Going the Extra Mile
Melanie Margolis marks a personal run streak
Melanie Margolis runs. She has run in the bitter cold through an Icelandic night with a headlamp affixed to her brow. She has skirted sea lions on a sunny beach in the Galapagos Islands. She has sweated it out looping the Memorial Park trails during oppressive Houston summer days. And she has run in place on indoor treadmills. In all kinds of conditions, without fail, the athletic and engaging brunette has not missed her daily run over the past three years. Yes, you read that right: Since Memorial Day 2020, Melanie has gone the extra mile. Every. Single. Day.
To put it in perspective, she has run more than 2,186 miles – that’s the equivalent of running from Houston to Bogota, Colombia. Melanie says that for serious distance runners, that is not a big number, but the satisfaction of being on a run streak is gratifying beyond measure.
And although the energetic 58-year-old has counted running as a personal pastime for most of her life (she has raced in 20 marathons and is in her 13th year as the assistant girls’ cross-country coach at St. John’s School) it was a challenge via Runner’s World magazine that got Melanie on this particular hot streak. “I noticed on the Runner’s World magazine social media they were touting a run streak from Memorial Day to July 4 in 2020,” recalls Melanie. “It was the time of peak Covid shutdown. We were in New Mexico, and everything was closed. It was shut down even more than Houston.” She says that getting out of the house for a cause made her feel less cooped up. “I was inspired by the challenge,” she says. “It was 41 days, and I was like, I can do this.”
The rules were simple: runners were required to run a minimum of one mile a day for those 41 consecutive days. According to the magazine, a run streak is a term the running community uses to describe running “at least one mile within each calendar day.” After careful consideration, Melanie says that “it seemed manageable and doable.” So she laced up her running shoes and started making her way across the roads of Santa Fe and has never looked back.
To keep track, Melanie printed out a run streak log that Runner’s World had provided with their challenge. She went old school and hand wrote the date, placed a check mark next to day one and repeated every day.
Melanie plotted her runs, which ended up being a similar route daily and consisted of a combination of dirt roads and paved surfaces. “I mostly ran the same route at that time, but the distance varied,” she says, noting that she often went beyond the mile requirement. “I always started with a walk and some stretching to warm up because I was trying to take extra care to avoid injury. I found early on that running such a short distance every day helped me run faster than I had been running, which was nice.”
Melanie decided to share her run streak endeavor with friends on her Facebook page on May 25, 2020. “I started on Memorial Day like I was supposed to, and I wrote about it,” she recalls. “I wrote that I was so excited to get out of the house every day and do my thing.” The response to her announcement fell pretty flat. “I had three Likes and no comments,” she laughs. “I had almost no response to that post; I thought at least a runner friend would comment!” Undeterred by the lack of cyber support, Melanie did her thing. As the days turned to weeks, Melanie marked the Fourth of July and her 41st run and then pondered what to do next. “I got to the Fourth and thought to myself: why stop? I am still here with nothing to do as everything was shut down. So, I decided to keep running. I literally ran through the pandemic,” she says.
Turns out that keeping a run streak alive takes some significant planning. To play by the rules, she has to run no matter the weather or the location and she always prefers to run outside, where she has seen wildlife as varied as snakes, coyotes, deer, and rabbits. She notes that she always runs with her cell phone and listens to book podcasts (including Buzz writer Cindy Burnett’s “Thoughts from a Page” book podcast) as she goes. She is the first to admit she will try to run anywhere before the last resort of a treadmill. Additionally, she now keeps a spreadsheet on her computer that tracks mileage and location. If she knows she is traveling, for example, she will wake up extra early to get the run in before a long drive or plane ride.
When Melanie and husband Larry traveled to Iceland with friends, she had to figure out where to run after a long day of sightseeing. As the rest of her group went to dinner, Melanie bundled up and went back outside. “I asked at the front desk of the hotel to make sure no polar bears would run me down,” she says. “It was snowing and blowing sideways, and I used marks on my GPS watch to measure the distance in the rural country.”
On a boat? No problem. Melanie says she figured out how to run while cruising the Pacific Ocean. “I ran a lot of laps around the deck of the ship,” she quips. “It was a small boat, and it took me 13 laps to make it. Other people on deck watched me and then they started walking laps around the boat!”
It hasn’t just been strangers that she has inspired. Friends and family members started cheering Melanie on – and occasionally run with her. Bowie, the family’s Australian Shepherd, occasionally runs alongside her. Daughter Zoe, who is 26 and a graduate student at NYU, says her mom is her inspiration. “I started running because I saw her run the Houston Marathon,” says Zoe. "She coached me in cross country when I was at SJS and now, as an adult, I see her as a running buddy, which is neat.” Indeed, the pair have run together on this streak in Minnesota, Connecticut, New Mexico, and New York. For her part, Zoe says she copied her mom. “I started my own streak about six months after her,” says Zoe. “I made it to 800 days, but I had to stop; I had to change my routine as I started training for a half marathon and I needed rest in between days of running. I think it is a really special bond that we get to share this sport together.”
St. John’s School Girls Head Cross Country Coach Rachel Fabre says that Melanie is a role model for their team. “Seriously, she is remarkable and is 100 percent inspirational,” says Rachel. “She shows the girls that you can make a commitment to yourself and not give yourself an easy out. The underlying message is: ‘no excuses.’”
Rachel often joins Melanie on her runs. “This is the kind of friend Rachel is,” says Melanie. “We were in Seattle with the cross-country team, and we had spent the day hiking Mount Rainier. We get back to Seattle at dinner time and I still had to do my run and Rachel said she would run with me.”
Melanie says she appreciates that kind of support. Yet she was surprised when, on the day of her 1,000th run, she posted a Facebook post about her streak and got quite a response. “The 1,000th day was February 18th, 2023, and I put it on Facebook,” she smiles. “This time I got 91 Likes as opposed to 3 and 45 comments as opposed to zero!”
Her run streak resonated with people. Wade Barrett, her co-assistant girls cross-country coach (and whose wife, Haley, is also a coach), explains. “Physically none of us have done anything like this. It’s demanding and every single day Melanie is accessing the energy to get out the door. Her drive and mental energy are amazing! There are very few of us who go out on a daily basis and see what we are made of – it takes a lot of bravery and dedication and commitment to do this. Melanie is a role model because that is a hard thing for most of us to do and there are so many opportunities to wake up in the morning and say ‘nah – I am not gonna do that today.’”
Melanie says that not running that mile is not an option. “I have no exit strategy and there is no way off this train – it’s a runaway train at this point,” she smiles. “I mean, I feel good about it. I guess I am mentally tough because I can commit to something and make it happen. It’s not a big thing for me to run a mile, but to make it happen every day for 1,000 and more days takes a commitment.
“There are a million excuses out there – and excuses are easy to make – to not do it, but I still do it. I think when you get to the heart of the matter, it is not about the mileage. It isn’t even about running. It’s about truly committing to something.”
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