SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 10, 2013

On The Run: Keeping the streak alive

On The Run
Jay Kumar

---- — For some of us, getting three or four runs in during a week is a good accomplishment. But for others, the need to run every day holds more significance than simply improving fitness or losing a few pounds. Streak runners hit the pavement, trail or treadmill every day, regardless of weather, injuries or schedule.

It began as a New Year’s resolution for Ken Skier, 59, of Lexington, who runs in many local races and documents them with photographs he takes as he runs (visit runwithken.com to see his work). Seven years ago, Skier was running 5Ks at a low 7-minute-per-mile pace before suffering serious knee injuries that slowed him down considerably.

“On New Year’s Day, I made a resolution: to run at least a mile outdoors every day. That’s all it was, just a personal challenge. I thought if I kept each run short — no more than 2 miles — I might be able to do it,” he said. “But after a couple of months, it became something very different. Now I run at dawn every day because it fills my spirit.”

Previously, running was a painful pursuit for Skier. “One knee has no ACL and very little meniscus. I’ve had over four hours of surgery on that knee and operations on my foot and lower back. Plus a whole host of other injuries that did not require surgery,” he said. “Over the last eight years, I have been unable to run for a couple of months out of each year. So my goal as a runner has always been very simple: not to get faster, but just to avoid injury.”

When he began on New Year’s Day, Skier was running a mile each day. “Since then, as the sun has risen earlier each morning, I have gradually extended my run. Now each morning I run 1.7 miles on the road, and 1.3 miles on a trail. These are very hilly miles.”

Five months into his streak, Skier is surprised at the results. “Now I’m running 5Ks consistently at a mid-7-minute pace, and — truly amazing to me — I am actually winning in my age group. In the last two months, I have finished five different races “first” in my age group…This is something I never imagined.”

For Thor Kirleis, 43, of North Reading, streak running has become a way of life. “I have been ‘streak running’ for almost 10 years. The last day in which I did not log at least a mile was December 7, 2003,” he said.

The roots of Kirleis’ streak reach back to 2000, when he had an accident in which the peroneal nerve in his left knee and lost all feeling and movement from the knee down. After a five-hour nerve grafting surgery, Kirleis was told it would take about nine months for the nerve to regenerate in place of the severed one. Already a long-time runner, Kirleis made a promise to himself when his surgeon couldn’t guarantee that he would ever run again.

“Staring at the possibility that I might never run again, I decided then and there that if I could ever get back to running, I would run a mile a day, every day, never fail, to celebrate the simple fact that I could,” he said. “In the back of my head, yes, I feared never being able to run again. That fear, and the promise made, kept me going … all the way back to full health. That is why I streak run. I think about it every time I lace up the shoes, even if I’m just keeping the streak alive with a mile.”

Kirleis typically averages 45-50 miles per week, including a long run of 13 to 24 miles and a middle-distance run (such as speed, tempo, trails) of 9 to 14. His “rest days” have him doing easy 3-mile easy runs. He likes to take on challenges, such as the “double marathon” he ran on Boston Marathon Monday, doing the course in reverse starting at 5 a.m. and then running the course with everyone else at 10. In all, Kirleis ran 52.4 miles in under eight hours that day.

Injuries are a concern, but Kirleis has been able to amass serious mileage without any serious problems.

“I find that I mostly get injured only when I start doing speed work, usually in training for a marathon or some distance requiring speed. Speed work training is very hard on the body, and this is where most seasoned runners, if they get injured, will get it from,” he said. “Thankfully, for me, most of my injuries are those I can run through, meaning I will have to run easy, slower, and not as far to get the injury healed before ramping up again.”

Streak running isn’t for everyone. Skier recommends that folks who run every day avoid running more than once in a day. He also suggests not running more than two miles on the road, instead opting for non-paved surfaces like trails.

“And of course, if your body tells you it isn’t up for a run, don’t run,” said Skier. “Don’t force yourself to run each day if your body needs a break. Rest is not a four-letter word.”

For those who want try streak running, Kirleis warns against unrealistic expectations.

“Don’t set artificial rules. I know people who decide to streak run, and they say that they will log at minimum 3 or 4 miles a day. That minimum is too high for being able to sustain it for very long,” he said. “You want to streak run, but you also want to be able to recover. The key is keeping things fun, keeping it social as much as possible, and the streak will take on a life of its own.”

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On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to jay.kumar@gmail.com.

Upcoming races

Friday, May 10: Cape Ann YMCA Backshore 5-mile Road Race, footbridge of Good Harbor Beach, 71 Middle St., Gloucester, 6:30 p.m. Post-race party at the Gloucester House. Contact: Barbara Berry (Cape Ann YMCA) at 1-978-283-0470 x103 or berryb@northshoreymca.org.

Sunday, May 12: Third Annual Patrick Downey 5K, AOH Hall, 58 Lowell St., Peabody, 8:30 a.m. Contact: Shannon Downey at 1-978-239-9883 or Shannon_downey@yahoo.com; Lynn YMCA 5k Road Race, Tides Restaurant, 2 Wilson Road, Nahant, 12 p.m. Flat, fast course with post race celebration at Tides Restaurant. Contact: Sharon Dobbyn (Lynn YMCA) at 1-781-581-3105 x244 or sdobbyn@lynnymca.org.

Wednesday, May 15: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com.

Thursday, May 16: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact info@wickedrunningclub.com.

Saturday, May 18: Motif #1 Day 5k and Festival, T-Wharf, 1 T-Wharf, Rockport, 9 a.m. Contact: Motif Day Five K and Festival (Rockport Public Schools) or 1-978-578-3649 or pwhitley@rpk12.org.

Sunday, May 19: 4th Annual Run Around The Rotary (5K Run/Walk), Peabody Institute Library, 15 Sylvan St., Danvers, 9 a.m. Contact: Paul R. Fuller (Rotary Club of Danvers MA) at 1-978-880-0120 or prfuller@mac.com.

Wednesday, May 22: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com.

Thursday, May 23: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact info@wickedrunningclub.com.

Visit www.northshoreroadraceguide.com/race-calendar for more race listings.