I Ran a 5K Every Day for a Year and This is What Happened

Last spring, I was gearing up for racing season. Between my casual running groups and a more serious training program, miles were adding up as I set my sights to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon. For the last 5+ years, my running schedule has been regular and seasonal. I usually train and race through the spring, take it easier through the hot and humid summer months, and then drag my husband David out early Saturday mornings in the fall to race again.

COVID-19 wasn’t top of mind when I flew to Little Rock, Arkansas at the beginning of March 2020 to get my hands on the biggest medal I have ever seen. Little did I know that was the last race I would run in person that year. Two weeks later, everything was shut down. Races started getting postponed and then cancelled. New York, Boston, The Flying Pig. Chicago was probably the last to throw in the towel, but all of a sudden my training had no purpose. My standing social runs halted. It was quite depressing, but necessary, as David’s high-risk status had both of us being very conservative about our interactions with others. One evening as I was doomscrolling and moping about, he had a suggestion: run every day for a month. It seemed doable and the weather was finally getting better, so I agreed and decided that #5Keveryday sounded right, so we went with that.

Thirty days turned into sixty, then ninety, and I decided to go for a whole year because what else did I have to do? So I did. I ran in the rain and did loops in the parking garage when lightning made it unsafe outside. I ran through protests and was in the streets when the city seemed to explode with emotion when Biden took Pennsylvania. I ran when the heat index was well over 110, when there was snow almost up to my knees and after both doses of Moderna. And in doing so, I learned a few things.

Doing something every day or substantially increasing frequency means you will quickly identify your weakest points
When I started my running streak, did I anticipate my laundry cycle would be governed by the number of sports bras that I owned? I did not, but that is what happened. I very quickly got used to spending a LOT more time in my running leggings, because why wear other pants when I was on Zoom calls all day anyway and no one saw anything below my shoulders? Eventually, all my socks became running socks as my normal cotton ones couldn’t handle my rigorous schedule. My hamstrings, already chronically tight, became about as flexible as refrigerated chewing gum. I did not get faster, but I did get (literally) tougher.

The biggest two threats to runners in the city are as follows
Cars, specifically people turning right on red or pulling out of a parking garage. They are almost never looking in your direction, and often just roll right on through. I very rarely run with music; this proved important as being able to hear a car creeping up a ramp or around a corner saved me from getting clobbered by a distracted driver on more than one occasion.

Dogs and people with dogs on big old floppy leashes, or worse, those retractable ones. Owners, please stop your dog from creating a tripwire with their leash, or lunging at someone passing by. They may be the nicest pup on the planet, but as far as I know, they could still decide to try to take a chunk out of my leg.

When things seem pointless, add purpose
Having the streak as a goal was nice, but getting motivated to lace up every day was still a challenge. The solution: running (literally) errands. As the pandemic raged on, going inside a grocery store gave us the willies, so I started going to Findlay Market, with small shops, fewer customers and open-air vendors. There’s also a wine shop, which was nice to end a run at, and eventually I made good friends with the regulars and the staff there. It was nice to support local businesses, and the human interaction (even from 10+ feet away outside) was very much a lifeline for an extrovert like myself. I also would pick up takeout from local restaurants and run it back home. I discovered my limit for carrying items comfortably while maintaining an 8–9 minute mile pace is about 12–15 lbs. In a way, I suppose it was kind of like CrossFit.

It’s important to be observant, but also know that others are observing you
I saw so many things out on my runs as I became more observant and relished time outside my condo. I watched a bunny family on the back half of the Bengals stadium grow up and fat rats try to stuff themselves back into the storm drains in city alleyways (it’s funnier than you would think). Towards the end of my running streak, one of the market vendors made a point to ask my name. “We see you all the time, and we’ve just been calling you the rainbow girl,” she explained. “You always show up in the late afternoons and when we see you, we know our workday is almost over.” I found it quite amusing that I had become a harbinger of sorts for folks.

Having some time alone with your thoughts and away from screens is a game-changer
I almost never brought my phone with me, instead knowing that if I needed to text or call someone, I had an Apple Watch with cellular. Some time alone to think and reflect on my day was hugely beneficial. My mental health benefited from being able to disconnect after staring at screens all day, and I came up with many great ideas and solutions for my clients during my runs. It helped mitigate the stress of living through major historical event after event, and probably saved David from having to participate in some stupid arguments.

On the day after #5Keveryday #365, I rested, but still felt the need to get outside. I took a nice walk up to the market and plan to rest for about a week, then start training again for some virtual events. After a year of 5K distances, candidly, my endurance isn’t what it used to be, and I signed up to run the first virtual Boston Marathon ever this Autumn. It wasn’t how I originally envisioned “running Boston” but if the last year has taught me nothing else, it’s to be grateful for what is possible, even if it isn’t exactly how you wanted it in the beginning.

While I’ve never run consistently over such a long period before in my life, I’d do it again and would recommend that runners of all levels give some sort of running streak a chance. Will running everyday turn you into some sort of super athlete? In my experience, well … no. But it will make you a better human, which is probably more useful anyway.



Grilled cheese, running, tiki drinks, punk rock and karaoke. Marketer by day.

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Laura Arnold

Grilled cheese, running, tiki drinks, punk rock and karaoke. Marketer by day.