Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 19 Jul 1998 11:47:56 -0400

Speaking of Streaking

(from RC 274)

I'm a reformed streaker. Or should I say "recovering"? Anyone who has written at least a page every day for the past 27-plus years hasn't yet rooted streaking out of his life but only redirected it.

My last and longest running streak stopped in 1987, and I've never felt any urge to revive it. The end came, after almost five years without a day off, without any dramatic injury or mental flameout.

I just stopped streaking because it had caused my running to go flat. When the goal was to keep going, the easiest way to accomplish it was to run the same way every day.

Gone was everything that might put the next day's run at risk: the long runs, the fast runs, the races, the off-road runs, the hills, the runs with other runners. Gone, in other words, was everything that made running worth doing. Remaining were only the runs I could do in my sleep.

So I dumped the streak. Gone now was the feeling of always having to run tomorrow, and back came the longer-faster-etc.

Having said all this, I retain some fascination with successful streakers who keep going for years but still lead full running lives. James Raia also observes them with professional interest.

Raia is a writer from Sacramento, California. He told me this spring, "I'm working on an article about running streaks. I've interviewed a few folks who are 30-year daily runners. Do you have any thoughts about streaks?"

I began by telling James of my former habit. "While I'm a recovering streaker, I still admire and often write about those who keep going far longer and under much tougher conditions than I ever did."

The two streakers I've followed most closely are Mark Covert and Ron Hill. Both were high-class runners at one time. Their streaks aren't all they have going for them.

Covert is a southern Californian, now coaching at Antelope Valley College. He was one of America's top runners in his early 20s and missed the Olympic Marathon team by only a few places in 1972.

Mark's streak began in 1968 and celebrates its 30th anniversary this July 23rd. For the life of it he has averaged better than 80-mile weeks.

The biggest threats: a broken bone in a foot, which he encased in a work boot and ran his minimum three miles; running on the deck of a cruise ship during a tropical storm, while crew members took bets on his being washed overboard; hemorrhoid surgery, which still didn't stop him from going out the next day.

Ron Hill is the king of streakers, as far as anyone knows. His began in December 1964 when he was becoming a world-class racer. He would be the second man to break 2:10 in the marathon (after Derek Clayton).

Hill insists that his streak continues today, though he defines a "run" rather loosely. He requires only one mile, at any pace.

He needed to go that low a couple of times: after a car crash when he broke his sternum, and after bunion surgery when he crutched his mile the next day in 27 minutes.

Fascinating stories. But maybe they should carry a warning label: "Don't try this at home."

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