Running Toward Financial Independence

As I write this article, I am 288 days into a running streak. Since Thanksgiving 2019 (and up to this writing), I have run at least 1 mile every day. This is my longest run streak. Up to this point, I’d started and stopped various run streaks for all sorts of reasons. When I started the current streak, I planned to run Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day. January 1 came and I decided to continue. A single mile was not too challenging and even on the busiest days, I could squeeze in 10 minutes or so to complete it. I hope to keep going until at least Thanksgiving 2020, to complete a 365 day run streak and cross that item off my current 101 Tasks in 1001 Days list.

The run streak began as an effort to focus on fitness. To make a daily commitment to move my body and to be healthier. The small, manageable distance was part of my “little efforts”– a handful of frequent, small choices to improve my life. Once the pandemic hit and everything, including gyms, shut down, the streak felt more necessary. I haven’t seen significant changes in weight, body fat percentage or how my pants fit. Is it worth continuing?

My attitude toward the streak today is that I’ll continue for as long as it feels healthy. Naturally, there are days where I don’t want to run, or where I feel tired. Some days my pace is faster than others. Some days my distance is farther than others. But for the past 200+ days, I’ve always felt like I could manage at least 1 mile. The discipline of the daily run reminds me that movement is important. 

Despite the apparent lack of physical changes, I have noticed that my AppleWatch activity rings close more frequently. My energy levels and overall health feel better. My muscle tone has improved. 

In an effort to keep the run streak interesting, in August I challenged myself to run 5 kilometers (a little over 3 miles) on each day of the month. The underlying goal was to knock out my 30 minute exercise goal with a daily run. I wanted a distance that felt relatively easy but far enough that it felt like a challenge. The distance was just right for me at this time. 

Until about halfway through the month, the challenge felt easy. But around August 20, it started to become a struggle. My pace increased. My legs felt heavy. On every run, I would count down how many days remained. I started daydreaming about September 1 and how I would run a single mile that day. 

A local brewery hosted a 5km race in late August that had gone virtual on account of the pandemic. I was eligible to log race times beginning on August 29. Because I was running the distance every day until August 31, I decided to push for time on each run and then choose the best one. This made the last few days of the month a breeze. I came within 15 seconds of setting a new personal record. If the race had been on a closed course, I probably would have made a new best time for this distance. 

Running approximately the same distance, usually on one of a handful of routes, got boring sometimes. I listened to audio guided runs through the Nike Run Club app to help keep me motivated. I have a friend who I checked in with nearly daily (she’s also on a run streak that stretches nearly two years). Through the month, I found a new toughness in my running. Prioritizing that 30 minutes or so when it was not always convenient built my willpower.

Would I do it again? I don’t think I would do the same kind of challenge again in the future. It was fun to do as a way to keep the streak alive and interesting. During the course of the month, I got within striking distance of my longest distance run in a month. That was an unexpected achievement. And all of this was free (except for the virtual race entry fee). 

My run streak continues to be about running, and also not about running. So much of running is mental. This is similar to wealth building. Progress is incremental. Sometimes it feels like we go backwards. Most of the choices feel small. At some point, though, there is a compounding effect. Fortunately for those on a financial independence journey, the compounding effect for money happens more quickly and eventually overtakes our contributions. If only running worked the same way–where eventually the miles would run themselves! 

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