Today is 31st December 2019. Since January 1st this year, I have run at least one mile, with a daily average of 6.1 miles, every single day. In the process, I clocked up 2022 miles, completed a half or full marathon each month and set personal bests for every distance. It’s been a crazy year of running. In this article, I’ll share the lessons I’ve learnt from running every single day. It might even inspire you to take up the challenge in 2020!
Why did I want to run at least a mile a day for a year straight?
A great question to be asking. After all, running every single day (without fail) seems a little mad for most people. I did have my reasons for wanting to complete the challenge.
The first half of 2018 was a great 6 months of running for me. I travelled to new places for races, got personal bests in the 5K and half-marathon and made lots of new friends. However, the second half of 2018 was a different story. I found myself running fewer and fewer miles as the months went on.
Having started 2018 running 150 miles in both January and February, it said a lot about my discipline that I clocked up a mere 15 miles in both November and December. Proof that I had stopped running as much as before.
The thing I love about running is that the numbers don’t lie. If you think you deserve to be a healthy weight, running quick miles and able to run for further than you currently can, look at your numbers. Don’t kid yourself. If you’re running 4 miles a week, you’re not going to be making much progress. If you were running 30 miles a week, your gains will rapidly increase. The numbers don’t lie and that’s one reason I love running because it provides a measurable way to hold me accountable.
The key moment where I knew something had to change was when I looked at professional pictures taken of me on stage, playing a gig with my band The Gallerys. I was shocked to see a round, podgy face with a double chin on me. Being someone who had always considered themselves a healthy weight, with a ‘decent’ jawline, I was appalled. I had let my standards slip, I stopped caring about physical fitness and my diet had become awful.
Something had happened to my passion and drive; it was as if I had simply given up and stopped running. I knew something had to change. I thought of the reasons that I had stopped running as much as before and wrote them all down.
Reasons for not running as much were that I didn’t have regular events to train for, I had no set training schedule, I had lots of excuses like ‘not having the time’, and I opted out of running in cold and rainy weather. There were so many reasons (or so I told myself) for why I wasn’t running as much anymore.
Suddenly, I had a thought. ‘What if I run every single day, without fail, for a year?’ That would be a sure way to make sure I keep running, whether I liked it or not.
Running every day, no matter where I was or what I was doing or how convenient it was for me, would force me to keep training and getting the results I wanted. If I ran each day, I would guarantee myself that I wouldn’t be in the same position as I was (slightly overweight, unmotivated and undisciplined) this time next year.
Without thinking about it too much, I wrote down the following:
‘I promise that I will run at least one mile for every single day of 2019’ and signed it. I had made a personal contract to myself and committed. When New Year’s Day arrived, I woke up and put on my shoes for the first run of the year. 365 days later, here I am.
Having successfully completed this ambitious goal I set for myself a year ago, I have learnt a lot and become stronger both physically and mentally.
Overview of my year of running
Overall, my experience was a positive one. Running every single day has it’s challenges, but it quickly becomes a rewarding and fundamental part of daily life.
Whilst I have successfully completed the challenge today, this was not without difficulties. If I was to complete the challenge again, I would use the lessons learnt to do things differently and make life easier for myself.
If you’re considering undertaking a similar challenge, like running everyday for a month or 3 months, please read through the lessons learnt below and use them to your advantage. It’ll stop you making the same mistakes I made and improve your experience of running every single day for a prolonged period.
‘It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.’ – Warren Buffet
Some of the key lessons I learnt from running every day for a year are as follows:
- It’s all about mind over matter
- Run at the same time everyday
- Have a range of gear for all weathers, terrains and distances
- Sleep is crucial
- Diet is important
- Running with others helps
- Having events to train for is great motivation
- Be prepared to run anywhere
1. It’s all about mind over matter
‘It’s a lot more about mind over matter. It takes relentless self discipline to schedule suffering into your day, every day.’ – David Goggins
I strongly believe that the only way you can complete a physical challenge is if you have a strong mind. We all have the best of intentions to lose weight, complete a bucket list goal (a marathon, for instance) or running everyday for a prolonged period of time. When things get tough, and you don’t have the mental resilience to overcome suffering, you have no hope in completing the physical activity.
Going into it, I knew mental strength would be the key ingredient for success within the daily running challenge. Some days would be easy, I thought, but I knew there’d be horrendous days ahead which would make running seem impossible.
Stormy weather, stress at work and in personal life, a major change, travelling, fulfilling other commitments late at night. All of these made running everyday seem much harder. After all, who likes the idea of venturing out of their comfy bed to torrential rain and wind at 6:00AM?
There were many times when I felt like quitting the challenge. ‘Why not take it easy and have a day off?, I thought on a few occasions. I almost let my weak mindset talk me into giving up on the daily running challenge. Luckily, I didn’t succumb to the temptation and persevered on through the pain. Eventually, I was successful.
Having the mental strength to keep running every day, regardless of what is going on in life, is hard. So many things can get in the way. Things that made it difficult for me were going on holiday to Portugal, embarking on a UK tour with my band, being promoted to a role with more responsibility at work, studying for demanding academic qualification, experiencing grief when my dog died, practising for a piano exam etc.
To maintain a daily running habit through these events, I had to I exercised inner resilience and confidence to push through and run, regardless of the trials that life presented me with.
The key message here is that life happens around any audacious achievement you are striving for. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from or what you’re trying to accomplish. Life doesn’t discriminate. It gets in the way and will make things tough. You need to mentally overcome the hurdles to put in time and energy to complete your goal.
Personally, it helped me to follow and listen to two people on the subject of mental toughness. David Goggins and Dan Peña speak about the importance of overcoming problems and mental anguish on a a daily basis in pursuit of achieving goals.
A brutal example of Mr Peña in action can be found below. In his words, ‘nobody cares about the trials and tribulations’ of your life. Mr Peña says that, if you want to be successful, you have to make a decision to be successful and own it. On days when I felt low and unmotivated, a quick blast of Dan or David made me realise I needed to stop being so weak and go for the run.
Beware, the video contains very strong language and Mr Peña’s style of getting people to take action isn’t for everyone. I’m sharing this with you because I’m being transparent and open about the things that helped me develop mental strength to complete this challenge. Watch at your own discretion…
Be aware that mental strength is key to your success. Being self-aware and mindful of this will prepare you for the hardships that are to come. Make a pact with yourself that you will run every single day for one year, regardless of what happens in your life.
Make a contract with yourself and sign it. Write down your promise and lock in your commitment to becoming more mentally strong. Mind over matter is the only way you will be able to make it through running every day continuously for a year.
For more information on David Goggins and mental toughness, check out the following blog posts:
- David Goggins: Run First Thing and Win the First Battle of the Day
- Applying David Goggins ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ To Running
- How Running Builds Mental Toughness
2. Run at the same time every day
One of the best ways to make sure you do something every day, is to do it at the same time every day.
When an activity (like running) is completed at a predictable time, it quickly becomes an ingrained part of your routine. Like brushing your teeth, making breakfast or having a shower. Without doing it, your routine feels uncompleted and it bothers you.
Running at the same time everyday means you know for a fact when it will happen. You’re not constantly thinking about what the best time to run is. The decision has already been made. No ifs, not buts. Easy.
When we don’t have a set time of day to do something, like running, we experience mental fatigue as we ponder the time in our heads. We spend useless energy and time thinking about when the best time of day to run is.
Numerous studies show that mental fatigue impairs physical and mental performance in humans. This mean not only a less effective run, but being worse in mentally demanding tasks like giving a presentation or completing a project.
‘Should I go after work?, before work? When the kids are in bed? When the rain stops? Should I squeeze a run in during my lunch break?’ are all unnecessary questions to be wasting your mental energy on.
Save yourself the hassle of mental fatigue and have a set daily time to run. Don’t make things complicated for yourself by switching it up every single day. I run everyday at approximately 6:00AM, before work and other commitments, every day because that time works for me.
Running at 6:00AM everyday means the activity is now an integral part of my routine. I now get up and – without thinking – put on my running gear, eat a small cracker, grab some water and head out the door. The same time everyday was instrumental in running becoming a habit.
Just because it works for me, doesn’t necessarily mean it works for you. Think about your daily life with all it’s commitments and responsibilities. What time works best for you? Maybe it’s during your lunch break, just before bedtime or at the crack of dawn. Choose a time and stick to it.
Run at the same time every single day to make running become a habit and part of your routine. It’s a critical element for running every single day for a prolonged period.
Note – There may be times when, for whatever reason, running at your set time just isn’t feasible. Maybe a relative got poorly, you were needed for an early morning meeting or you have an important project on the go. Life has a habit of throwing things at us and getting in the way of our plans.
When something happens, and you physically can’t run at your set time for that day, it’s okay. Fit in your run at another time on the same day to keep the daily running streak alive. Just be sure to not let it become a habit by reverting back to the normal time the next day.
If you’re interested in reading more about running first thing in the morning, check out the following post:
3. Have a range of gear for all weathers, terrains and distances
You’d be surprised at the variety of different conditions you find yourself running in when you commit to a daily jog for a year. Different weathers, terrains and distances all require different gear.
The weather is the state of the atmosphere at a particular place and time. It concerns heat, dryness, cloudiness, sunshine, wind, rain, snow etc. Different types of weather typically require different clothing. For instance, wearing shorts and a vest will be appropriate during hot sun whilst a breathable running jacket and long trousers will be more appropriate in cold rainy weather.
Moreover, different terrains mandate the use of different gear. Mainly shoes. If you’re on road, normal running shoes will do. However, if you hit the trails (mountains, woods, forests), trail shoes will need to be worn for stability, traction and protection.
Different distances place different demands on the body, thus the kit used to manage yourself will need to change dependant on how far you’re running. For instance, running a marathon usually requires the need for some carbohydrate energy gels or bars to provide a boost of energy over the prolonged period of time. You may want a running backpack when training solo and covering a long distance to sustain you over an extended period.
Whatever the weather, terrain type or distance you’re running, having a range of gear is vital for this daily challenge.
Make sure you are equipped with the right clothing, accessories and equipment to give you the best shot of adapting to any environment in order to comfortably run at least a mile every day for a year.
For more information about different running gear and conditions, check out the following blog posts:
- 10 Great Running Jackets For Men
- 10 Great Running Jackets For Women
- Top 15 Trail Running Essentials
- Top 5 Best Running Backpacks
- 17 Game Changing Running Accessories
- 13 Best GPS Running Watches
- 15 Top Tips for Running in the Rain
4. Sleep is crucial
‘O sleep! O gentle sleep! Nature’s soft nurse’ – Henry IV in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II
One thing running day-to-day for a year taught me was how important sleep is. Sleep plays a vital role in general good health and well-being in our lives.
If we don’t get enough quality sleep it can affect our mental health, physical health and quality of life. I found sleep to be critical for successful completion of the challenge for two main reasons.
Firstly, getting a quality nights sleep meant I felt energised and motivated to get up for the daily run. Secondly, quality sleep meant the body had time to repair itself from any physical and mental exertion the day before which meant maintaining a decent standard of health.
Sleep is one of those things that we take for granted until we have a certain experience which makes us aware of just how important it really is. During the year, I had a few experiences of sleep deprivation and the extent to which a lack of sleep affected my running startled me.
What were the reasons for my sleep deprivation? Touring round the UK with my band, studying for exams, going out with friends, having piano lessons and mild insomnia are just a few reasons why I couldn’t get my slumber on throughout the year of daily running.
Not getting enough shut-eye meant I was lethargic, felt mentally low, found it harder to run, had an increased heart rate, couldn’t concentrate and my muscles still felt sore from the day before. As you can probably guess, sleep deprived runs were the least enjoyable of all throughout the year.
On the contrary, the best runs were those when I got enough quality sleep in the night before. Whenever I woke up feeling well rested, I was motivated to get up and go for my daily run. Being well-rested meant the run was more fun because I was alert, had a stable heart rate, felt energised and my body felt physically rejuvenated.
If you want to have the greatest chances of succeeding in a daily running challenge, sleep is critical. Make sure you get enough quality sleep.
To sleep better at night, try the following:
- Don’t consume caffeine late in the day
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
- Aim for 7-8 hours each day
- Make your sleeping environment is dark
- Switch off electronics at least 1 hour before bed
- Don’t drink alcohol
- Reduce long daytime naps
- Increase bright light exposure during the day
5. Diet is important
‘Eating healthy food fills your body with energy and nutrients. Imagine your cells smiling back at you and saying: “Thank you!” ‘ – Karen Salmansohn
When it comes to running and diet, I always use the analogy of a car. A car needs quality fuel to function properly. Depending on the car it will need either petrol, diesel or bio-diesel. Filling up the car with the right fuel means it has exactly the right resource it needs to start up and perform effectively.
Us humans are similar. When we have the right fuel inside us, our physical performance tends to be better.When the right fuel is in the car, it can start up and operate effectively.
Think about who is more likely to perform better in a marathon out of two athletes of the same weight, age and ability. One fuels up on crisps, chocolate and biscuits, whilst the other consumes a healthy breakfast of porridge and a banana.
You probably guessed it. The porridge and banana eating athlete is likely to perform better as the healthy carbohydrates provide a sustainable energy source over a period of time. On the other hand, the chocolate and biscuit eating athlete will experience a temporary sugar ‘high’ before crashing soon afterwards and experiencing a decline in physical performance.
Having a decent diet is crucial for success in this challenge. Not only does fuelling up on the right foods mean better physical performance for each daily run, it also results in better bodily recovery during sleep too.
If your diet is currently anything like mine this time a year ago (sweets, chocolate, biscuits, white bread, fried food), a change in what you consume is necessary for success in this challenge.
Not only is improving your diet good for chances of completing the daily running challenge, it also results in an improved life quality. Benefits of sorting out your diet include weight loss, reduced cancer and diabetes risk, better mood, boosted blood flow and improved memory, to name a few.
If you want to succeed at running every day for one year straight then you need to have a healthy and balanced diet.
It may seem daunting at first, particularly if you’re used to years of unhealthy habits, but it’s relatively straight forward to make effective changes.
As a rule of thumb, eat complex carbohydrates prior to running (brown rice, corn, wheat, barley, oats) and during other times aim for healthy fats and proteins (eggs, meat, fish, beans, nuts and seeds).
6. Running With Others Helps
One thing that helped me on my quest to run every single day of 2019 was mixing things up by sometimes running with other people. Though most of my runs were a solo effort, in the early hours of the morning, I found occasionally running with others made things more fun.
I ran with others on occasions like parkrun, competitive races and fun runs with friends. Towards the last few months of 2019, I started running half-marathon distances on Sundays with my brother which was always something to look forward to.
Running with others is a handy way to ensure you get your planned runs in. If you’re running by yourself and you blow out on a planned run it’s only you you’re letting down. If you plan to run with others and you bail out at the last minute you’re letting them down. You’re more likely to run when others are involved.
Having others to meet and run with can be a powerful motivator for always getting your run in each day.
Personally, I can motivate myself to run alone but some people find it easier when they have someone to run with to ensure they get their daily run in.
If you’re planning on completing a daily running streak, running with others can be a good way to encourage you to show up each and every day.
7. Having Events to Train for is Great Motivation
When you have a set event to train for it’s easier to get psyched up to train and run every day.
Half-marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, marathons, and fun-runs are all great examples of running events you can book in advance. Having a set in stone event booked to train for helps you feel like you have a worthwhile reason for running every single day. Without a fixed event to lead up to it can feel like you’re training for no reason.
It’s the same with other things in life. A piano player might find it uninspiring to practice the instrument without a set reason, like playing in a concert, to do so. A student is unlikely to put in hours of work studying a topic without an exam to sit.
To drive a daily habit (like running everyday) there needs to be a future event to motivate you to repeat the habit every day. Without one, it’s likely you’ll struggle to find motivation to put in the effort on a daily basis.
Having events to train for is powerful motivation to ensure you get the run in every day. Whatever length of time you’re planning on completing a running streak for, be sure to book events in advance to train for.
Personally, I’d advise you to book at least one event for month. In 2019, I completed at least a half-marathon or a marathon a month.
By booking a few months of events (half-marathons, 5 or 10Ks, or marathons) in advance, you’ll have something set in stone to train for.
8. Be Prepared to Run Anywhere
On any given year, it’s highly likely that you will need to travel somewhere. It could be somewhere in your home country or even abroad. Reasons for travel could be for work, to see family, holiday or (in my case) touring with a band. Therefore, you need to be prepared to run anywhere if you’re going to be in with a chance of success in a daily running challenge.
Some don’t like the idea of running in an area they are not familiar with. The thought of pacing through an unknown neighbourhood or negotiating terrain they have not previously encountered makes them uneasy.
Consequently, some count themselves out of a daily running streak challenge. I can safely say that, with a little preparation, running on your travels is an easy and simple affair. If you take the necessary preparations before travelling then you’ll be fine to run on the road.
When packing your bags bring your running shoes, a couple of tops and some bottoms. Prior to hitting the road, boat or plane, do some online research on the area you’re travelling to. Find out the temperature, what the local terrain is like and if there’s any recommended running routes.
For example, I travelled to Lisbon in Portugal earlier in 2019. Before going, I researched the local weather to get a feel for what type of clothing to pack. As the temperature was warmer than the UK I packed running t-shirts and shorts. I found recommendations for running along the seafront early in the morning. I also learnt that Lisbon is a very ‘hilly’ city, so I made a mental note to expect lots of steep slopes.
All in all, the preparation I took for running in Lisbon took about 10 minutes. It was quick and easy. The little bit of preparation I took went a long way; I got up early each morning, put on my light running gear, ran through steep hills to get to the seafront and ran in the early morning sun. The preparation enabled me to maintain the daily running streak.
It’s highly likely that you’ll travel somewhere within the target period you want to achieve a daily running streak for. According to the National Office of Statistics in the UK, there were 72.8 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2017. This equates to over 1 trip per person in the UK. That’s a lot of travelling.
In 2019 I went on a UK tour with my band, travelled to Lisbon and stayed in London a few nights after seeing some bands. Despite travelling having the potential to disrupt my daily routine, I maintained my daily running streak and successfully completed the year-long challenge.
If you’re going to take up the challenge then I’d recommend being prepared to run anywhere.
There you have it. The lessons learnt from a year of running every single day. 2019 has been a year filled with ups, downs, heartbreak and happiness but, above all, it was filled with running. Every single day.
If you’re thinking of running a mile every day for a year then good luck to you. Every day will challenge and push you to the limit but if you can complete the challenge you will have a powerful thought. What else can you achieve?