Week 3 of the Holiday Running Streak is over, and I’m officially in the uncharted territory, at least by my own standards: I’ve never before in my life run every single day for 18 days straight! Okay, I’ve got to be honest – this doesn’t really feel very challenging since I’ve been running anywhere from 1 to 6 miles per day during this time, so it’s not like I’ve been pulling a full-length marathon daily! Also, it helps that by the time the streak began I was already in decent running form coming off my marathon training that lasted for 16 weeks and ended on November 10 (with the marathon, naturally).
At the beginning of this running challenge, my main concern was to take it easy on the daily mileage in order to avoid getting injured – or, to be more precise, to make sure that the almost constant mild aches and pains around my left heel don’t get worse. My left foot has been bothering me since this unfortunate run in Seattle a few weeks before my marathon. Thankfully, the pain never transformed into a full-blown injury, and during the marathon my left foot never bothered me. This became somewhat of a norm since then: during every run, as soon as all of the muscles in my feet warm up, I forget about the pain and tightness, but as soon as I’m done and my body starts cooling down, the discomfort returns. It’s the most noticeable right after I’ve sat still for a while (like during writing this post, for instance), and then got up to walk a few steps. Maybe I should just always run and never stop?
Thankfully, during week 3 of the Holiday Running Streak none of my running pains got worse, and I even had a running breakthrough of sorts! Read on…
Holiday Running Streak: Week 3 Recap
Monday – 6.15 mi
Tuesday – 3.2 mi
Wednesday – 2.5 mi + strength training at the gym
Thursday – 5.1 mi
Friday – 4.45 mi
Saturday – 1 mi + boot camp
Sunday – 3.2 mi
Total Mileage for Week 3 – 25.6 mi (up 2.9 mi from last week).
My Strategy: To be consistent with my daily mileage, but avoid running too long on any given day. To have a small meal before heading out for a run in the morning – this was usually a banana with a cup of coffee, or a small pumpkin muffin (Mary McDougall’s recipe). To dress according to the weather (we’re having a cold spell in Southern Alabama), but not too warm because few things are worse than overheating on a run when it’s cold outside!
The Easiest Part: Winter temperatures have finally settled in our area. It’s still warmer than anywhere to the north of Gulf Coast, but for us 32°-45° F is mighty chilly! In the past few years, I only had a handful of winter runs in these temperatures since I didn’t have a daily running commitment like this year. Therefore, running in cold weather took me a few days to get used to. Enter the big surprise: I found out that cold weather was helping me run faster without almost no added effort!
In the past few months, my average pace for a run of any distance has been anywhere between 9 – 9:30 min/mile. I was aiming at a 9 min/mile marathon, but that was just not meant to be. Actually, it’s been a while since I was able to go under 9 min per mile, but things changed as soon as it got cold outside: all of a sudden, I was clocking in 8:30 min/mile average pace for all of my runs the entire week, and it felt easy!
What’s the deal? Are colder temperatures more favorable for faster running, or did I have a fitness breakthrough after I started running every day? I’m not sure, but I definitely enjoy being faster!
The Hardest Part: Cold and windy weather proved to be challenging for running outside – no big surprise here. I was putting on a few layers of clothes before heading out in the morning, but my head was suffering in cold gusts of wind. Thankfully, I recently bought a running headband similar to this one that proved to be very helpful in protecting my head from cold winds. I was initially looking to buy a warmer headband with more lining, but the lighter one that I ended up buying turned out to be perfect for temperatures of 32° F and up. We’ll see if it stands up to lower temps next week when we travel to New Jersey and New York for Christmas!
What I’ve Learned So Far: Running outside in cold weather is not as scary as I thought it would be if you have a few layers of clothes on. Cold weather can actually speed up your pace! Also, running daily is possible without injuries, as long as you don’t go too far every day.
Next time in my week 4 Holiday Running Streak recap, I’ll update you on the days before we head to the Northeast for the holidays – that’s when this challenge might get tough! Stay tuned!