January 29th 2017 Donald Trump is causing mayhem only 9 days after his inauguration, Roger Federer beat Rafal Nadal in the Australian tennis open enroute to his 18th grand slam title, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British Prime Minister Theresa May held talks at Government Buildings on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and the impact on Anglo-Irish relations…….. Borris lies in wait. But most importantly Barry Kehoe embarked on his streak. The name “streaker” is coupled with nudity. Now whilst I’m sure there is something liberating about running around and letting it all hang out with the hair blowing in the wind, I’m too old to let my dangly bits bounce around in public. But thankfully there’s another streaking challenge that has nothing to do with being starkers: a run streak . It demands that you commit to running at least one mile every day for a set period of time: some choose weeks or months, others a year or even indefinitely.
I decided to try a run streak. I ran for a week then another and eventually a month. Months passed and it was easy to fit a daily run into my routine, there was no internal argument – will I run today or not? It became a “When” not “If”. Running every day required no motivation at all so I decided on a year…… and then I just kept going and have now passed a 1000 days of running without a day off. I’ve ran sick, sore, tired, still drunk, hungover, after before and during arguments. We’ve had one of the best summers, the snow of the beast from the east and storm Ophelia have. I’ve been lucky to run in seven different countries, more than twenty counties, with umpteen different people and groups. I know exactly how far one mile is from our home, in any direction.
Maybe for me it’s turned into a bit of a pilgrimage, a journey into the unknown searching for some meaning. The monks of Mount Hiei, Japan, believe that true enlightenment can be realised only through sacrifice and self-denial. Their route to this enlightenment is a physical challenge “Kaihogyo” – a 1000 day running pilgrimage completing distances of up to eighty four kilometres. This is the reason they are called the “Marathon Monks”. After day 101 if the monk chooses to continue, there is no withdrawal, they must either complete the Kaihogyo or end their own lives. It is understandably rare that a monk attempts the 1000 day challenge, and even rarer that it is successfully completed. Reportedly, in the last 130 years only 46 men have managed it.
Thankfully my running pilgrimage of sorts is much less extreme. To an outsider, there’s nothing particularly special about it. It’s only in its infancy compared to the running streaks of fellow Kildare runners Tom and Mairead Blennerhassett, who’ve both run for over 7 years straight or the famous British runner Ron Hills retired streak of 52 years and 39 days. To be clear, I’m not a better runner – I’m still slow. I haven’t had any profound realisation or moments of illumination, but there has been a constant, a commitment in a world of persistent distraction. Even the Marathon Monks suggest that this elusive enlightenment isn’t a specific point that you arrive at euphoric bliss, its something that gives you a goal and pushes you every day, and for some that means going for a run for just one more day.