The number one active running streak listed at United States Running Streak Association, Inc. as of March 1, 2008 (the latest info available), is that of Mark Covert of Lancaster, California, a teacher and coach who has logged at least a mile a day since July 23, 1968, for a total of 14,467 days (39 years plus 222 days).
There are nine men in the 35+ years category. Can you imagine?
The website also has a retired running streak list. As of post time, there are 22 runners on both the active and retired lists. I guess that means that they missed a day or more and had to start over.
I have mixed feelings about this. In the article on the pastor, it noted that John Watts talked his wife into letting him go for a mile run before he drove her to the hospital after her water broke when she was in labor with their first child. He was afraid, he said, that her labor might last more than 24 hours. (Wouldn't it have been better, at a guess, to get her to the hospital and then take his jog? Does this 'gotta get a run in every day' mindset mess up how people think? I have to think that it could.)
On the other hand, if you're a good runner, a mile a day wouldn't take very long, would it? If you were smart about fitting it in, and kept your priorities straight, I guess you could keep from becoming the sort of person who would run out on people when they needed you, just so you could keep a 'streak' alive.
From the Bend Bulletin article:
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“More than half my life I’ve been running every day,” he says by way of putting his amazing streak in perspective. “The last time I didn’t run, Jimmy Carter was our president.”
Just how does Watts maintain his impressive routine despite his demanding job — he oversees 41 churches, driving about 30,000 miles each year throughout Oregon and Idaho — and his responsibilities to his family?
“At first, it was really hard to get used to when we were first married,” says Helen, who married John a little more than a year before his running streak began. “Now it’s just something he does, and I’m really proud of him for sticking with it. It seems a little crazy, but he works it out so it doesn’t conflict with family or work.”
“Getting used to the smelly laundry is the worst of it,” she adds, laughing.
The Watts kids — in addition to Kelsey there’s Heather, 16, and Collin, 11 — have never known their father to skip a day of running.
On Christmas Day last month, some last-minute gift wrapping caused Watts to miss his early-morning run, and by evening, he still had yet to go. But he had some encouragement.
“The kids told me I had to run,” Watts says, smiling.
Watts does not advocate starting a running streak. Everyone’s body is different, but most need a day of rest once in a while, he says. Watts will limit himself to the minimum mile run if he is sick or injured.
“I’m not sure if it’s something I should be proud of or embarrassed about,” Watts admits. “It’s a little obsessive. It’s not something I’d recommend. The sensible thing is to listen to your body and rest. So far I’ve gotten the rest I need by just running a mile.”
For most of the past 28 years, Watts has run free from injury and pain. That’s not so for the only other Oregonian on the USRSA list. David Hamilton, 53, of Portland, has run every day since Aug. 14, 1972, good for eighth place on the active list.
“It’s a physical ordeal for him,” Watts says of Hamilton. “Some of these guys, they’re going to have to die before they quit. I tell myself, if it ever becomes a burden I hope I have the sense to stop.”
But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Watts speaks of running 100,000 miles in his lifetime, or about four times around Earth. He has already run 67,000 miles, or 2.69 times around the planet.
His wife thinks he can do it, but she adds: “He’d probably be due for an oil change before that, though.”
“The day he can’t do it (run one mile), it will be a huge blow,” she predicts. “It will be sad for him, and it will be due to something way beyond his control. That will be sad for all of us.”
John, interestingly, doesn’t think ending the streak will be that difficult.
“I actually don’t think it’ll be that big of a deal,” he says. “I don’t think it’s going to be hard.”
For Watts, it’s not so much about reaching a goal. It’s just part of his lifestyle.
“I like being in shape. Running every day is enough that you’re never out of shape. I like the pattern and the predictability. So much in life is not stable or predictable. I love being outdoors. It’s nice to be out at least once a day.”
I can't argue with the "it's nice to be out at least once a day" bit.