What It's Like to Be a Streaker

Emily Weiss, 50, has gone for a run every single day for the past 16 years — even after receiving a diagnosis that would make most people stop in their tracks.

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Streaking just kind of happened at first. In fact, I was streaking without really giving it much thought until the day after 9/11. I was in Washington, DC, at a hotel just down the road from the Pentagon and was trying to get back to my room. It wasn't until late in the night on September 12 that I realized I hadn't gone for a run that day. I knew that a run would have helped me cope with everything that was going on. The streak I'm currently on began the next morning.

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To be an official "streaker," you have to run one mile a day. If you can get in at least one mile, you can keep your streak. So six days a week I wake up early in the morning and run five to six miles, and one day a week I do a shorter three-mile run.

When I was in graduate school, I learned that it's easier to put your head down and do something than to think about when you're going to do something. I applied that philosophy to exercise. It's going to sound funny, but it was easier to run every single day. That way I didn't have to think about deciding which days to do it!

My runs are my sanctuary. I don't listen to music, only the sound of my feet hitting the pavement as I run across bridges, along the water, and through the suburban neighborhoods near my Florida home.

Streaking is personal for me and I'm solitary about it. I'm not a member of any running groups and I've never run a race. To me, races get in the way of the basic rule I have to just get up and go.

It's funny: Even my family doesn't quite get it! My husband and stepkids tolerate my running but they don't completely understand my streak. In fact, it's my two shelter dogs that have become my loyal companions. They run with me every day, though they don't go the entire six miles — they'll do three and then I loop them back to my house and keep going.

A Streak Is Tested

It isn't always easy being a streaker. It can be brutal, like the time I was living in Kansas and had to take cover during a tornado. Still, I've never felt worse at the end of a run than I did at the beginning.

Nothing compares to what happened 13 years ago, though. I had horrible vertigo. I kept running every day but I was worried. At first my doctor thought I had an ear infection, but once I had an MRI it was clear: I have multiple sclerosis (MS).

I was so worried that my MS would affect my movement, and there were certain days when I ran less than my usual five or six miles, but after a while I actually became even more reliant on running. I haven't had significant progression in my disease since my diagnosis, and I think my streak played a role in that — I do have horrible balance and a little bit of a swing in my gait, but I truly believe that my daily running keeps both my body and my brain strong.

I have no intention of stopping my streak — I'm on a roll! My goal is to get up and go the next day. I plan to keep running until I no longer can.

Emily Weiss is the vice president of research and development at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Inspired by her story? Consider starting your own streak by running and helping animals at the same time through Team ASPCA.

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