Run Streaking with MJ Smith and Temple Running
All run streaks aren’t created equal. Over the past few months, we’ve covered streaks that have spanned months and years but this month we’ve decided to switch it up a bit here at Mid Strike as we discuss MJ Smith’s run streak. MJ has been running for years and has decided to create a new challenge with her run streak. Let’s discuss her streak, her run journey and most of all her well-being and Temple Running.
MSM: You’ve been running for years, 12 years to be exact. Is this your first run streak?
MJ: Yes. Surprisingly this is my first run streak. I actually thought that run streaks weren’t good for runners because I always stood behind the idea that rest days are necessary, and I still believe that. That is why I started this as a just a 30-day streak goal. But I learned in that 30 days that I underestimated what my body can handle and a rest day doesn’t mean you can’t run. It can mean that you just don’t go beast mode every day. I listen to my body, and it hasn’t told me” don’t run today” yet.
MSM: I feel that most folks that are starting their run streaks have lots of inspiration and a background/foundation that’s pretty solid. You come from a military background. Do you feel this has helped you during your current streak?
The streak has helped me reach all my fitness goals every day since I started and reaching the goals has kept me from doing the minimum on the streak to ensure my body get the movement it needs every day.
MJ: My military background has instilled a fitness foundation that I wouldn’t have had without being around so many people who live a fit lifestyle in the military. I started running to get through my deployment to Iraq in 2008. It just happened and I didn’t even realize the therapy I was getting from running at the time. I just gravitated to it and it never left. So, my whole inspiration for starting and advancing my running can be credited to my military background but this run streak was mostly inspired by my desire to get back in the game after coming off an injury July-September 2020. I had, what I know now, was torn cartilage in my knee and the first time I went out to run and didn’t get to the corner before I got crazy pain in my knee, I knew I had to sit down for a bit. I didn’t know it would be 3 months. In that time, I got a new job so my routine changed and by the time I was better and able to get back into running, I was having a hard time finding time to run. So, after watching all my social media running peeps killing it out there, I had the hard talk with myself that I needed to get my run life together. So, I committed myself to run all 30 days in November to force myself to find the time and space in my life for running again. And once I completed the 30 days I just kept going.
MSM: Give our readers a look into your run journey, early on what was running like for MJ Smith before your first half marathon?
MJ: Wow, you are taking me back with this one. As I mentioned earlier, the military really was the foundation for my start. That deployment was the first time I really started to run on a regular basis for fitness. Before that, I would train a couple months before my physical fitness test, pass that, then go back to my life without running until the next year. But it was something about that deployment that made me get to the gym 4-5 days a week and crank it out. I really didn’t feel good running outside alone there, and that is how I became chummy with the treadmill and I still love a good treadmill run to this day. But after the deployment, I continued to keep running as a regular part of my life. Then some of my military comrades wanted to do a half marathon, so I committed myself to training and did my first half in 2012. I have pretty much been addicted since.
MSM: 45 half marathons in 4 years and 1 marathon. 45 half marathons is a pretty solid number which I’m sure if Covid wasn’t happening would be much higher. Take us through a few of your favorite races along your journey.
MJ: Most definitely if COVID was not happening I would have at least 55 halfs under my belt right now. I have been doing at least 10 halfs a year since 2016. Some of my favorite races was of course, the Dopey Challenge at Disney in 2017. Running at Disney World is just an awesome experience. But 2017 was a crazy Disney Marathon Weekend. The 5K and 10K were both a little cold, but really fun. Then, the evening after the 10K, they canceled the half due to potential lightning the next morning. But they were going to give us the medal. So, me and my run partner decided to run the 13.1 in about a 1.2-mile loop on her resort. It started off really warm, like way warmer than it should be in January, even for Florida. Then it poured rain on us for a good portion or the race, then it was freezing cold. That was a tough half. Then, for the full marathon the next morning, it was freezing and my shoes didn’t completely dry out from running in the pouring rain. I never warmed up and got crazy blisters on my feet from the wet shoes. I had to get bandaged up to finish the race…but I finished! My time was nowhere near what I planned for, but I finished my first marathon after pushing through all those obstacles. I am really proud of that. Another race I really love is the Rock N Roll Chicago. I have done that race 3 times. There are very few races I repeat one time, let alone two. It is the only race I have done 3 times. Needless to say, I really like this race. It is one of the only major races in the middle of summer. It happens mid-July every year. Races are a lot more sporadic in the summer and winter. So, having a race this good in the middle of the summer and not burn up is golden. It has never been too hot for this race in Chicago. The route, the crowd, the scenery…I just love it! I definitely want to do the Chicago Marathon in the future. I love running that city!
MSM: With Covid essentially shutting things down including road racing do you feel that your current run streak is more important than ever?
MJ: I do! I found that running every day actually ensures I meet my basic movement goals every day. I track my fitness goals on my Apple Watch, and since I am working from home, if I don’t run then I don’t reach my goals that I could normally just reach on a typical day between my commute and walking the building at work. When working all day sitting in front of the computer, only getting up and getting a few steps in around the house will not meet the mark. The streak has helped me reach all my fitness goals every day since I started and reaching the goals has kept me from doing the minimum on the streak to ensure that my body get the movement it needs every day.
MSM: I’d like to go back to the 45 half marathons as that’s a decent amount of half’s per year which also means you’re almost always in a training cycle. Which also means you’re almost always trained up. How do you manage to stay healthy and on your feet especially during your run streak?
MJ: Between COVID and my injury this summer, 2020 was the first time in 5 years that I have not been ready to run a half marathon at any given moment and I really was humbled with the injury. I had to train my body up for distance again and it has been a really long time since I had to do that. Now my body didn’t totally forget the 5 years of training and I was back in the game pretty quickly, but there were some tough runs in the process of getting back here. It is nice to stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready. When you are doing 10 half’s a year, your body knows what to do. But proper training is the key to getting started and staying healthy. My routine was pretty much run 3 or 4 times a week (3-5 miles a day) and then do one long run on Saturday or Sunday (6-10 miles). I don’t typically do training runs past 10 miles and I am usually fine for the half marathon distance. But the run streak has changed that routine a little because now I am running 5-6 days a week, 3-5 miles per day and 1 day 6-10 miles. This extra time running has given me more time to do training for my speed and endurance. Two areas that I have been pretty stagnant in for the entire time I have been running because I never really tried to get faster or run longer. Now I do hill work some days, intervals another and a tempo run the next. There is just so much time and opportunity for improvement and I am using this streak as a conduit to get me to the next level. I want to be a better runner now.
MSM: Run streaks take a huge part of accountability for self but also having others around them to realize and understand what he/she is doing. Do you find that your family has been very supportive of you and your current streak?
MJ: Absolutely! My husband has always been so supportive of my running. I sometimes hear moms tell me that they would like to run more, but they don’t have the time between work and their kids. I don’t really have this issue too much because I am able to tag my husband in to take care of things at home while I run. My husband knows on Saturday mornings I am out the door, and in the winter, I go out later in the morning so half of our day is gone by the time I get back. Overall, I could not do this without him holding it down on the home front so I can train and travel for my running. There have been days that I am not motivated, and he pushes me to get up and get it done and I am always glad he did. Sometimes you just need that person to hold you accountable and tell you to stop whining. My son…he’s so awesome! He likes to run with me and if I am doing a late-night run, which he knows I especially dislike, he comes down to run in place along the side of the on the treadmill or just sits down there with me and watches tv or his tablet. Just having my “why” so close to me is all the motivation I need sometimes. I have also had family and friends come to the city where I am running and meet me at the finish line or along the run route. Those are the best finishes when you look in the crowd and see people out there just to cheer for you. I love my family and how they support me.
MSM: What is MJ Smith’s inspiration and purpose for this run streak?
MJ: My inspiration for this streak was wanting to first get back in the running game and now it is to elevate my running game. Just like my start in running when I was in Iraq, running will get you through the hardest of times and we have had some tough times over this past year. Running has kept me from going stir crazy sitting around this house. It gets me out of the house, gives me mental and physical stimulation and like I said, keeps me at a healthy level of movement that my body needs. Also, as a bonus, it kept me from gaining the “Quarantine 15”. So, running has been nothing but goodness for me over this past year. I don’t know how me and my family would’ve coped without it. I also get so much inspiration from so many of the streakers on social media that are killing it. @chasing.jason, @30dayserge, @treadchic, @runningtofindmyself, and of course @hellahgood9 whose streak started in May 2017 and he is still going.
MSM: I’ve seen you speak a lot about Temple Running, “building and maintaining your temple through your soles”. For our readers give us some insight into this. What are some of the things you like to focus on during your runs mentally and physically?
I learned in that 30 days that I underestimated what my body can handle, and rest day doesn’t mean you can’t run. It can mean that you just don’t go beast mode every day. I listen to my body, and it hasn’t told me” don’t run today” yet.
MJ: We all know that running is mental and physical maintenance of the body. I always base my health assessment on 3 areas, physical, mental, and spiritual health. They can all build on each other, but they can also diminish each other. But if you can keep a balance in these 3 areas, then you will have a happy and healthy mind, body, and soul. So of course, I had to use that play on words in Temple Running’s mission to encourage building and maintaining your temple (which is your mind and body) through you soles. This works since running is the main activity that I use on a daily basis to maintain these areas and the main focus of my content.
On my runs, I usually like to listen to audiobooks or music. I listen to audiobooks on days I want to clear my mind of everything going on in my life that occupied my brain in any way other than to bring peace and just zone out in someone else’s story. I am currently listening to “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama and just finished “Notorious RBG” by Irun Carmon. I love to listen to biographies, autobiographies, and mysteries. I am usually so into the story, that whatever may have been stressing me before the run is completely gone by the end and I have a clearer mind to deal with whatever it is. But when I want to zone out in a different way, I listen to music. Music can be a huge motivator during a run, (don’t let my jam come on), it is good because I can listen and think at the same time. I think through some tough stuff and come up with some of my best ideas when I run. When I am in that place during the run, my mind can think clearly, without any distractions (unless my jam comes on). I don’t always know what mood I am in when I step out. Is it an audiobook day or a music day? I think I let my mind make the decision on the spot most times. I just get out there and see where my brain wants to go during that run based on which app I select.
MSM: During this run streak you’re not running the bare minimum as I’ve seen you running 4 and 5 milers consistently along with your long runs all at a decent pace as well. What’s the typical run week like for MJ?
MJ: Well, I have been trying to get up early in the morning and get the run out the way before my day starts. I have a pretty demanding job, so if I don’t get my workout in before I log into the computer, sometimes I am not able to get to my runs until late, which is not my favorite time to run. I have been doing pretty good with getting up since the new year started. Even though my minimum mileage I HAVE to do for the streak is one mile, it is rare that once I am suited up and get into the run that I just want to do one mile. Like I said, once I get started, I’m usually good. The hardest part for me some days is just getting started. But during this run streak, I think I did the minimum one time, and that must’ve been because my day was filled with enough other physical activity for me to reach my daily fitness goals. So, a typical run for me during the week is 2-5 miles with the long runs on Saturday or Sunday. I have been putting in about 25-30 miles a week total.
MSM: You’ve picked up an abundance of experience over the years as a runner. Based on all of the knowledge you’ve gained while staying relatively healthy do you see yourself possibly becoming a run coach in the future?
MJ: Most definitely. I am on like 5 waitlists for RRCA Coaching Level 1 certification courses. I know there is so much more for me to learn beyond my experience and though I can motivate and often find myself giving advice to runners just starting out, I would really like to have the credentials to back it up. But until I am able to get in a course, I will continue to use the wonderful resources that are available to all of us with the internet, books, publications, podcasts and videos to educate myself and ensure I am passing on sound information for those looking to me to provide it.
MSM: Each of your posts finishes with something that we can never forget nor put behind us until justice is served. Justice for Breonna Taylor. The state of affairs in this country is at an all-time low especially for black America. We need to count and rely on each other more than ever. Breonna is something you’ve noted and are vocal about. What are your feelings on the current state of affairs in this country and black America?
MJ: You know, this was easily the most difficult question you asked me. Because though I am passionate about running, there is a whole different emotional place that this subject takes me. My heart goes out to all the families of those who were lost senselessly at the hands of those whose purpose is to serve and protect us all. Breonna Taylor really hit home for me, because that literally could be me and my family. She was just lying in her bed, in her home, something we all do every night. She wasn’t out in the streets or in the wrong place at the wrong time, not that if she were it was justify her not being here, but she was in her own home and her own bed and no one has to account for her life? Her life doesn’t matter? And if her life does not matter and is not valued enough that someone is accountable for the senseless reason she is no longer here with her family and loved ones, then where does that leave the rest of us? The past few years have been rough, but I really think this country, and how they view and treat people of color, is slowly changing. I know we want it all to be fixed overnight, but that’s not how change this big happens. It does not matter who is in office, we all have to do our parts to educate ourselves and make positive choices to keep this movement progressing forward. I’m so excited to see what the new administration will do to help us, but I am more excited to see what we are going to do to help ourselves. #justiceforbreonna
MSM: With such a streak once you hit 100 days, I’m sure it’ll get to the point where YOU HAVE TO keep it going. Do you see yourself continuing this streak once you hit the 100-day milestone?
MJ: I believe I will definitely get to 100 days. I’m over 80 right now and unless I get injured or something physically keeps me from going out there, I definitely plan to make it to 100 days. Once I reach that milestone, I’ll likely continue. Running is the only way I get a healthy amount of movement and steps in my day. I am not sure if I will make it to a year because if we go back to work at some point in 2021, I don’t know if I will be able to adjust my schedule to accommodate running every day. But that’s why I love this streak. There is no pressure, and I try not to set streaking goals too far out into the future where I feel pressed to meet them. I am taking this one day at a time…literally. The streak could end tomorrow. I doubt if it will, but the option is very much open if I choose not to run.
MSM: What does the future hold for from MJ?
MJ: I am praying for amazing growth in 2021, because as crazy as 2020 was, my personal growth in my running journey really flourished in the darkness. I am hoping to continue to contribute and receive inspiration, motivation, and education with the amazing run communities on social media. I am hoping to get some fresh ideas popping on my YouTube channel. I really want to grow the community there. The reason I started the channel is because every time I went searching for running information on the internet, the lack of diversity in the content for runners became more and more clear. No wonder such a small percentage of people who look like me pick up running for fitness. I want people to be able to see themselves in running so they can know that running can be just what their temples need and I’m in it with them. I want my channel to be a place where all runners can come for education, motivation, inspiration, and conversation. I want to get to the point where when a runner searches for running information, my smiling brown face and curly hair show towards the top of their results letting them know they are not alone. I’m super excited for some of the ideas I have brewing. I think the future is bright for Temple Running with MJ Smith.
MSM: Any last words for our readers?
MJ: I just really appreciate the opportunity to share my story and my experience. I am so excited to be a part of this wonderful publication. I know there are many run streaks to choose from, and I am honored you chose mine for this issue. Bottom-line, run streaks can be fun, but you have to put your mind and heart into it or it won’t work. You also need to be super in tuned with your body and what it is saying to you. Most run injuries can be avoided with the proper preparation and care. I have been putting more cross-training into my routine so I can keep my body in the best shape to tackle running every day. Be smart about it. Do some research to ensure the way you are doing it is the best way to go about it.