IronWill and Streak Running

During my years as a game maker, I’ve traveled. A lot. I’ve flown, with Scandinavian Airlines only, over 300 times, have 1400 hours in the air and around 30 times around the globe since 2003.

Madness for most and even though we’ve had some great times and lots of fun during our travels, stayed at fantastic hotels and made business for millions and millions over the years, the travels have come with a high price for my family and my health. I have my training to thank for helping me stay healthy during my travels, even though traveling in this business means many late nights and stressful days.

I rarely leave home without my Hoka One One in my bag and a few sets of training clothes. During my visits to our studio in New York, I often run along the East River or Hudson River from East or West Village down to Battery Park and back. It usually adds up to around 10-12 km and they are fantastic morning runs.

I’ve also had the luxury of meeting many interesting personalities over the years and one person that has fascinated me in particular is a gentleman named Joel Benton. Many personalities in my business are walking click-baits, i e you want to stick out and have an enormous need for acknowledgment. Me and my tattoos and craziness I pose with on social media is not different.

The first time I met Joel, he noted my Garmin Fenix 3 and asked if I was on Garmin Connect, telling me about his own running habits and I completely judged the book by it’s cover.

Joel is an agent in the video games industry, who’s job is to represent game developers to potential publishers and takes care of their interests. It’s a pretty tough job and means a lot of traveling, lots of time on the phone and in front of the laptop and a lot of business dinners. Training comes second for most and based on my own experience from 25 years in the business I know how much the job can affect your health. Now you think… so? But here’s the kicker.

Joel has since the last five and a half years ran every day. Every day! There are three other runners in the Great Britain that has run more consecutive days than him. Crazy? Absolutely. Fascinating and inspiring – No doubt. I like personalities with a strong self discipline and to run every day, all year around requires a lot of it.

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Yours truly to the left, Anton Söderhäll in the middle and Joel Benton to the right after a 13 mile run in Malmö, Maj 2016.

I asked Joel if I could write about him here on Järnvilja (IronWill) and interviewed him. How does one get the idea of becoming a streak runner? How do you find the motivation to run every day and how do you begin? Don’t you break into a million pieces?

If you ever think you are the only one doing something in this world, you are rarely right. There are always someone who has gone through what you are going through. In the Streak Runners case there is obviously an International Streak Running Association and they have a Facebook group who is ran by some real enthusiasts.

Now you think, ”Well, I run every day”, but this is not a movement to run marathons, ultras. It’s simply a way to get some exercise every day and the general rule is that you have to run at least a mile. The movement is pretty hardcore and only once you’ve passed five years of consecutive daily running, you are labeled ”Neophyte”. The day you pass five years you level up to ”Proficient”, so the threshold to become a respected Streak Runner is quite high.

 

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Ron Hill, Streak Running legend

 

Ron Hill is a big profile within Streak Running and have run over 7 miles every day since 1970. Ron is 78 years old and still to day continues to run and says he’ll do so until he dies. I read in an interview in Runner’s World that Ron was disappointed that he could only half-run with a cane for one mile (the minimum).  He was very specific that he did not use crutches.

Now back to Joel Benton and we’ll start from the beginning of his career as a runner.

Like me, Joel have ran and trained on and off for bigger parts of his life. During the 90’s he did a 48 hrs mountain race over 45 miles, some half-marathons and triathlons, but it was all sporadic. 2010 was characterized by attempts to start running but as he was in bad shape he was more looking for excuses not to run, rather the other way around. Right before his 40th birthday Joel weighed a 100 kr and felt that it was time to break the pattern and start getting into shape. This is where his streak started.

On January 1st 2011, the longest streak he’d managed to pull off, was eight days. When I first heard about his running habits, the first thing that came to mind was that it was only sensation seeking. Now, when I ask the question why, Joel simply responds; ”Because I don’t want to lose my highscore’ is the easy answer…” Not unlike myself, Joel is an all-or-nothing personality. When we put our minds into something, we do it to 110%. His highscore was the easy response but the reality is more complicated. The level he has achieved has got so high by this point that if he skips one day, not only will he lose his +2000 day streak, he’s convinced that he will stop running for ever and he can’t let that happen.

After a few failed attempts to start a longer streak, Joel started all over. 3 miles seemed like a great distance as 1) he’d be done in 30 minutes and 2) it’s a distance that is not to easy. It made it much easier for him now to stop finding excuses not to run and thrived on the challenge to increase his highscore and suddenly the question wether IF he would run changed to WHEN. Living in a hilly area outside Guildford, he liked running on the trails. Just as most of us he felt the anxiety when he was about to go out on a run, but once the endorphins kicked in and finally touched the handle to his house after a completed run he felt an enormous satisfaction.

The job as a games agent is quite demanding and many days are being spent traveling. During a businesstrip to Toronto, running every day wasn’t a problem, but he was concerned that his 8am flight home would put an end to his streak. Thanks to jetlag and loud neighbors he managed to drag himself to the gym at 3am in the morning, ran 3k on the treadmill and managed to catch his flight home (and keep his streak). This moment was what Joel calls a ”watershed moment”. If he could force himself to run at 3am, it must be possible to run every day for a year and that’s where it started for real. After a quick Google search, he found many likeminded runners and that the journey he had set out on was called Streak Running.

And that’s how it started. As I write this, he runs his 2061st day in a row at least three miles every day, often longer. What was something to lose weight and get in shape as well as clear his head going through a rough divorce, has now become a lifestyle for him. He’s lost weight, sleeps better, looks better and recovers quicker from injuries.

On the topic of injuries, races is not something he is particularly fond of. In every race he ended up running too fast and injured himself, risking the run the day after, which is not an option for him. He said that he likes obstacle courses like Tough Mudder, which made me a bit surprised as I’ve never seen so many runners injured as when I did the Swedish equivalent Tough Viking 2014.

 

His Hoka One Ones have accompanied him on numerous trips from his trails around Guildford to the desert in Nevada. From -22 degrees C in Umeå, Sweden to a pitch dark run in Ontario. The running has also made him many new friends and knowing Joel from the games industry, he is also the active organizer behind the Games Industry Casual Runners Facebook group, who makes sure we get out of bed and go for a morning run together on different trade shows.

 

I’m fascinated and inspired by people who possesses an iron will (Järnvilja) och do what you believe in to 100%. Many calls us extreme and a little crazy, but I see us more healthy and sound than most. So many go through life and feel that one should have done this or should have done that. ”What if I had…” Life is too short, not doing what you feel mostly passionate about, regardless if it means running every day 365 days a year or collect Air Jordans so the shoe boxes piles up in every room of your house.

The day I lay on my death bed, I want to feel that I’ve lived my life meaningfully and to the fullest and that nothing could get in my way for doing so.

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