The Unstoppable: Francisco Balagtas and his Project No Days Off

Figuring out why you want to run will make the miles and effort more reassuring to yourself so you aren’t running aimlessly questioning why you are doing it.

Is it possible to run everyday and be free from injury? This was my biggest question when I came across this runner whom I discovered to have been doing a run streak since 2017 and hasn’t missed a day since then. He calls it Project No Days Off.

Francisco Balagtas is a Filipino running coach and a race director based in New York City and has been living there since 2013. He was born in Pasig, but his family moved to the United States in 1987 and first lived in New Jersey. Francisco did 3 years of cross country running during his first three years in high school, but according to him, he “HATED IT”. It wasn’t because of the sport itself, but he just did not have enough interest in running and didn’t have a good coach to keep him engaged. It’s a little bit funny how he is now a coach, but he makes sure he remembers that moment so he can make sure his runners won’t feel the same way.

Francisco then dreamt of being able to snowboard when he lived in Vermont and worked in the snow sport industry, but moved to New York City when he realized Vermont wasn’t the setting for him. From there, he started to run again when he was getting out of shape and an older brother urging him to do a marathon. His first in 2012 which he finished it at 3:59:31, breaking 4. This newfound passion for running had birthed his Project No Days Off which has been going on since 2017 with more than 1,500 runs to date. While impressed, I was also baffled with so many questions from why, how, and until when so I had a little chat with him to know more.

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Why the Project started

Naturally, you would tend to ask someone the reason behind why they do things especially when they are unusual or record breaking. That reason is what usually keeps anyone going especially when times are challenging.

“I decided to do it because I needed more accountability in training during the winter months from December, January, February. I had just qualified for my first Boston Marathon at the Philadelphia Marathon in November of 2016. I knew that training year round and keeping myself sharp would be the next step in improving my running ability.”

We all know that discipline is an important key in becoming better at running. For Francisco, he wanted to keep himself on track and build that discipline. He did not want to have not any excuses not to run. Not even severe weather conditions are enough to stop him from achieving his goals.

Setting his parameters

Francisco sets an amount of mileage per week that he wants to accomplish. He fills that in all throughout the week to hit and usually does two long runs on the weekends, but has set a minimum of 5km per day to count as a run. He tried to increase it to 8km a day in 2019, but had realized it was too much for his recovery days and switched it back to 5km or 30 minutes total (whichever happens last) and now has increased it to 35 minutes.

Some of his runs were used to be spent on the treadmill; but after having done 20 or so runs in the treadmill back in 2019, he had realized some didn’t need to be done there so he decided to do all of them in the road and no run has been done on the treadmill since 2020.

On injuries and sickness

Lucky enough, Francisco only had one mild injury that he was able to detect early. It was a mild case of tendonitis which he consulted with a PT and was given an option to stop running to recover in a week or keep running as long as he listens to his body. He chose to keep running while being mindful of his needed recovery.

“It was March of 2017 during the first year. I raced a 30 mile on Saturday in about 20 degree F temp and then tried to race a fast 5KM the next in the same weather and my knee instantly gave me problems on the 5K race.”

It’s important to be aware of yourself and your capabilities. You need to listen to your body and know your limits. Take a step back when needed, but don’t let a bump stop you from getting to wherever you want to be at.

He hasn’t gotten sick in a while, but told me he would still run when he’d feel sick because that makes him feel better–getting some oxygen and making the blood circulate.

“Even when I’m very sore, or if my stomach is bothering me, I still get myself out there to run. These times when I push myself to run are not improving my physical state but more increasing my mental toughness. It gets me a point where I know I can conquer anything and nothing is beyond my limits.”

Related Article: 7 Common Running Injuries and What You Can Do About Them

When travels, events, or the weather is on his way…

“I always try to schedule travel so it allows me enough time to run.”

Not even flights and a bad weather condition could make Francisco stop. As long as can lace up and get those legs moving, he would. Even if it means running very early before flights or very late at night.

“No matter what the weather is, I go for a run. I try to dress as best as possible to handle the weather at that time.”

Let’s talk about Recovery

When I asked him what he does to make sure his recovery is at the optimum, he pointed out two things: Hydration and SLEEP.

Francisco emphasized how much running and training could take a toll on one’s body. He recognizes that for most people, those who do not run professionally, have less opportunity to get more sleep since we have jobs and responsibilities that are outside of running. That is why you have to set your priorities and balance whatever is on your plate.

There could even come a time when you have to make sacrifices or adjustments. At the end of the day, it will all boil down to how much you really want to get to your goal so keeping yourself on track to achieve it could mean less room for what’s unnecessary to make room for what is essential.

The future of Project No Days Off and lessons learned

For Francisco, this is not just a challenge but also an opportunity he chooses to take. When you have the chance to do something you love each and everyday, why shouldn’t you?

“Project No Days Off has taught me how to conquer and overcome my mental and physical barriers. It has helped develop consistency with my running which I have then used to translate into everyday life.”

The future of this Project is far ahead and Francisco has no plans to put an end to his journey. He told me that he won’t miss a day as long as he is alive and can still run.

An open letter to all the runners out there

“My tips for my fellow Filipino runners, as well as anyone, is to find your purpose with running. Do you want to run for fresh air? Do you want to run to stay in shape? Do you want to run to beat a time goal or run a new distance? Figuring out why you want to run will make the miles and effort more reassuring to yourself so you aren’t running aimlessly questioning why you are doing it. If you are serious about your running and want to take your efforts to the next level, consider working with a coach. A coach can help streamline you to your goals faster than you think.”

The No Days Off Project sounds overwhelming at first. As runners, we all know the role recovery plays in our performance and maintaining a balance between grinding and resting is important to stay injury free and away from burnouts. A day off already does a lot for your body, so doing a run streak requires a lot of planning, courage, and discipline. There is no doubt Francisco has been able to find that balance and stay strong—physically and mentally as this project has been running on its fifth year and as long as he lives. On that note, let’s keep on running.

If you want to check out Francisco’s daily log and his other projects, you may check out his Instagram.

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