that many races occurring, run streaking is a great way to set a goal that would test your limits,” Stump says.

If you don’t have any big races lined up, run streaking can be a great way to experiment with your training. As with any training plan, runners should always avoid taking on too much too soon. Start your streak slowly and see how your body reacts to it. Every runner is different, and your streak should reflect that. Take the time to listen to your body, and don’t get caught up in what other runners are doing on Strava.

“Find a routine that works well for you and stick to it the best you can,” advises Stump, “and enjoy the journey, as run streaking is not about the destination.”

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