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

Sun, 27 Feb 2005 08:36:40 -0500

Showing Up


(rerun from February 2000 RC)

If John Strumsky was miffed at me for snubbing his friend, it didn't show in his letter. He gently corrected the oversight.

"In your book Better Runs," he wrote, "you referred to Mark Covert as America's leading streaker. Without meaning to diminish Mark's great accomplishments, I submit a copy of George Hancock's streaking lists."

In this case, streaking isn't running around without clothes but running for years without missing a day. Hancock places Covert's streak, begun in July 1968, only second among Americans -- more than a year behind that of Bob Ray. The retired postal worker from Maryland has run daily since April 1967.

Streaking isn't a practice of mine anymore (my longest ended voluntarily at almost five years) and not one I necessarily encourage. But I understand the spirit behind it and admire runners who can tolerate this everydayness.

These are the Cal Ripkens of running. Ripken didn't miss a single baseball game for more than 15 seasons.

Admirable as this feat is, Ripken didn't play year-round or daily during the season. Streaking runners have no off-season, no rain-outs and no travel days (but also no big-league curveballs to hit, no sellout crowds to please and no seven-or eight-figure salary to earn).

Theirs is a professional approach to running. They show up for work each day, no matter what.

The truest mark of pros in any specialty isn't how much money they earn, if any, but how well they continue to do the job on their bad days. Anyone can do well in good health and high spirits. But a pro keeps doing well when conditions aren't ideal, which they usually aren't.

Anyone can run on a day when the sky is blue, the temperature mild and the air still. Anyone can get out after a good night's sleep, feeling no fatigue or pain, a fine course at his or her feet, and no need to hurry back.

Not just anyone gets up and out when all the conditions shout "forget it!" When the demands of the day shove the run into the dark hours... when the course choice is dictated by convenience, not beauty... when the temperature leaves the comfort zone, the sky drops rain or snow, or the wind howls... when sleep-deprived or hung over... when tight or sore legs beg for a break.

My hometown of Eugene, Oregon, might house more runners per capita than any city in the country. It's a run capital but also a RAIN capital.

Even here the number of runners I see each morning before seven o'clock drops by more than half when the six-month rainy season begins. The fair-weather folks, the amateurs, go into hibernation.

The streakers, the blue-collar workers, the pros go to work as always. They go out when they feel like staying home, knowing they're likely to feel better afterward than before, knowing they can do good work even on bad days.

UPDATE. John Strumsky, himself a streaker for 21 years and counting, and his wife Dawn founded the U.S. Running Streak Association shortly after this column first appeared. They publish The Streak Registry, a quarterly newsletter. George Hancock still keeps his streaking lists, which Bob Ray and Mark Covert lead. Forty-five runners have gone at least 25 years without taking a day off.


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