An Alternative Way to Keep a Running Streak Going

Don't fret a missed day. We prefer to monitor weekly mileage.

A man running on a rainy track at night.
You don't have to run in rain, sleet or snow to keep this sort of running streak going.
Sports Illustrated via Getty Ima

Run-streakers are some of the toughest people on the planet. The current worldwide leader is a man named Jon Sutherland, aged 73, who has logged at least one mile every single calendar day for the last 54.80 years. That’s 20,015 days in a row.

Sutherland’s first run took place two months before the United States landed on the moon; it has persisted ever since, trampling through flus, broken bones and shingles. He even went jogging the day doctors performed surgery on his artery.

I wouldn’t dream of minimizing Sutherland’s accomplishment — or those of so many other, astonishingly dedicated runners like him, compiled in a database here — by saying someone shouldn’t start or continue a lifelong run streak. If that’s what you feel inspired to do, for yourself or for others (the great Hellah Sidibe, another run-streaker, says he can’t stop running, as he runs “for those who can’t”), I salute you. It’s a wonderful thing.

But I think it’s fair to say that at their most rigid, run-streakers are a unique and unlikely tribe, capable of maintaining something that is unattainable to the average runner — let alone the average person. All that being said: streaks are an attractive and useful wellness tool, capable of providing purpose, while holding us accountable to a long-term pursuit or goal. I’d just recommend adapting them to your advantage. Instead of fretting the continuity of daily efforts, it’s much easier to start monitoring weekly mileage.

Personally, the approach has already liberated my running routine this year. I explain what I mean by it — and how exactly it works — below.

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The Argument for a “Weekly Mileage” Streak

Heading into this year, I resolved to run 20 miles a week. For reference: when I was training for the NYC Marathon last summer and fall, I worked my mileage up to a range of 30 to 50 miles per week.

Immediately after the race — as is common for runners experiencing post-race blues — my output cratered to 10 miles or less a week. Then the holidays came around. One week, I only posted four miles to Strava. I needed the rest, mentally and physically.

But now I’m running again. This 20-miles-weekly goal has served me well this year (I’m now on my ninth week in a row of the regimen), for a variety of reasons:

  • It fits into my schedule.
  • It’s challenging but not daunting.
  • It doesn’t include any extra or unnecessary mileage.
  • It allows for customization within those miles.

How to Get One Going Yourself

I have one long run that anchors my week (an eight-miler, typically on Wednesday mornings), then mix and match tempo efforts, track workout, recovery runs and extremely basic, “I need to get this done then start work” three-milers. More serious runners would probably plug in another long run or fret mileage plateaus, but it’s not like I’m planning on running 20 miles every single week for the rest of my life. I’ll scale it up a bit in the spring and summertime (25 to 30 miles, perhaps), or scale it down when I’m pursuing other activities: strength training, basketball, soccer, indoor rowing.

The point, in line with that first bullet, is that this simulates the spirit of a streak while working with my schedule. I don’t feel guilty about taking days off, and I don’t frantically check the weather whenever a storm system’s blowing east. I’m not worried about falling into the overtraining trap, either.

And yet, I feel extremely proud every time I reach 20 miles (sometimes, this isn’t until late Sunday afternoon), which to me, is the surefire sign I’m targeting the right number for this time of year, at a juncture where I’m not training for a race. Beyond being rugged SOBs, it’s that feeling that’s kept the run-streakers going all those years — the continuous chase of fleeting reward. (In which, excuse the cliche, the chase itself is the real reward.)

If you think your running routine could benefit from a streak, I recommend combing through your Strava data and landing on a weekly number that makes sense. Maybe it’s five miles. Maybe it’s 25. Whatever — establish the goal, then create the space to make it happen. Then do it again. And again. And again. It’s a different kind of running streak, but it counts just the same.

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