Rule Breaker

I tend to think of rules as falling into two distinct categories: the unbreakable vow variety of Severus-Narcissa fame and the bendable, grey-area ones that are more like suggestions than hard and fast canon.

Deciding which rules are breakable and which have some flexibility is a very individual choice, but for me, the line falls somewhere around here. No intravenous drug use? Unbreakable. No swimming less than 30 minutes after eating? More of a suggestion. No infidelity? Unbreakable. Not eating cookie dough for breakfast? More of a suggestion. Vowing never to see another Tolkien film? Unbreakable. Keeping your dog well groomed in the off season?

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Clearly a suggestion.

Whenever I’m training for a new distance or big race, be it the July triathlon that wasn’t or last month’s New York City Marathon, I always download a training schedule that I intend to follow exactly – no cheating! – and for the most part, do, especially for the first few weeks. I wake up early. I log every mile. I’m disciplined and focused and stick to the plan, with my workout routine falling into that first category of rules: unbreakable.

And then something inevitably happens – a hangover, a cold, a Property Brothers marathon on HGTV – and I allow myself to skip one scheduled workout. It’s just one 3-miler. I tell myself. You’ll get back out there tomorrow like you never even missed it.

Does my training suffer from missing one 25-minute workout three months before the marathon? Probably not, at least in the physical sense. But mentally, breaking that training schedule just one single time relocates it from that sacred, unbreakable category to a dangerous grey area. Suddenly, with that one act of flexibility, my training shifts from unwavering to bendable, and skipping another workout the following week becomes significantly easier. Breaking your own rules is a slippery slope, kids, and it can lead to missed PRs and hobbits. And probably heroine.

It’s with this idea in mind – that a once-bent rule is easier to break – that I begin my first full working week as a running streaker. Logging at least a mile a day during my four-day visit to Baltimore was easy, as the weather was clear, my schedule was clearer and I had the best darn running partner on that side of the Mason-Dixon Line.

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But when I arrive back in the city tomorrow, getting out the door before sun-up every single day is going to be a far more trying commitment, and not just because I’ll be doing it solo. Some days I’ll be tired, some days I’ll be sore and – eventually, if I keep this up through Christmas – some days I’ll be lacing up in the snow. Streaking isn’t going to be easy.

But you know what? Easy or not, it might just be worth it. So here’s to relegating it to that unbreakable category and leaving it there, at least for the next 24 days. I might chicken out and do the bear minimum – one mile – more times this upcoming month than I’d like to admit, but at least I vow to do it, no ifs, ands or butts.

So here we go. 24 days and counting – both until I can stop streaking and until I get to see this beast again.

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Of course, when I see her, I might want to take her on a Christmas morning run, and the streak might press on. If you give a mouse a cookie…

What rules won’t you break?

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