Running Every Day for 1,000 Days

Academy member Mike McMullan shares what it was like to do a 1,000 day running streak (at least 1 mile per day). Mike makes his living as a cardiologist. He writes,

“Reflections on my 1,000 day journey. I began a running streak on Jan 1, 2020. The first day of a new decade seemed a great time to rededicate myself to some healthy habits, and although a regular runner since 2007, I had never done a run streak. I also decided it was a great time to close all of my rings on my Apple Watch everyday. Yes, my obsessive compulsive tendencies certainly played a role in accomplishing both of these goals.

Here’s what I have learned?

Reflections On My 1,000 Day Journey

1. It’s all about priorities.

Running is the first thing that I do every day. The closest I ever came to missing a day was when I had to take my wife to the airport at 4 AM in the morning, then worked until 9 PM that night.

I was exhausted, climbed in bed, and decided to listen to an MTA podcast because I had recently completed day 900 and Grandma’s Marathon on the same day.

Trevor and Angie gave me a shout out on the air, and thank goodness, that reminded me I hadn’t done my mile that day! I immediately got out of bed and went to the treadmill to knock out one mile before returning to bed.

2. Priorities make habits.

Besides the MTA podcast, I listen to audiobooks while running. One of my favorite books was Atomic Habits by James Clear.

He discussed habit stacking, and therefore, every morning when finish my run, I have stacked the habit of my quiet time and Bible study following my morning run – thereby making sure I accomplish both of these priorities every morning. My YouVersion Bible reading streak is doing well as a result of my running streak!

3. Be smart.

Honestly, there are days I probably should not have run. My first injury occurred during the second month of my running streak. I was on call at the hospital and it was busy! We had multiple cardiac cath procedures, so I took my running shoes/clothes to work and went for a run on campus between cases.

I unfortunately slipped in what I thought was some standing water on the sidewalk but there was actually slick mud beneath the puddle. I hit the ground as quickly as if I had slipped on ice – and cracked two ribs in the process, requiring a trip to the ER.

While my running streak remained intact, my push-up streak for the year was over. Another challenging time was during a ski trip to Park City over the Christmas/New Year break in 2021.

Our condominium had no work-out room or treadmill, and the roads outside were icy and snowy. Worried about falling again, I opted instead for running the hallways and stairs in the condo early in the mornings before anyone was up and about. While not as satisfying as running outdoors, it seemed the best choice given the circumstances.

4. Growth requires stress + rest.

I battled multiple injuries throughout my run streak, mainly because of marathons or hard training runs. While training for the Mt. Lemmon Revel Marathon in Arizona, I put my treadmill up on blocks to prepare for downhill running (we don’t have many hills in MS).

Unfortunately, I developed knee pain as well as quadriceps/glute strains that really hampered my running. Ideally, I would have taken some rest days, but continued to at least get my one mile in daily. This is just one specific example of running despite injuries – I have many more.

The book Peak Performance by Stulberg and Magness emphasizes that growth is achieved through stress plus rest. The smart move would have been adding in some rest days in order to come back stronger.

5. You can do hard things.

I just finished the books Resilient by John Eldredge and Do Hard Things by Steve Magness.

One of my favorite quotes was,

“Real toughness is experiencing discomfort or distress, leaning in, paying attention, and creating space to take thoughtful action. It’s navigating discomfort to make the best decision possible.”

Since January 1, 2020, I have run 1,000 straight days over 4,011 miles while completing 113 audiobooks, finished 6 marathons and one ultramarathon, all while navigating a pandemic as a health care worker, cardiologist, and medical school dean.

I have experienced the graduation of my daughter from law school, my son from medical school, and the birth of two beautiful grandchildren. While injuries, illness, travel, busy nights on call, and even surgery would have been legitimate reasons to have missed a day of running, none were to the point that I absolutely could not run.

Therefore, honestly, the biggest challenge to the running streak was having the mental resilience to make it happen every single day, no matter the circumstances.

I’m glad to have made it to comma day. While I’m not ready to necessarily stop my running streak, at least the mental burden of having to run daily is over.

I will continue to run regularly as long as my body cooperates. I still have 21 states to complete in my marathon in every state goal, but hopefully I will be a little wiser moving forward with the confidence of knowing that I can do hard things.” -Mike

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