It was raining today when my alarm went off at 5am.  I looked out the window and thought hmmm… I’m not going to run now – I’ll run later when I get home tonight.  But before I could do that I needed to make a mental check. Do I have any tel conferences with Atlanta tonight? Do I have school PTA or meetings? Do I have a dinner I need to go to? The answer is no, no and no. I roll over and go back to sleep for another hour. Knowing that I will be running again later tonight.

Why is this important? I am not an Olympic Athlete or been instructed by a doctor to run every day.  But that is what I have been doing – running at least 5km, outside, every day for the past 9 months. Today is day 281. Tomorrow will be day 282.  So why am I doing this?

It all started about 2 and a half years ago.  I had just joined Coca-Cola and I was struggling with learning a new job. So much to learn, so much to do.  We have all been there I know.  I mentioned this (in a bit of a grumbling tone) to a guy that was in Japan for some meetings.  That guy was John Hackett.  He looked at me and said “no one is making work life decisions but you – rather than finding excuses for not having what you want, find a way to have what you need.”  I went away thinking he doesn’t get it... How wrong I was.

Later that week I learned that John was coming up to day 1,000 celebration. It was not 1,000 days of being in Coke, not 1,000 days of travelling – it was 1,000 days of running without a break. Every day. Even when he had 15-hour flights, business dinners and vacations.  This was the first time I heard about “continuous running”.  I admired the dedication, saw the positive can-do attitude and remembered the words “find a way to do it”. I heard stories of John running between the terminals at Narita Airport then grabbing a shower before jumping on a plane.

Continuous running – Amazing, Crazy. Weird guy that John Hackett.

Nike Plus on iPhone

I am a runner – just not a continuous one. I use my Nike Plus and I track my runs. Sometimes I would put them up on Facebook. Then in September last year it started - the continuous run challenge. It was based on a promise to a friend. A promise to run every day until she won over her challenge with Breast Cancer. I silently agreed to some terms. I would run everyday, 5km and it would be outdoors (running on a treadmill is easy – Cancer is not). It felt right – the battle against cancer is every day, the run would be every day. I told a few running friends this is what I was doing.  I promised to “upload it on Facebook” every day and keep going until my friend’s treatment was done. And off I went.  Running. On day 259 she was done with her treatment. I realized I was not and have continued on.

259 days of continuous running

After the first 100 days, more people became inspired by the challenge. And the continuous runners started to increase. We started a charity website where people donates to the “run for cure foundation”, a breast cancer charity. Many people from within the Coca-Cola system and around the world have donated. The warm messages from you all reach me, the runners and my friends. We have raised approximately 4,000 USD.

The support has been amazing. From those that have run with me on really wet, cold days in Piedmont Park (John Hodgson!) to those that have arranged celebrations of key milestones. And of course those that have joined in this activity by running or donating. Living positively both physically and mentally. 

Group shot of many of the continuous runners

There are also more runners that have pledged to join this amazing journey.  The continuous runners include people that were not runners when they stated they would try to do this. Now, Satomi Minamikawa (a non-runner to start) from my team is on day 82 along with Ryo Munakata (who has dropped his body fat to single digits!!). Akira Zenidaka has reversed his trend of gaining weight as he now reaches day 32. Kohji Daimon a friend of a friend joined in and is at day 132. Kana Ikushima is at day 31 – Ixy as we call her started with the goal of 100 days. My Mum has just completed day 50 of walking continuously every day even though she has a damaged leg), and this morning pledged to keep going until day 75.

Continuous Running

The past 281 days have included some very big challenges to overcome to keep the streak going, including heavy snow storms followed by ice roads the next day, inflamed tendons, running the day after a marathon (not sure I would call it running – I was running in my mind, possibly waddling to those onlookers).

I have woken up at 4am to run before getting on a plane and got off the plane and run again as soon as I arrive! The doormen at the W in Atlanta pointed out there were treadmills inside on the day I dashed out in a heavy downpour at 6am. I said that’s too easy – it has to be outside. They started calling me “that crazy runner” but also had towels for me when I came back soaked to the skin. Love people!

Here are some of the life learnings from running that I have posted over the past 281 days:

  • Squeezed in a run between getting home from work and a conference call. Life learnings from running: have a great support crew. Husband made dinner and told me “go run”. Being surrounded by those that understand you and support you. Life is so much easier when you have support. You don’t have to do it all alone.
  • SNOW!!! Fully prepared with my warm clothes and full tread shoes.  When you are running in this kind of extreme condition you need to focus on just one goal. Finishing 5km without injury. No time limits, no fancy stuff. Just do it. Life learning from running: extreme conditions require TIGHT focus and not too many goals – get it down to the important 1 or 2!. Day 125 done and dusted.
  • Day 126: Yesterday’s big snow is now big ice. Took my usual running course to the park but it is so different with the ice. Had to change everything. My familiar paths became foreign due to new conditions. It really was a bit scary, and I was the only person out there running. Well almost the only person. A veteran runner in the park pulled me aside to “teach me” how to run the ice/snow.  Life learnings from running: When conditions change even the most familiar territories need to be reappraised. You will not be able to do the same old. And look for teachers that have done this before and LEARN from them.

Continuous Running

  • Day 231. A slow 5km run after my fast 10k yesterday. It woke me up as I was a bit tired ... Now on to my next job... Breakfast and lunch boxes... Then work ... Bring it on!!! Life learnings for working mums... Taking time out of everyday for yourself is not an indulgence and something to feel guilty about... It is a way to charge your batteries for all the other jobs of the day.
  • I was going to run 10km but decided to cut it short ... Getting real close to the end of the challenge. Will see if I can actually STOP ... It's become so much part of what I do every day and dare I say who I am ... I run ... I run continuously ... I am day 256 done. Life learnings from running: you are what you do - it is defining. Choose carefully the actions you do ... It defines you.
  • Day 270: I was running for the last 11 days even though the challenge was done. I was running without telling anyone and without a clear stated goal ... Just running. Then on Saturday I let my Facebook friends know I plan to run to 365 days. It is a commitment when you say it out loud. And making a commitment out loud almost makes it stronger for me than an internal promise that I only know about. I guess each person is different but MY life learning is "say it out loud" and it becomes real ... So set the goal and announce it to one other person or many ... Then get going!
  • Today the wind was tough. Tail winds are the best. Head winds are hard but you put your head down and you can still run straight. Sidewinds and gusts are the most difficult. They can take you off balance. But with strong core muscles you can make it: Life learnings from running: Look for the tailwinds, head down and power through the headwinds, have a strong core to handle the unexpected.

And last week we headed into rainy season in Japan (hence the rain this morning), a Facebook comment from Satomi just shows how this has really changed perspectives of us all … “today is fine drizzle rain – it feels like a mist facial session” … no excuses, glass half full, running on…

Celebrating a milestone

I also want to thank everyone that has supported me and the other runners as we power on. From the understanding of family members and team members, to those that have donated to the Run for Cure charity.  It has been a great experience for me and a very humbling experience as people support me and take up this crazy challenge.

As John Hackett passes day 2000 (yes 5 years!!!) I reflect and say … he was right – it is about finding a way not finding an excuse. Off running now! 

PS. Please feel free to join us and share your life learnings from running as well with us and your friends and family.

Vanessa Oshima is VP of Consumer & Commercial K&I at Coca-Cola Japan. Vanessa wrote this piece last month, so she is now on day 324! And a few more runners have joined in on the fun: Tomoya Sekiguchi from Coca-Cola Japan and friends Yusuke Sugimoto and Teresa Poole.