After a long day of holiday shopping and socializing on a recent Chicago weekend getaway, Carol Dobis was beat.
It was after 1 a.m. by the time she and her husband left the hotel bar, where they'd been having drinks with two other Fort Wayne couples. But instead of collapsing into bed, Dobis trudged down to the hotel gym.
“I still hadn't got my run in for the day,” explained the recruitment director for Carroll Personnel.
“I had to get it in. My friends think I am completely insane, but I take my challenges seriously!”
Dobis is one of countless runners nationwide who are attempting to run at least 1 mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's. It's called the Runner's World Holiday Run Streak, and while it started as a way to stay fit during a time of parties and overindulgence, it's becoming a meaningful part of the holiday season for many runners.
In our family, it almost feels like a fitness-based advent calendar. Our fifth-grader, who's joined me for the streak this year, made a paper chain like the kind kids use to mark the days before Christmas. She wrote “I ran a mile today!” on each link, and she cuts one off after every run.
I've been trying to do an all-outdoors run streak this year, little suspecting we'd get all this cold and snow. Ordinarily a weather weenie, I've managed to endure below-zero wind chill readings by reminding myself that it takes only 10 minutes or so to run a mile. The more momentum I build, the easier it gets – especially since, as a sports fan prone to forming superstitious links between my actions and those on the field, I can't help feeling like the fate of a potential white Christmas hinges on whether I log another day's snow slog.
While Colleen has done a few outdoor runs with me, including the Galloping Gobbler on Thanksgiving and an after-dark Christmas lights run, her preference is to jog a mile's worth of gym laps while dribbling a basketball.
Other than the 1-mile requirement, runners are free to make up their own rules. I always feel like I have to get my run in by midnight, while Dobis' deadline is bedtime, which gives her a bit more leeway. (My narrow interpretation of this rule led to a close call on Day 3, when I woke up at 11:30 p.m. after dozing off earlier in the evening. On the other hand, a midnight deadline gives you the opportunity to cross two days off with a single run, if you start a 2-miler around 11:50 p.m.)
It helps to have a partner to keep you accountable and offer encouragement. Dobis, who took up running three years ago, had always run alone until she joined a group of “pub runners” this fall. They meet at Fleet Feet Sports in the Village at Coventry and conclude their workout over drinks at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Dobis' “streaking buddies” are Cynthia Cornwell and Megan Russell. They're all in different jobs and age brackets, but they're compatible runners who have fun together.
“We were out for a run together one day, and Carol said, 'Who wants to go streaking with me?'” said Cornwell, a scrub nurse for a local oral surgeon. “It was pretty cold out that day, and we were all like, what?” But once Dobis explained the project, they were in.
The trio will start training for a marathon in January – all three have done at least one – but for now, this offers a different kind of challenge.
“I kind of hate it,” joked Russell, a 25-year-old pharmacist who's the same age as one of her running buddies' kids. “I think it's way harder than even marathon training, at least mentally. I'm used to running four days a week.”
But Cornwell loves having a reason to stay motivated.
“It's so much fun,” she said. “If anything, it gives me extra energy to deal with holiday stress.”