The diagnosis by Dr. Luis Valenzuela from the Meds Clinic in Santiago de Chile, which stopped my 3 years and 21 days of running every day, was forceful:
«You obviously have internal femorotibial osteoarthritis, with degenerative tear of the internal meniscus. Also chondral injuries in the patella. There is bone edema of the medial femoral condyle and medial tibial plateau due to joint wear and overload.»
In simple words, the MRI results showed how badly I messed up my left knee, mainly due to a clear case of the fine line between stubbornness and stupidity.
In hindsight, I should have stopped running when the pain and discomfort began on March 15, 2023, but out of my stubbornness, rather than determination or discipline, I ran for 5 months in pain, first trying to reach the 1,000 day mark and then the 3 years.
The additional 21 days only confirmed my lack of good sense and probably made things worse.
«Pain is not normal«, another orthopedic doctor once told me during a casual conversation in a bar in St. George, Utah, after I had insisted on running for a couple of months despite the discomfort.
Long before that, when I reached the 2 years mark in August, 2022, Dr. Scott Lang, University of Central Florida´s Professor of Family Medicine, warned me: «Never run in pain. If you have muscle or joint pain when you run, ice it and rest. If the pain persists for more than a week, see your doctor.»
Obviously I did not pay attention until August 21, 2023, at the end of my annual ski trip to Chile, when I finally decided to have my left knee checked by Dr. Valenzuela, who after a quick visual and tactile examination, immediately determined that an MRI was necessary.
Of course, between the time that passed from the end of the MRI and the time I received the diagnosis, I went out for the last run (2.75 miles in 30 minutes and 36 seconds), because I sensed that the end of the streak was aproaching, under medical prescription.
The truth is that the discomfort never reached the point of paralyzing me, although between March 15 and August 21, 2023, I reduced the distance and speed of each run, thinking that the pain would be reduced. That didn’t happen, but it didn’t get worse either.
Dr. Valenzuela attributed this to the fact that through constant exercise for 1,115 days in a row, I was able to build enough muscle mass on the whole leg to absorb most of the impact on my knee.
Now, the next challenge is to dedicate myself with the same intensity to a rehabilitation program and incorporate other athletic activities, without impact to the knees to maintain the physical condition and weight (165 pounds).
Those last two were undoubtedly the biggest benefits of the rruning streak, which began on August 1, 2020 during the Covid pandemic, thanks to a private Facebook group, to get out of lockdown.
In all, I ran 3,257.3 miles, an average of almost 90 miles per month, which is the equivalent of driving directly from Miami to Seattle for 48 hours.
All this, despite the fact that I have never felt like a «real runner«. If I was, I would have followed the «3 Rs advice» of the experts to replenish, rest and recover, and not become a «slave to the streak«, as Runing Coach Adolfo Salgueiro told me. But that’s exactly what I did.
I never warmed up before a run, nor did I stretch at the end. I have never undergone a serious training program to achieve a specific goal.
Nor did I pay much attention to the advice not to wear old and worn-out shoes or to buy ones specially molded to my foot, since I am flat footed. As a consequence, I never improved my times or distance in these 3 years.
And as I said before and I repeat now, I actually I don’t like to run. I think it’s boring, so much, that for the last few months of the streak I tried to entertain myself by picking up trash on the road, sometimes at an astonishing rate of 10+ pieces per mile.
Thanks to that, and in a very unscientific way, I also verified that the Modelo Especial has indeed become the most popular beer in the United States, given the number of empty cans that I have found in recent months during my runs.
I also started stopping to say hello to all the dogs I saw on the trail, perhaps to justify my slower pace and to give my knee a rest, until one of them bit me on the left thigh, something unrelated to the injury, which eventually ended the streak.
Now the benefits
I always appreciated what happens when you run every day. You feel better physically and mentally, you sleep and work better, and you can eat and drink more. And you always feel good after every run, unless you get bitten by a dog.
Also, it was great to receive encouragement from other runners and non-runners and even from companies like New Balance and Apple who sent me products as an incentive to keep the streak alive, and from car brands that celebrated some of the streak´s minestrones when coincided with some of their test driving programs around the world.
It was also a pleasure to run in 16 countries and over 100 cities.
But what I enjoyed the most was the daily challenge of finding the time and place to run every day, despite the complications of constant travel as part of my job as an automotive journalist.
The longest run (almost 9 miles) was in Munich, Germany in September 2021, not because I wanted to run that distance, but because I just got lost. The fastest run was a 10K at a pace of 7:58 minutes per mile at home.
On December 31, 2022 I checked out at 11:30 p.m. to complete the daily 5k and then did another one starting right at midnight and ending on January 1st. 2023 to start the New Year.
Several times, I landed at an airport and got out of the car on the way to the hotel so I could run before the end of the day. I also ran inside various airports, before and after a flights.
So in the end, it was a good run while it lasted, but I have a few points to consider now that this is all over.
First, I do not recommend it to anyone! It’s easy to become addicted, even a slave to your personal achievement like this.
And most importantly, as I’ve learned the hard way, it’s essential to recognize that running every day for an extended period of time, not only can, but surely will cause injury sooner or later.
In conclusion, listen to the experts and to your body; take adequate rest when necessary to prevent exhaustion and possible long-term health problems.
Without a doubt, this streak of three years and 21 consecutive days was an extraordinary journey, which some have called «an example of determination, discipline and the pursuit of personal goals«, but it is also impotant to remember that the physical conditioning process of each individual is unique and must be approached with care and respect for one’s own body.
Maybe, I will run again someday, but I will never run every day for 3 years and 21 days.