By MARIAH CRESSY
On April 17, 2017, I logged a full year of running at least one mile every single day. This is a feat I’d tried to achieve twice before, only to have life get in the way. But this time, purposefully, I started the streak attempt on my birthday in 2016, so I would finally own the title of “streaker” before my next birthday rolled around. As I had planned, on several occasions, that fact alone—that I could achieve this before another year of life passed me by—gave me that extra little push to get out the door each day.
For those of you wondering, the USRSA’s official definition of what qualifies as a running streak is, “to run at least one mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day. Running may occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill.”
As long as you’re running, that can be up and down stairs, on trails, around your neighborhood, through a parking garage (if you’re trying to stay dry in a downpour), or on a treadmill (USRSA’s only exception is in water). My advice—mix it up so you don’t get bored. Include some intervals in there to get your heartrate up and get those HIIT benefits!
People all over the world have used running streaks as a way to get back into a workout routine, to lose a couple pounds, to strengthen one’s faith, or just to take a mental breaks from the demands of a busy life. Everyone’s reason is unique, and there are some pretty amazing running streak stories out there!
But I’m no expert at streak running—far from it. So I sat down with one of RPM’s past interviewees, George Cressy, III, to check in about his running streak. It’s been almost three years since George started his streak on July 19, 2014, and as you will hear, he has no definite plans to stop…or hit a certain year-mark, for that matter. And impressively, for all 1,009 runs to date, George has only ever logged his miles outside—no treadmill, even in rain, slush, and snow.
With his streak being less than 5 years, he’s listed as a “Neophyte” on the Official U.S.A. Active Running Streak List of the USRSA (United States Running Streak Association, Inc.). He’s one of 755 on the active list today, which has been live since March 1, 2001, and originally listed 113 streak runners.
In our interview, George shares challenges he’s faced, what he’s learned about building habits, and recommendations he has for people interested in starting a running streak. Take a listen or read the transcript for his take on streaking and how he’s kept it up for so long.
MARIAH: Hi RPM readers! It’s Mariah Cressy, and I’m here with my wonderful husband, George Cressy. And today we’re talking about streak running. He is a streaker. He, to this day, on April 22, 2017, has been running for 1,009 days in a row, at least one mile a day. And he is registered with the United States Running Streak Association. He’s one of 755 members listed on their active streak list. And they don’t have me in there yet, so technically there are 756 streakers to date.
But today we’re going to talk a bit about his motivations behind streak running and things he’s learned having now run for 1,009 days, far beyond what they recommend to form a habit – 21 days. [Actually, forming a habit happens in 3 phases, which may or may not take 21 days.]
So, now we’re going to turn it over to George. How did you get started? Just a little recap from the last time you were interviewed by RPM.
GEORGE: Yeah, I started– I picked up running again when I started law school in the spring. Actually, it was a summer early start session. So I started law school in July – mid- or early July and it was just kind of the…they throw everything at you at one time, and I felt like I was in high school again, quite different from my graduating semester at Dayton, as an undergrad where I took astronomy – actually, it wasn’t astronomy; it was star gazing – wine tasting, scuba diving, and an entrepreneurship class where we just got to make stuff. So it was a pretty rude adjustment.
And I’ve been active for most of my life. I did sports through high school – some club sports – but I never enjoyed running. I did run on the track team in high school, but our motto was Marian High School doesn’t run track. We play track. It’s mostly because we’d go and just to do track-robatics into the sand pits. So I picked up running, because I needed a stress release. I just needed something to break up my day from five hours of class, then eight hours of reading, so running became just kind of like a medicine for me, almost.
And it was on day – I don’t know – maybe ten or so, ten or 14 maybe, that I realized I had run every single day for the last ten or 14 days. And on that day, I remember, I was gonna run, but I felt particularly busy, and it was the streak that gave me a little extra incentive. So I ran that day, and then the next day it was 11 or 15 days – I don’t know what it was – but I ran that day, and then the next day and then I kept running. And I had 30 days, a full month under my belt, and ever since it’s just been “don’t break the streak.”
M: Great. So, I’m wondering, after almost three years later, if it’s become something else, rather than just – is it still considered your medicine? I know you said you kind of stumbled into this streak. But it made you feel better, at that point in time, getting away from your studies. And now that you’re almost done with law school, what’s the role that the running streak plays in your life now?
G: I hardly ever think of it, to be honest. It’s just something that I do. 1,009 days sounds impressive on some capacity I think, but I don’t think of it at all. It’s just every day I wake up, and every day I brush my teeth, and every day I run, and every day I eat food. It’s just those things that I do every day. Actually, I’ve probably run more than I’ve brushed my teeth. I’m sure there’s been a few days that I’ve skipped brushing my teeth, but it’s just one of those things that I don’t have to think about.
Now that it’s just a staple in my daily habits and routines, there is zero willpower that goes into deciding to run, at the very least, one continuous mile. It’s just part of what I have to do that day.
M: Do you have any plans to stop? Or do you have a goal in mind? I know the top streaker has been running for 47.91 years.
G: Yeah. [Laughs]
M: 17,499 days. So…
G: I don’t plan to attain – what do they call that top tier?
M: The Coverts.
G: Yeah. After…
M: You’re a Neophyte, then there are…
G: Legends and Grand Masters…
M: Legends, which is 40+ years, and 45+ years is Coverts.
G: Yeah, I don’t plan to get up to any of those. I may; I just haven’t committed to it.
M: Hey, if you get ten+ years, you’re considered Experienced.
G: [Laughs] It’s got to be over ten years, yeah.
M: And Proficient at five.
G: [Laughs] Proficient. Maybe I’m aiming at proficiency at running. So, maybe I’ll just try to commit to the next – I’m almost at three years – so two more years after that. That doesn’t sound too bad. But if something comes up, I might end it, and that would be that.
M: What kind of thing would have to come up? I mean, you’ve had some close calls.
G: Yeah. Um, jeez, I don’t know what it would be. Uh, we traveled, for our honeymoon through Ireland and Europe, and you and I both ran a mile every single day, which meant running – even though we were in Berlin for, it was like, 12 hours or something – we ran in Berlin. Twice I think, if we ran in the night and then the next morning. I don’t remember. But we ran in Prague. Actually, that’s…we can talk about in a little bit I guess – a really cool way we can see cities is to run in them…what was the first question?
M: The question was, what would it take to make you stop?
G: I don’t know. Um, probably just a refreshing beer. [Laughs] If the mood was exactly right and if I had to decide under some circumstance between running and drinking a beer, maybe my mood would be such that the streak didn’t matter, and eight minutes of drinking a beer would be better than eight minutes of running.
M: Now, again, that it’s almost been three years, what are some lessons that you have learned that you might be able to enlighten someone who’s interested in starting this habit, interested in achieving a streak, or maybe just someone who wants to have a break in their day, like you did when you started – just to get away mentally and hit the refresh button?
G: For the break aspect, it takes – I mean if you can run at a good clip, from door-to-door, if all you want to do is run a mile, it takes, say, ten minutes, and it serves to totally just give you that break, that headspace. Better use of ten minutes than anything else I’ve found. There’s no…watching an episode on Netflix, for example, is 23 minutes, and I still don’t feel like I’ve really gotten a break. Making food takes more than ten minutes, and I’m still usually thinking about it. On my runs, I typically zone out.
Well, I either zone out and that serves as a little rest, or I use that time to really focus on one single-pointed problem that I bring my attention back to, and I find by the time I get back to whatever work I was doing, the thinking – just the little brainstorming session on the run – is really valuable, I guess.
Maybe a physical piece of advice – ”relative rest days” is a term that I looked up at some point in the beginning of my running. Most people heard that I ran for 20 days straight without a break – “Oh my gosh, George, you’re gonna get injured. Oh my gosh.”
I think you gave me a lot of that.
M: Yeah. [Laughs]
G: And just like general skepticism over that. So the relative rest days, the idea that every seven or ten days, run particularly slow, run only one mile. It’s not like your body’s keeping count of how many consecutive days you’ve run, and then once you’ve broken “the rule,” it injures itself. All you need is just to give it time to rest and recoup, and that’s probably gonna be done with a relative rest day.
M: Is there anything you’ve specifically learned about yourself from this streak?
G: Um, no. [Laughs] This is kind of right on par with other stuff that I do, I think. It’s kind of like a project.
M: This doesn’t differ in any way?
G: I don’t know.
M: No big epiphanies about tendencies or preferences in life?
G: Hmm…no. Sorry. [Laughs]
M: No, that’s okay. What about any challenges you’ve faced? Not just close calls, but thinking of the streak as a whole, has there been anything that’s been particularly challenging?
G: Day drinks.
G: Darties, day-parties. That’s difficult. Get up bright and early, start drinking beers. It’s really tough to go on a one mile run at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when you’re several beers deep. [Laughs] Yeah, that’s pretty tough. That’s a tough one.
M: That’s the main thing.
M: Okay. [Laughs] Is there anything else you’d say to anyone out there thinking, “this sounds great.”
G: I guess, if not a streak – because it’s a big thing and that’s why I haven’t committed to becoming experienced – ten years – or proficient – five years streak on runeveryday.com. The reason is because big commitments ahead of time can be overwhelming and debilitating up front. If on July 19, 2014, I had said, “Hmm, today, I’m going to run today, and it will be the first day of over 1,000 consecutive days of running,” I wouldn’t have run that day even. Not even like a break at any point. I just wouldn’t have even done it that day.
So, if it’s a streak that somebody’s starting, I’d say have fun with it and don’t put too much on it at the beginning. It’s easy to run ten days when you don’t realize that you’re about to run for ten consecutive days or 20 days.
And if it’s not a streak, if it’s just any kind of regimen, I’d say just kind of figure out a system. For me, it’s like, running is now – I don’t have to exert any willpower to run, because it’s just part of my routine. It’s my habit, it’s my regimen. It’s just the thing that I do. So as much as somebody can, early on, put those tough decisions into the “Already Decided” bucket – this is a little antithetical to the “don’t make any big commitments up front.”
It’s just like…I would say, avoid saying “today is the first of 1,000 days in a row,” but do say, “last night, I decided that I’m running today. And I don’t get to decide. I’m just doing it today, and that’s that. I can whine about it and drag my feet, but I’m going to have to do it anyways. And I’m not thinking about it, I’m not weighing any options. I have to do it.” So those maybe can be parsed a little bit better…
M: There’s a sweet spot.
G: There’s a sweet spot somewhere in there. And then there are little tricks like, if you are feeling resistance to running or working out, just put your workout clothes on. And you can say, “I’m not gonna do it right now. I’m just gonna put on my shoes.” And then you can say, “I’m still not doing it. I’m just putting on my shirt. I’m still going to lounge around; I’m still gonna watch Netflix or I’m still gonna work. I’m just going to work in my workout clothes.” And it’s funny how at some point, you’re just like, “Well, I’m just gonna go, because I’m already dressed and it’s one fewer barrier to getting…” And just to think of little tricks like that that let you do it.
M: And I should have mentioned at the beginning, this is all running done with clothes on.
M: You are a streaker, but only a running streaker.
M: Okay. So another – get those clothes on, and keep them on…
G: Yeah, that’s right.
M: …when you go out for that run.
Okay. Well, thanks for talking to us today, hon. It was enlightening to me, and I’ve been running with you now for a little over a year. So I hope it’s enlightening to some of our readers.
Thanks for listening/reading along! Be on the lookout for future updates on both of our running streaks, as it’s a daily adventure! Hope to see you back here soon.