D.C. woman’s yearlong running streak taught her patience with herself

One hundred days of running didn’t seem ambitious enough.

So Erika Fields figured she’d run until her birthday, that would be about four months.

Then she kept negotiating with herself.

“I’ll go until the time change,” she said. “I’ll go until it’s too cold. I’ll go until there isn’t any daylight. I’ll go until work travel starts up again.”

Fields doesn’t know how long she’ll keep her streak going, but she’s about to celebrate a year on Wednesday, June 9.

“After a while, every day it was a matter of ‘Will this be the day I end my streak? Do I want to feel like a quitter?'”

Grounded from work travel that took her out of D.C., Fields found herself restless at home, without even a commute to her office. Though she picked up running as a high school cross country runner in Chapel Hill, N.C., running was a weekly routine for her, though she had long admired people’s running streaks.

“I didn’t consider myself a runner, I was just a girl who ran sometimes,” she said. “That’s changed through all of this. I feel like a runner now.”

On June 9, she decided it would be “day one” and she’d see how long she’d go.

“When I first started, I wasn’t planning on doing a year,” Fields said.  “I didn’t have a goal, I just wanted to start and see how it went.”

She came to realize how many parks and trails she had a short distance from her Northeast D.C. home, features that didn’t even figure into her homebuying decision. Now, she was developing a deeper connection to her neighborhood, day by day.

“I like seeing the critters, the plant the starts blooming one morning, the people who walk their dogs at 6:30 a.m. every morning,” she said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie.”

She’s always a morning runner.

“I start the day with a win. No matter what else happens I have accomplished one good thing that I feel great about before the day begins.”

It’s been a positive to come out of the last year.

“I would not have done this if not for COVID. If I was still traveling for work all the time, three weeks of every month,” she said.

The daily approach to running has helped mellow her approach to the sport. She’ll generally run between three and six miles, with some walking. She takes every day’s run on a whim, deciding where, how long and how fast she’ll go once she starts.

“I’ve learned to not be critical of myself,” Fields said. “If I’m doing it every day, I can’t push it 100 percent all the time.

“That’s made it more enjoyable.  I have a better understanding of what my body can tolerate, what I can keep running on and what I like about it. I have an incredible appreciation for my body now and what it can do.”

She won’t be celebrating the year on one of her normal routes — she’s on the road to Charleston, S.C., where she will, as is her custom, figure out her 365th run once she leaves her hotel.

“I have a work colleague who travels with me, and he runs,” Fields said. “He offered to join me, but I plan to run alone on Wednesday.”

She doesn’t plan to keep this streak going too much longer, though. She has eyed a sub-two-hour half marathon in Savannah this November, following last year’s postponement, so she’ll eventually take a little time off to start training in earnest for that race.

“I packed running clothes for the whole week,” she said. “But that might not be optimism, it might be blind stubbornness and physical and emotional addiction to running at this point.”


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